While Google Analytics 4 (GA4) represents the next generation of data measurement and promises a more meaningful view of customer insights, many businesses have been slow to transition away from the comfort of the Universal Analytics (UA) legacy platform.
There are good reasons for this. Businesses are busy, change is never easy and implementing GA4 isn’t exactly a turnkey process.
But soon, these businesses won’t have a choice. On July 1, Universal Analytics goes read-only and will stop processing new hits – which is why Google is urging users to prepare their migration to GA4 sooner rather than later.
The chief advantage for doing so is that you can have a powerful new ability to get a comprehensive view of consumer behavior across web and mobile app experiences. GA4 offers a quick, real-time snapshot of how customers are responding to online content – revealing, for instance, which banner ads are performing well in terms of lead generation and which campaigns could benefit from tweaking.
GA4 also delivers a more accurate portrait of where an individual customer is on their sales journey. It offers marketers three metrics that predict a site user’s future actions: purchase probability, churn probability and revenue prediction. This allows marketers an opportunity to target prospects with content that’s appropriate to their location along the path.
In addition, machine learning features, actionable reporting and new integrations will provide the flexibility to capture reliable insights, even across a rapidly changing landscape.
In a nutshell, businesses that care about their online performance should start taking advantage of the GA4 tool as soon as they can.
Google Analytics 4 will be worth the work
Yes, the transition to GA4 can be intimidating. Yes, there is a learning curve. There are new models to set up and new ways to interpret data. But ultimately, the insights that GA4 can provide will dramatically improve how you view your selling season in 2023.
Sure, for the time being, you can run both UA and GA4 together, but they quantify data differently. Those doing so are already seeing mismatches in year-over-year (YOY) data results.
Businesses still relying on UA need to realize that the tool was built for the desktop web access infrastructure, based on independent user sessions and data delivered from cookies.
By contrast, GA4 was designed to work across multiple platforms, doesn’t rely on cookies and, instead, leverages an event-based data model to deliver user-centric measurement. That’s game-changing.
With GA4, pageviews, session starts, scrolling and contact submissions are all classified as events. That’s why it’s important to define your event names and parameters before implementing GA4. The exercise can be challenging, but a diverse set of events is key to developing robust customer insights.
How to transition to GA4
Rather than running both tools simultaneously, a better strategy to take is to start prepping for a “rip the bandage off” GA4 transition.
First, realize that the transition will take time. You’ll need to back up your existing UA data.
Next, you will have to develop a set of events that will deliver the insights your particular brand can most benefit from. Also know that annotations – which were always very helpful on UA for documenting any irregularities – have been discontinued on GA4. Marketers and analysts will need to keep these records on a separate list.
Using GA4 will require an increased skill set in data analytics. Google is emulating the model set by Adobe Analytics, which is very difficult to master. Digital marketing professionals who are new to analytics must either undergo intensive training or consider hiring an outside specialist.
Adapting to GA4 requires tremendous effort and ability to understand the changes. Clients must be fully briefed on the reasons for this change, how to read new metrics, and, ultimately, how they will benefit in the long run.
But in the end, all the work will be worth it … and it’s necessary.
Nicole Penn is the president of EGC Group and co-founder of Raydeus Local.
If you like this article, sign up for the SmartBrief on Social Business email newsletter for free.