With Universal Analytics deprecation date on the horizon, it's imperative that retailers begin to migrate to Google Analytics 4 in order to safeguard their previous historical data. Here's what retailers need to know about Google Analytics 4 and the new features & updates coming in 2023:
From July 1, 2023, search-engine giant Google will cease to process data using standard Universal Analytics properties. Following UA's deprecation, data will solely flow through Google Analytics 4.
This transition is expected to yield resounding changes as to how online retailers approach data collection, storage and processing.
Over the past couple of years, we have seen retailers shift from their legacy architecture to cloud-based services or increasingly popular CMS platforms, especially those with omnichannel solutions and headless commerce - both rising to prominence because of a demand for flexibility, scalability and reactivity.
What is Google Analytics 4?
GA4 is an upgrade to Google Analytics that will effectively replace Universal Analytics (GA3) and tracks the user journey across devices and apps, with less reliance on cookies to predict user behaviour.
GA4 collects data from websites and apps using event-based, personalised data, leading to a better understanding of the customer experience across multiple channels, prioritising customer privacy and operates with or without cookies. GA4 will ultimately calibrate and compile extensive business insights in a more comprehensive, privacy-compliant fashion.
It boasts enhanced measurements of user metrics, such as:
The Google Analytics 4 upgrade is a result of a significant shift in consumer behaviour and substantial changes to online privacy policies.
GA4 is focused on providing more data throughout the entire lifecycle of the customer journey, where more data is available after a customer has been acquired - including their level of engagement, monetisation, and retention.
Google has concluded that its existing UA solution failed to provide a complete view of the customer journey, which is a largely cross-platform experience.
GA4 improves data collection across platforms, making it easy for marketers to predict user behaviour. This improved data model also results in better prediction of revenue, customer churn, and probable business growth.
New Google Analytics Features coming in 2023
The following GA4 features will be at your disposal in 2023:
Automatic Migration: If users haven't setup GA4, and have an active UA property, then Google will take it upon themselves to create a GA4 property automatically. Users have until February 28th, 2023 to opt out of the automatic migration process. Although useful, Google's Setup Assistant still has its drawbacks, so it's best to setup GA4 from the ground up to avoid any potential future issues.
Behavioural Modelling in Real-time Reports: Soon to be unleashed within GA4 real-time reporting, behavioural modelling uses machine learning to fill gaps when cookies and other identifiers aren’t accessible. It ranges from practices such as accuracy checking, maintaining reporting and business customisation.
Integration with Campaign Manager 360: The Campaign Manager 360 integration is coming soon via Floodlight, which allows marketers to bid toward GA4 conversions in Display & Video 360’s automated bid strategies.
New eCommerce Dimensions & Metrics: Google Analytics now provides an item-scoped and event-scoped version of each eCommerce metric, enabling users to analyse information about products or services and separately analyse key eCommerce interactions. You can now find the full list of eCommerce dimensions and metrics in Explorations and the Data API here.
Large-scale Data Improvements: GA4 is introducing new features that enhance the reporting experience that's especially beneficial to properties with large and complex data. The new update includes data quality icon at the individual card level that precisely displays which message apply to each card in a report. Another new feature is an 'other' row message in the data quality icon, with several ways to reduce or remove cardinality limits.
New sampling controls for Google Analytics 360 properties: Users can enjoy new sampling controls that allow them to adjust the level of precision and speed in Explorations.
When will Universal Analytics be deprecated?
Universal Analytics will be laid to rest in July 1st 2023 for those using the free version, and October 2023 for GA360 users.
However, Google is pushing the deprecation of Universal Analytics 360 to 2024, giving enterprise users more time to transition to Google Analytics 4 (from October 1, 2023, to July 1, 2024).
How will GA4 affect eCommerce retailers?
It's important that businesses start preserving and exporting historical data before Google implements the impending update to analytics properties.
With the launch of GA4, the universal analytics data in Google Analytics 3 will format to a read-only state which is unable to be imported into GA4. Google also doesn’t plan to enable migration of old data from GA3 to GA4.
GA3 isn’t equipped with cross-platform tracking, so marketers had to rely on data from other platforms to run ads. This caused friction in targeting the right audience since retailers didn’t have accurate insights. With GA4, marketers can now measure interaction with their audience across several channels — without relying on external data. The event-based data model also ensures data isn’t disrupted by the platform.
There is still enough time to study the new analytics properties and collect crucial data. Businesses can easily do this by setting up a new GA4 property and running it simultaneously with Universal Analytics — a step that involves dual tagging (and without running the risk of harming data).
By dual-tagging, businesses can save historical data and learn about the new data model at the same time. It will also facilitate an easy transition from UA to GA4, so businesses can use it immediately to enhance their marketing strategies and transform customer journeys into something better.
One of the biggest outcomes of GA4 is that it operates across platforms without reliance on cookies and will no longer store IP addresses, which will help brands with upholding privacy regulations.
Early migration to GA4 will give brands the time and breathing room to retain as much historical data as possible and take advantage of its new analytical capabilities over their competitors. GA4 equips eCommerce merchants with tools dedicated to user engagement, providing insights that can be used to improve the customer experience.
5 Key Benefits of Google Analytics 4 for Retailers
In 2023, new GA4 features and capabilities will introduce an even more enhanced comprehensive view of your digital performance across all digital channels.
If you've been late in adopting GA4 or have already begun tagging your eCommerce store with GA4, it's always worth revisiting the benefits of Google Analytics 4, and what it's capable of.
If you haven't come to terms with the deprecation of your trusty Universal Analytics or have been slow to adopt GA4 processes, we recommend you commence dual-tagging or running both UA and GA4 simultaneously on your digital properties.
Retailers that embrace GA4 now will begin to leverage its powerful functionality ahead of time, and more importantly, ahead of their competition.