There was surprise amongst the digital community back in March, when Google announced plans to sunset its Universal Analytics platform in July 2023. With its next-generation analytics service, GA4, due to take centre stage, a mad scramble ensued to get to grips with the platform.
Since the launch of Universal Analytics back in 2005, the digital landscape has evolved dramatically. Digital marketing is a far more personalised experience, user journeys span a variety of channels and touchpoints, and data privacy adds a new layer of complexion to the mix.
Despite such challenges, here at Juicebox, we’re pretty excited about how GA4 can change the game for our clients.
So what’s new in GA4?
Well, quite a lot actually.
This isn’t just a spring clean by Google. They have completely re-imagined how data is collected on their platform.
Rather than measuring page views, events and conversions within a session – the way we are used to – all interactions are now measured using an events-based model. An event could be anything from a purchase or signup, to a video play or interaction with a piece of content.
GA4 comes with a number of default events built-in, but also allows users to create their own events, with any number of customisable parameters contained within.
For example, on an eCommerce website, the ‘abandoned cart’ event could be customised to capture information such as basket value, number of items, promotional code, device type, and much more.
Armed with this data, a business could understand why people are leaving their website just before the point of sale and adjust the experience accordingly.
Leveraging custom audiences with artificial intelligence
GA4 isn’t just about greater insights. Google has also thought about how our data can be used to improve its other marketing platforms.
Using the new audience feature allows us to group together people based on certain attributes or behaviours. So, if we wanted to reach out to our abandoned cart people, we can create an audience within GA4 just for them and share this data with our Google Ads account. Now we can retarget our specific audience with a new offer, or reach people with similar attributes.
Data privacy by design
You might be thinking, this all sounds very spooky! How is Google allowed to track this type of information?
Privacy has become a fundamental part of digital marketing. Last year’s Apple’s IOS 14 update put the power of data sharing in the hands of the user – a perfect example of where the market is heading. And while this creates new challenges for marketers, GA4’s “privacy-centric” approach is a breath of fresh air.
Unlike Univeral Analytics, GA4 has been designed to work with or without cookies. By leveraging machine learning and statistical modelling, GA4 can fill in data gaps as the world becomes less and less dependent on cookies.
This approach puts Google firmly ahead of the curve when it comes to data privacy laws and aligns perfectly with their plans to stop using third-party cookies in their Chrome browser by the end of 2023.
So where to start?
As digital experiences continue to evolve and third-party cookies are soon to be a thing of the past, we must re-think how to collect meaningful data and measure success. In GA4, Google has built a platform with the flexibility to do just that; a system built for this new era and a blank canvas on which we can visualise deeper insights.
But there is certainly a steep learning curve with this new approach, and marketers will need to re-learn how to use the platform and mould it for their purpose. Diving in at the deep end is not recommended. Defining a clear measurement plan ahead of setup is the best way to ensure a smooth transition from UA to GA4.