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Preparing Your Brand for Google Analytics 4

3 must-do’s for optimal readiness

Recently, Google announced that Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will replace the current Universal Analytics (UA) with new data flowing only into GA4 as of July 2023 (October 2023 for Google Analytics 360 properties). While this cutoff may seem far away, brands should take action sooner. Because UA will stop collecting new data in July 2023, brands will have to set up GA4 a year in advance (June 2022) if they wish to rely on GA4 year-over-year data. Brands will be able to see old UA reports for reference for a period of time after the switch but won’t be able to port this data over to GA4.

Dan Malachowski
Vice President, Demand Practice, at Astound Commerce

Implications for Your Brand 

Google Analytics is so omnipresent (not to mention, free) that most brands will follow suit and migrate to GA4. According to a survey of 250 marketers by Search Engine Land, most will “tough out” the switch. 70 percent will handle the migration internally, 14 percent will hire outside consultants and 12 percent will explore other platforms, like Adobe Analytics, at a cost.  

While many GA implementations are complex, and migration can be challenging, we believe that GA4 is well worth the effort for a number of reasons:  

  • Privacy. Google is forcing this change as the industry moves to a privacy-centric future less reliant on cookies. The old UA is powered by cookie data, while GA4 doesn’t rely solely on cookies and will also not store Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Instead, GA4 uses an event-based data model, as well as machine learning, to surface consumer insights. As privacy laws evolve by market, GA4 also enables country-level controls around data collection, making it a more future-proof platform.
  • Flexibility. Beyond the privacy benefits, GA4 is much more flexible. In particular, it gives users access to raw data, which can now be exported to other tools and systems for more advanced, customized data management, visualization (in tools like Tableau), and analytics. Previous versions of Google Analytics only enabled basic report exports. Now, brands can connect GA4 data with other data streams, like customer relationship management (CRM) or performance data from media campaigns, to surface insights that can power multichannel campaign optimization.
  • Unified journeys. While UA was built for the desktop web, GA4 now unifies user journeys across websites, apps, and devices. GA4 embraces the fact that the consumer-decision journey isn’t linear and doesn’t happen in a single session. GA4’s event-based measurement model and machine learning provide a more complete view of the journey across sessions, platforms, and devices. Brands can build more comprehensive conversion paths, which can inform “audience-based conversions” (for example, the nonlinear, multi-touch path users take to conversion) rather than a single, last-click event in UA.
  • Paid-owned integration. GA4 conversions and audience data can now be integrated with offsite advertising efforts. For instance, multi-touch attribution paths/analysis, as well as predictive audiences (for example, likely purchasers) can be exported to Google Ads. This enables brands to better leverage what they know about onsite consumer behavior to optimize offsite media initiatives, as well as create more seamless off- and onsite experiences.

Steps to Take Today

  1. Start now. Plan to have GA4 implemented by June 2022 to ensure year-over-year historical GA4 data.
  2. Concurrently use UA. Continue using UA, concurrently with GA4, until the July 2023 cutoff. There will be a learning curve for GA4; use the next year to test and learn and get comfortable with GA4 while preserving your current reports and insights in UA.
  3. Re-evaluate your analytics approach. What does your brand want to know about conversion paths and audiences? What other data sets can you integrate with GA4 data? How can you visualize this data to produce actionable insights? GA4 provides more tools and flexibility to power perpetually optimized media, content, and commerce experiences. The GA4 migration gives brands an opportunity to rethink their approaches to analytics on their owned platforms, and beyond.

If you have any questions, need help implementing GA4, or re-evaluating your analytics approach, please get in touch.  

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