As Google has officially announced the sunsetting of Universal Analytics (UA) in July 2023, now is the perfect time to take a good look at its successor – Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
GA4 surpasses UA and many of its limitations as it easily operates across platforms without relying on cookies. It also upgrades eCommerce businesses, including more powerful reporting, improved event collection, and easier audience creation.
Check out the details below to see how GA4 can benefit your business and why you should get a head start on implementing it through DataSauce.
Why Leave Universal Analytics Behind?
Within its Google Marketing Platform brand, the web giant Google offers a web analytics service for tracking and reporting website traffic. This service has been around since 2005, undergoing several changes in the nearly two decades since. Google announced UA in 2012, and it has remained the default throughout the past decade as other suites and platforms were announced to supplement it. As UA has slowly become outdated, the inevitable sunset has finally reached us.
The main limiting feature of UA that GA4 will address is the ability to provide insights across different platforms. Created in a time of primarily desktop web use and independent sessions with abundant data from cookies, UA cannot measure data across apps and websites, leaving a significant blind spot for users to overcome.
Due to these limitations, Google is sunsetting UA in favour of GA4, which easily operates across platforms and does not rely on cookies. As a result, July 1, 2023, will be the final date on which all standard UA properties stop processing new hits. Soon after, on October 1, 2023, the UA 360 properties will also stop processing new hits. However, previously processed UA data will still be available for at least six months after those dates.
How the New GA4 Stacks Up
In 2019, the Beta version of GA4 was released under the name App + Web. Officially released under the GA4 name in 2020, it will now entirely replace UA. This new iteration of the analytics service offers updated capabilities that go above and beyond those of UA and offer new benefits for eCommerce users.
By not relying on cookies and using an event-based data model, GA4 can easily operate across various platforms in a way that UA could not. These changes make GA4 more compatible with apps and other software, rather than only apt for browser use. Other notable features of GA4 include:
🔥 Machine learning for predictive insights and more valuable data. Machine learning provides insights into user behaviours and resulting conversion, helping create new audiences and increase the likelihood of engagement.
🔥 Integration with Google’s BigQuery data warehouse, allowing deeper machine learning insights, and encouraging highly scalable data analysis. Exporting to BigQuery is now highly affordable, creating an insurance policy for any company, large or small, to own its own data for future analysis.
🔥 Integration with other Google products for more actionable data. Products such as Google Ads will work across web and app data on GA4, helping optimise ad campaigns.
🔥 Increased privacy protection with comprehensive and granular controls for collecting and using data. IP addresses will no longer be stored, as misuse of the personally identifiable information data that comes with them has become an important personal privacy concern.
🔥 Data-driven attribution for better understanding of conversions. Going beyond the last click, attribution credit helps marketers understand the collective influence of various marketing activities on conversions. While you could previously only base conversions on pages or events, conversions can now be audience-based.
🔥 Customisable structure of sub and roll-up properties that is ideal for individual enterprise needs.
Key Benefits for eCommerce Businesses
Many key features of GA4 were previously restricted to GA 360, which came with a hefty price tag of $100,000 or more per year. For example, custom funnels, the analysis module, exporting raw data to BigQuery, limitless event collection, and additional custom dimensions were all previously only available on GA 360. With these features now integrated into the default GA4, even small eCommerce businesses can take advantage and grow their companies to new heights.
More powerful reporting
GA4 has a new “analysis” tab that adds functionality to report-building. It’s now more intuitive to add dimension and there are more report templates to choose from. The speed of reporting has also increased significantly, as upgrading from UA’s 10-year-old data processing grants significant improvements in flexibility and allows faster generation of more powerful reports.
Relatedly, funnel reporting has received a boost. While goal funnels are not new, choosing a series of events to analyze was restricted to GA 360 in the past. Now, you can add both pages and events (as opposed to only one or the other) and do not have to set up the funnel in advance to be able to see the report. In addition, the funnels are easy to build using combinations of events and pageviews filtered by event properties. This improved funnel reporting is part of the new “analysis” tab in GA4 that is more intuitive than the previous “custom reports” of UA. Adding dimensions in this tab is easier, and it has more report templates to cover a wider array of eCommerce metrics.
Flexible and scalable event collection
While UA limited pageview and events to 10 million hits, GA4 currently sets no limit on the volume of events on app logs. However, keep in mind that there are still limits to data exports. Additionally, for eCommerce stores with native mobile experiences, a key new feature is the ability to track mobile app events in addition to web events.
GA 360 previously allowed similar tracking with roll-up properties, but user identification was more difficult than it is now with GA4. GA4 has also simplified the data model, so hits previously classified as pageviews, screenviews, events, transitions, items, and social are all now classified as events. As each event has an event name and can include up to 25 custom parameters, it is easier to enrich the events. The custom parameters translate to custom dimensions and metrics that you can use to event-scope or user-scope.
Another new feature of GA4 is enhanced measurement allowing you to tag some events without any code changes. These include outbound clicks, scrolls, site searches, file downloads, and video engagement.
Easier ad campaign audience creation
Built-in machine learning with data-driven attribution and predictive audiences makes it easier than ever to drive new insights. Various predictive insight metrics, such as churn probability or purchase probability, improve your ability to focus on customer behaviour and create audiences for marketing campaigns.
Custom dimensions and user properties about user behaviour over time further aid in audience building as well as analysis of customer lifetime value. While UA limited custom dimensions to 20 custom slots, GA4 now allows as many as you want. It also allows 25 user properties.
GA4 can also link directly to your Google Ads account, facilitating audience retargeting and export to other Google products. Any combination of demographics, channels, or events can be used to configure audiences and then sync them with Google Ads.
Making the Switch
If you’re just getting started with Google Analytics, you will need to create an account to set up the GA4 property. If you already have UA and are transitioning to GA4, this process will require the Editor role on your current Google Analytics account. Then, add a GA4 property to your existing setup using the GA4 Setup Assistant.
The overall process can be daunting when taking into consideration the personalisable aspects of the GA4 property. While the standard implementation can give you the basics, DataSauce can help you get GA4 up and running with metrics customised to your business. DataSauce will ensure GA4 is installed correctly to give you the most accurate data and enable the proper tracking of any desired metrics.
Once implemented, the GA4 property will collect data alongside the existing UA property, leaving the UA property unchanged as it continues collecting data. During the lead-up to the final sunsetting of UA in 2023, it is a good idea to dual-tag both UA and GA4 on your digital properties.
Although July of 2023 might sound far away, roughly fourteen months (or less depending on when you’re reading this) can be a short time for a business to make such sweeping changes in its practices. Preparing ahead of time will only benefit your company by quickly improving everything from reporting to event collection to ad campaigns.
Additionally, implementation with DataSauce will ensure the changes are based on reliable and customisable data, leading to the most informed business decisions possible.