1. Data & Insights

All About Google Analytics 4 — Why Retailers Should Make the Move Sooner Rather Than Later

Retail brands have endured a shift — across multiple popular platforms — in the past few years. First, it was Shopify 2.0, an upgrade to the existing Shopify platform. Then, the wave of going headless to maintain flexibility and scalability. Now, Google Analytics will end its current Google Analytics offering and require businesses to migrate to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) on July 1, 2023.

GA4 is an upgrade to Google Analytics that replaces the current Universal Analytics (GA3) and aims to track the user journey across devices and apps — and rely less on cookies to predict user behavior.

Why should retail brands start moving to GA4 now rather than later?

Because they need the data.

For years, retailers have relied on Google Analytics to make cross-channel decisions and understand user interaction. GA4 will change all that.

After Google rolls out GA4, the historical universal analytics data in Google Analytics 3 will only be in a read-only state — and can’t be imported into GA4. Google also doesn’t have plans to enable the migration of old data from GA3 to GA4. That said, Google advises marketers to enable dual-tracking to build history on both platforms as soon as possible.

Before we talk about the five benefits of GA4 that retail brands need to know about, let’s discuss why it’s important for brands to make the move to GA4 now vs. later.

  • Reaching product-qualified audiences: 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.
  • Building event-based funnels: GA4 improves data collection across platforms, making it easy for marketers to predict user behavior. This improved data model also results in better prediction of revenue, customer churn, and probable business growth.

While change is never easy, once brands successfully migrate from GA3 to GA4, there are five key benefits they’ll be thrilled about. These include the following:

1. Easier Custom Reporting

The old segment and custom report in GA3 will no longer be in GA4. Instead, Google is introducing Exploration as a way to gain deeper insights into users and their journeys. This will allow retailers to create various custom report types and funnel right from the Google Analytics interface.

2. Unlimited Allowable Hit Volume

With GA3, 500 hits per session are allowed — which isn’t nearly enough for most retailers. And while you could increase this to 2,000 hits per session, it gets maxed out when tracking engagement across various platforms. GA4 has no limits on event logs across websites and apps. This means that retailers can track as many engagements as they want without worrying about hitting the limit.

3. App + Web Unification With Report Identity

Cross-platform unification is one of the main selling points of GA4 because it allows for the measurement of interactions across devices and platforms to create an omnichannel experience for users. While all the interactions across platforms and devices can be disconnected, Google’s Report Identity makes tracking easy. To make this work, Google uses four methods to unify them:

  • User-ID
  • Google Signals
  • Modeling
  • Device ID

You can set any of these methods above as your preferred mode of collecting data from signed-in users who have enough activity on a website or app.

4. E-Commerce Event Tracking

Retailers can track how users interact with their products via the e-commerce event tracking feature in GA4 and use it to customize the shopping experience. For example, you can measure how users interact with your promotions (e.g., banners, pop-up boxes) and their impact on conversions. This will give you a clearer picture of the entire customer journey post-purchase.

5. Improved Conversion-Tracking Model

GA4 is switching out goals for conversion as one of its main features. Conversion is tracked using event-based tracking, which includes video engagement, scrolls, file downloads, page views and outbound clicks. Also, this model leverages data points based on each click’s contribution to conversion.

If you’ve been deliberating whether to switch to GA4 now or waiting until GA4 nears end-of-life, now is the time to make that move. Make a point to start learning about GA4 and set up dual-tracking on GA3 as soon as possible to keep your reports and year-over-year data. Procrastinating on preparation will only create extra challenges for your business and provide your more proactive competitors with a head start. The choice is yours.

Jake Loveless is the CEO of Edgemesh, the global web acceleration company he co-founded with two partners in 2016. 

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