Google Analytics needs no introduction: this is a tool used by marketers and analysts to survey the effectiveness of website activity. While website analytics are developed and covered rather well, analytics for the more and more popular mobile apps leave a lot to be desired, may seem less than intuitive, and — most importantly — are unavailable from the classic Google Analytics view.

In order to ensure an almost flawless customer experience, we need to fully understand the decision path or purchase impulses, which often appear for the first time in a somewhat ignored part of analytics, the one dedicated to mobile apps.

Surveying the effectiveness of both website and mobile app activity is the key to understanding the user’s path and designing a customer experience allowing for the accomplishment of the following business objectives: sales growth, higher traffic, better traffic quality, or more registrations. Analytics are improved by appropriate information flow and interactions between the websites and mobile apps. Thus far, many marketers limited this to comparison of information between the results of Google Analytics (for websites) and the appropriately configured Google Analytics for Firebase for mobile apps.

From 14 October, this is now possible thanks to Google Analytics 4 (known in beta as App + Web) – an improved Google service allowing for simultaneous tracking of multichannel results.

Google Analytics 4 is supposed to be the response to the growing market of mobile apps and synergy of the activity and behaviors surveyed both in applications and on websites.

From a single common dashboard.


Source

Some people see Google Analytics 4 as a serious contender to replace and standardize the analytics we know from Universal Analytics (the current GA tracking method). Furthermore, Google itself is clearly stressing its plans for the development of and investments in the service: “The new Google Analytics is now the default experience for new properties and is where we’re investing in future improvements.

Google is focusing on a new tracking standard in a common panel irrespectively of the customer’s communication channel.

Even though ecommerce is the sector, which could reap the greatest benefits from efficient implementation, other industries should turn their attention to GA 4 as soon as possible as well.

What is Google Analytics 4, what role does it play, how does it change the perception of analytics, and why should be implemented right away? We have prepared a practical guide to let you learn more about the new analytics module of Google.

What will you find in this article?

Google Analytics 4: what is it?
Google Analytics 4 and Google Analytics for Firebase
Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics
Differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics
The key to implementing Google Analytics 4: dual tagging
Benefits of Google Analytics 4
Who benefits most from implementation of Google Analytics 4?
Implementing Google Analytics 4
Will Google Analytics 4 replace Google Analytics?

Sounds good? Let’s dive in!

Google Analytics 4: what is it?

Google Analytics 4 is a service for surveying and analyzing the data collected from attached websites and mobile apps in a single common panel. As the data is presented in a standardized way in one place, the analytics of user engagement and optimization of their shopping paths becomes much easier.

With consideration of the accuracy and transparency of the results obtained from websites in comparison to the previous web tracking model (Universal Analytics), numerous analysts believe that the service will be a revolution. It may not yet be finished and was announced only recently, but the sooner you introduce Google Analytics 4 in your business, the greater your chances to speed past the competition and collect plenty of data for quick analysis while your rivals are just starting to gather it.

Google Analytics 4 and Google Analytics for Firebase

Google Analytics for Firebase (GA4F) is likely familiar to analysts, who are already analyzing user behavior in mobile apps.

And these analysts will probably not be surprised by the structure of data displayed in Google Analytics 4, as it is very similar to that of GA4F. However, the marketers who analyzed only with Google Analytics will face the challenge of getting accustomed to and learning the new panel and changes from Google Analytics for Firebase.

Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics

Can Google Analytics 4 be called an alternative to Universal Analytics? As I am writing this article, such a statement would be going a little overboard: even though Google Analytics 4 is already out of beta, it will definitely experience some serious evolution within the next few weeks and months.

Google Analytics 4 offers much more in the scope of creating reports and analyzing the already held data. The sessions used as analysis benchmarks from Google Analytics will be replaced in GA4 with data referring to user activity and specific events in a single package between the selected data sources.

Google Analytics 4 makes it easier to analyze screen views for mobile apps and page views for websites, which are now collected in one unified view. Google Analytics did not allow for precise calculation of mobile app views, which is why interactions in apps at various stages of the funnel were pretty much impossible to analyze and optimize.

Google Analytics 4 eliminates this problem. Surveying the effectiveness of activity in both mobile apps and on websites was never easier.

Google Analytics 4 can be implemented with no extra tag modifications if you are already using gtag.js or Google Tag Manager.

Differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics

A different way to process data

Google Analytics 4 has a different way of collecting, storing, filtering, and reporting data than the standard Google Analytics operations. The data collection system is similar to that of Google Analytics for Firebase, which is why the analysts familiar with this tracking method will have an easier time moving to Google Analytics 4. In other cases, the onboarding and understanding of the new panel may require quite a bit of time.

A different surveying model

Google Analytics uses sessions to survey activity, but Google Analytics 4 focuses on events with specific parameters. With consideration of the need for analysis of behavior in both mobile apps and on websites, data surveying is reformulated and made easier.

A new way to measure data with focus on events
A new way to measure data with focus on events.

No collected hit limits

As I am writing this article, Google Analytics 4 has released documentation stating that collected hits are unlimited (besides the maximum of 500 events of various names per application). This is a lot of help and… savings for analysts who are currently analyzing tremendous amounts of data (over 10 million hits per month) in the scope of the paid Google Analytics 360.

Free data export to BigQuery

Google Analytics 4 provides free data export to BigQuery, which is familiar to users of Google Analytics 360. This ensures even more precise and multilevel data analysis and is not available in the free versions of web services. This is another argument in favor of using GA4, even for integration alone.

The key to implementing Google Analytics 4: dual tagging

The common part in the names – Google Analytics and Google Analytics 4 – may be misleading to marketers convinced that the data in both services will be presented and analyzed in the same way, the only difference being in the analytics of mobile apps.

This is not true.

The data analyzed through the web service (Universal Analytics) is presented in a different way than that collected with Google Analytics 4.

Furthermore, it should be noted that exporting data from Google Analytics to Google Analytics 4 is not possible for reasons including the different data appearance. However, this should not discourage anyone from trying out GA4 — on the contrary!

So how do we move to tracking results in GA4 and start to learn the new, somewhat revolutionary interface without any negative consequences or data loss in a familiar way?

The solution is dual tagging. What is dual tagging in Google Analytics 4? Simultaneous configuration of GA4, development of the settings, and discovery of new analytics meanders, but also maintenance of the current reporting method through the web service: Universal Analytics.

This is a way to learn Google Analytics 4 in advance while the data is still safely stored in Universal Analytics. This “dual action” entails plenty of advantages: primarily the fact that when Google Analytics 4 becomes the new standard, the people who started configuring the service right away will have a head start. Instead of rushing to configure GA4, they will be able to focus on proper analytics, configuration, and optimization of operations.

Dual tagging lets us learn the new data surveying method and compare the data from both Google Analytics and Google Analytics 4 without any risk to the data already collected and optimized.

Do I need to say that this is a major competitive advantage?

Benefits of Google Analytics 4

Since Google Analytics 4 is so relatively different from Google Analytics, is it all worth it? Definitely. The list of benefits produced by the implementation of Google Analytics 4 is presented below.

A better understanding of the customer journey

Google Analytics 4 offers an extensive understanding of user behavior on numerous levels and in multiple channels thanks to its advanced metrics and integrated data reporting all in one place.

Thanks to Google Analytics 4, you can gain a better understanding of user behaviors on numerous levels. Optimizing the customer’s purchase path and ensuring an appropriate user experience is made easier thanks to a single metrics package — Enhanced Measurement (based on user events – Event + Parameter) and integrated reporting of data from both apps and websites in one place.

Enhanced Measurement: extensive event tracking

Enhanced Measurement is a metrics package based on user events (Event + Parameter), which ensures more efficient delivery of the appropriate customer experience. Thanks to Enhanced Measurement, you can activate extensive event tracking in all marketing channels from the common panel.

You can track both automatic (app first_open, i.e. opening of the app; in_app_purchase, i.e. shopping through the app) and dedicated events. As the name states, the Enhanced Measurement module “strengthens” the surveys with appropriate metrics. It automates surveys of effects without interfering in the existing dedicated GTM tags or the website code.

Events, events!

Google Analytics 4 lets you customize almost every stage of the purchase path to the behavior of the selected user. Thanks to dedicated events, you can track every step of the user in the mobile app and on the website in a single panel of GA4. The Google Analytics 4 service panel lets you identify the best marketing channels for the most satisfactory conversion. Furthermore, the option of analyzing activity both in the mobile app and on the website makes it possible to define the number of users who have started a certain interaction sequence in the app but have not made the desired action with this method but have finished shopping on the website and vice versa.

More customized reports

Analytics focus on reporting and Google Analytics 4 offers truly impressive potential in this area. The reports generated in GA4 recognize the behaviors and numbers of unique users over all marketing channels – both on websites and in mobile apps – to improve your strategy, customer interactions with your brand, and analysis of contact points.

The Analysis option for everyone

The previous Analysis function was a reporting module available only to the users of the paid version, Google Analytics 360. Reporting through Analysis is now more precise and covers multiple dimensions.

With Analysis, you can:

  • create reports analyzing user behavior at the given stage of the sales funnel (Funnel Analysis)
  • analyze paths for a better understanding of the customer journey (Path Analysis)
  • analyze potential segment overlapping (Segment Overlap)

And this is just the “tip of the iceberg”: the Analysis module offers plenty of options to marketers and analysts.

So why are we talking about this? In Google Analytics 4, the Analysis module is provided free of charge, which makes it possible for users moving to GA4 from Google Analytics (remember dual tagging!) to use the Analysis service in their everyday work.

Too many current users, Google Analytics may be reason enough to try GA4, especially with dual tagging, where the data will still be collected through Google Analytics, and the new Google Analytics 4 interface with support for e.g. Analysis. This will make it possible to not just compare the raw data, but also generate reports and present results.

Integration with BigQuery and no sampling

We already talked about free integration with BigQuery (the raw Google Analytics data management system) for all users of Google Analytics (this integration was previously reserved for the paid users of Google Analytics 360), but we should also mention another advantage produced by this integration: analysis of a complete data package with no sampling. Sampling, which is familiar from Google Analytics, is often used for purposes of more advanced analyses. But not all analysis dimensions will be assessed appropriately, so sampling could be inaccurate. To “get rid” of the sampling problem in the past, you needed to move to the paid version, Google Analytics 360. Google Analytics 4 will let you avoid the problems produced from not entirely accurate sampling, especially when it comes to highly advanced analyses and segments.

Who benefits most from implementation of Google Analytics 4?

There are several groups, which should consider the implementation of Google Analytics 4 right after reading this material. If they have not done so already.

Mobile app developers

Thanks to Google Analytics 4, mobile app analytics are not only easier and more transparent, but most importantly provide even more data and conclusions for analyzing. If the mobile app is accompanied by a website, the GA4 module provides a new effect tracking and surveying interface.

Mobile app analytics in Google Analytics for Firebase are available in a much more limited range than in GA4. Selected benefits for developers and analysts of mobile app interactions include advanced modules, access to reports, and free integration with BigQuery.

Online store owners

If you have an online store with a dedicated mobile app, Google Analytics 4 will help you gain a better understanding of the user’s path between the “web” world and the “mobile” world. Now the rather underappreciated mobile app analytics are becoming available to everyone, simple, transparent, and starting to produce conclusions for the whole strategy. Google Analytics 4 refers to user data, not user sessions, which means that the analytics through this Google service provides access to the insights previously hard or impossible to generate. GA4 lets analyze the behaviors and contact points for e.g. users, who started their purchase in the mobile app but completed it on the website or repeatedly changed their channels and ways of interaction with the brand.

Website developers

Should website developers invest their time and resources in Google Analytics 4? In this situation, we need to examine the benefits of GA4 besides just “liberating” the data collected in mobile apps. Google Analytics 4 offers plenty of options for websites as well: free access to the analytical resources of Analysis, no hit limits, and dedicated events.

Furthermore, when you decide to fully implement or test out Google Analytics 4, you need to remember about dual tagging, which lets you test it without any consequences to your data. When the freshly configured GA4 collects data in the new interface and allows it to be tested, the “good old Google Analytics” processes the same data in the way familiar to analysts. They will never miss a statistic and the testing process may open new doors.

Even if there is no need to test out GA4 at this time, you should still learn its current potential and collect data for potential analysis in the future in order to… have something to analyze when you move to GA4.

Implementing Google Analytics 4

Can Google Analytics 4 be implemented without assistance? The configuration is not particularly demanding, but it definitely requires plenty of time and resources. However, the time required to configure the service does not match up to the time of onboarding, which also requires… time.

Even though you can configure the basic website or app events without assistance, most companies are not satisfied with just basic events. You should introduce appropriately configured, almost personalized events in order to survey customer behavior at every stage of the shopping funnel in the mobile app and on the website in the scope of the cross-platform model.

And this is where Growcode comes in.

Will Google Analytics 4 replace Google Analytics?

Google is focusing on the functions of Google Analytics 4, the materials supporting its implementation, and the promotion of the version. The press release dated 14 October 2020 states that GA4 is now the tracking standard proposed by default for configuration of new services and that this is the area, on which Google will concentrate from now on.

As I am writing this article, Google Analytics 4 provides excellent support for current analytics, especially in relation to surveying the results and interactions in mobile apps. This is a completely new standard for data tracking, surveying, and optimization. The multilevel comparison — in the scope of interaction, channels, and the shopping path — provides access to previously unattainable data. And although Google Analytics 4 is not replacing Google Analytics at this time because it does not have access to API or integration with selected Google products, it still offers plenty of options, which should be tried out. The access to advanced reporting, integrations, and modules previously restricted to the users of the paid version of Google Analytics should be enough to convince you to try Google Analytics 4. When it comes to mobile app development, the reasons are even more obvious.

The sooner and better you test out GA4 and introduce dual tagging, the stronger your competitive mark will be. You will develop foundations for reliable analytics in the new Google service, gain a better understanding of your users, and improve both the customer experience and your own results.

The only question left is “What’s not to like?”

 

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Growcode Ecommerce Blog / Ecommerce Optimization / Google Analytics 4: Guide to the new Google update

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