A changing of the digital data guard happened this summer when Google officially retired Universal Analytics and switched to Google Analytics 4. This isn’t merely a flick of the switch to a new and improved data analytics program for marketers. It’s an entirely new system that isn’t fully compatible with the franchise analytic’s ways of the past.
“Google’s main reason for switching from Universal Analytics to GA4 is largely due to user behavior and privacy standards,” says Tammy Wright, Curious Jane’s senior director of digital and web. “Google Analytics has always been a powerful tool for how franchise companies interact with their customers, and GA4 will continue that in a very different way.”
Why Google Forced the Change
Since it was first introduced in 2005, Google Analytics has proven itself to be the industry standard for companies that want to know more about their customers and how to target them. Its most recent iteration, Universal Analytics, was rolled out in 2012 and has been the standard since.
This new change in data collection positions companies for the future of marketing and advertising campaigns, better insight into your buyer’s journey that includes data from both website and apps. It also reflects increased privacy concerns among customers.
Continued data breaches caused by relaxed online security measures and bad actors with technical computing skills have led to a growing public distrust of sharing private information with marketers. That led to legislation in Europe and California to protect consumer data, and the switch to GA4 is part of the new alignment to comply with privacy laws around the world.
“Prioritizing trust and security in these unprecedented times of global chaos is fundamental to the strategic role of data and analytics to realize new sources of value,” according to Gartner’s Top Trends in Data and Analytics, 2022.
What to Do?
If you haven’t set up a GA4 property for your franchise, you’re behind the curve at this point, but not all hope is lost. However, you need to start using GA4 now.
“By setting up a GA4 property now, you can begin collecting data and building history for comparison,” Wright says. “Some data is better than none. The point being, you want to have established data that you can compare year over year figures. The sooner you set that up, the sooner you can begin your data collection.”
Comparing the Data of Your Franchise Analytics
Before you set up your new property, you should know that not all of the data between Universal Analytics and GA4 is comparable.
“Some data from UA can be comparable to GA4 so you can have year-over-year comparisons, but it won’t be in every category,” Wright says. “Your 2022 data will be useful because it will give you something to compare and determine if you’ve made improvements.
“Take this time to begin learning how GA4 works, how you need to set it up and what things you want to track,” Wright continues. “Connect to Google Ads. Get tags on your site to make sure the data begins to come in. As companies become less reliant on third-party data, the information you collect on your site will be all that more valuable.”
Google also provides some helpful guidance on its website.
“You will be able to do some incredible things to develop some key audience targeting,” Wright says. “If you don’t already know, working in analytics can be complex and takes time to learn, if you haven’t already been doing this. But this is the time to get familiar with how GA4 is structured and set up for users. The type of data that it can collect off your site is valuable and you need to be using that.”