After nearly three years, Google has mandated its upgrade from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 on July 1, 2023. which forced many advertisers to migrate their properties before the deadline. This hard stop created a risk of missing attribution data. Meaning that we, together with other performance marketing businesses, be blind on campaign performance unless we took action on those clients affected.
Following detailed planning, we’ve been able to successfully navigate our clients through the migration process avoiding any campaign interruption. However, it was still a challenging process. We’re sharing what we’ve learned and what it all means for our retail partners.
Connexity worked closely with retail partners to understand what changed from Universal Analytics (UA) to the new iteration Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Our goal was to identify and provide solutions for any impacts to retailers well ahead of time. We also wanted to guide them through this process to avoid performance and optimization issues. Here’s what we observed working in GA4 with our clients:
- Reporting has improved but it’s missing a key feature. We noticed that overall, GA4’s reporting infrastructure has improved. Event tracking, enhanced analytics tools, and upgraded visual reporting has improved, which is great news for users. However, what’s missing is the ability to schedule and deliver reports that performance marketers, like Connexity, use for campaign optimization. Fortunately, we were able to work with Google’s engineering team directly to find a custom solution. Google and Connexity created a custom script file, which is now officially verified by Google, to create and deliver reports on behalf of retail advertisers. Our solution now supports the creation and delivery of the reports, functionality that is wholly absent in GA4.
- It uses a Data-Driven Attribution model as its standard to track the customer journey. Google is now using this as its default attribution model that you can read more about here. In short, it’s algorithmic and black-box, so less predictable than UA’s last (indirect) click model. For example, we have observed that attribution often changes for different parts of the customer journey. The attribution model could use some more refinement, but we’re sure that Google is continuing to fine-tune it.
- There’s less dependence on cookies for tracking. UA heavily relied on cookies to capture the same data, but it painted an incomplete picture of the user journey. GA4 now removes the dependence on cookies by using event tracking, machine learning, and cross-device tracking to capture user interactions as single “events” rather than sessions, which aligns to the latest privacy standards and the demise of third party cookies. This comes just in time as privacy is a growing concern and the industry is moving towards 1st-party data.
Connexity was able to take on these challenges hands-on and transitioned our clients successfully from UA to GA4. We reached out to our clients early to get ahead of the update, while at the same time trying to understand what this update meant for us. At the end of the day, being customer centric paid off. Our solid relationships enabled us to troubleshoot and find solutions that ensured their ongoing success.
We believe that GA4 is still a work-in-progress and that in the near future Google will update GA4 models again to further improve reporting. Those using Google Analytics 360 still have until 1 July 2024 before they are required to upgrade, so, we’d expect Google may also refine the product functionality ahead of or aligned to this deadline. This may include an in-platform solution for data delivery as well as unlocking additional, or improved features for users and their media partners.
In the meantime, we’re here to support our retailers on whatever is needed. Please feel free to reach out if you want any advice or have questions on this topic.