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Google Analytics 4: Showcasing the power of machine learning

By , Head of Data Strategy and Analytics at Incubeta
Africa , South Africa , 10 Dec 2020
Jade Arenstein, Head of Data Strategy and Analytics at IncuBeta.
Jade Arenstein, Head of Data Strategy and Analytics at IncuBeta.

Google’s recent announcement of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has left many local businesses wondering how it affects them. While the powerful new additions are exceptionally compelling, making the switch will require a plan and a watchful eye on future changes.

For many years businesses have trusted Google Analytics to understand customer preferences and have used it to inform better future experiences.

Now, as organisations are under more pressure than ever before to ensure every marketing rand spent delivers, our reliance on measurement tools has never been higher.

Ensuring your business gets all the benefits from GA4 without losing all your precious insight and data requires some careful next steps.

Why the change?

Google has developed GA4 largely in response to the increased focus on privacy, especially regulations like GDPR and POPI, but also a hat-tip to an age where cookies are significantly limited.

This fourth version of Analytics also showcases the many opportunities that come with machine learning and addresses cross platform and cross device attribution.

Having a full view of a customer journey and predictive marketing features at your disposal means that marketers have access to more information and can build and target more complex audiences from a single analytics platform.

What you should be aware of

GA4 is designed to be a lot more user-centric than GA Universal with more reliance on your website to generate IDs to recognise a user. However, in many cases, establishing user IDs will require development work.

Marketing leaders should begin scoping this requirement sooner rather than later.

It’s worth noting that businesses will be getting a lot more features free and this will open up a world of opportunities for (especially) smaller businesses. News that GA4 will also link to BigQuery has many excited because it will open up all the power of machine learning predictive algorithms.

As with all new iterations, misinformation can be a problem. One of the biggest industry misconceptions around GA4 is that it only applies to those businesses which are running apps. While GA4 is an expansion and rebrand of App + Web, this implementation and the necessary action required also applies to those who only have websites.

What action needs to be taken?

Upgrades need to happen sooner than many may think. While Google hasn’t given a firm date when old properties will fall away, we foresee this to be within the next two years - much sooner than others in the industry have predicted.

It’s also worth noting that GA4 is evolving almost on a daily basis. While this means there are great new features and improvements being added, it is causing some discomfort with some users, especially those who may not have been that comfortable with Google Analytics.

This is exacerbated by the new navigation which differs quite significantly. Additional training will almost certainly be necessary and we are working to roll that out for our clients.

Working with Google over the past months, we have been privy to their GA4 roadmap. Not only is there a lot more planned for the rest of this year, but the additions and improvements for 2021 are significant. For this reason we recommend that clients take immediate action, but not make the switch just yet.

Rather, we have recommended that clients implement dual tagging where you run your existing property with GA4 running in the background, collecting data.

Once you are comfortable with the new property and have enough data that is as accurate or more accurate than your existing data, then it will be safe to make the switch.

Finally, as with any major platform changes, those who take action early are likely to benefit most.

Ensuring you and your teams are comfortable with the new property and confident your data is unmuddied, will mean a smoother switchover and the best chance to benefit from the greatly improved power of GA4.

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