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Google Analytics 4: Why collecting data alone won’t be enough.

April 4, 2023 By: Dylan Smith

Since Google announced Universal Analytics would be going away and replaced with Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in March 2022, businesses have been scrambling to figure out what it all means and how to prepare. Just search “GA4 migration,” and you’ll find dozens of articles foretelling doom and gloom for the organization that doesn’t immediately jump into the GA4 transition. 

While companies still have plenty of time to migrate, it’s likely that most leaders who rely on Google Analytics have already started by adding the GA4 tags to their site, training their teams on the new metrics, and setting up a backup for their data. The problem? Even with improved insights, GA4 alone still won’t tell the whole story of the customer’s journey. 

Why you need more than Google Analytics. 

Whether it’s Universal Analytics 360 or GA4, Google Analytics is, first and foremost, a tool for telling you which marketing channels drive users and which don’t. And that’s really useful. 

But for all that Google tells us is happening on a website, they don’t tell us why. When times are tight, brands need to grow while keeping an eye on the bottom line. You can’t do that if you don’t know why people came to your website, added one or two products to their cart, and then bounced without buying. 

Let’s look at an example. 

Using their on-hand GA data, an insurance provider knew that 1 in 3 sessions encountered an error from a specific marketing campaign, but all they could see was a generic error “plan-creation-fails.” 

With Quantum Metric, they were quickly able to isolate that segment and identify that at the point of policy payment, an API 500 error occurs. They sent a session replay of the issue with the data embedded to their developers and QA team to fix the “why”: their backend configuration was incorrect for certain schemes, and the email address field was not being passed through correctly. 

Within the first month after fixing the issue, their conversion rate increased by 5%.

In a market where every dollar counts, we should focus on ensuring our investments get people to the site, and that they have a great experience once they’re there. For that to happen, every team needs to be empowered to quickly identify, share, and fix problems within the digital experience.

That’s why your team needs a digital experience analytics platform so that everyone within your organization, from CX to product, can better understand the customer’s experience using a single source of truth. 

3 core principles for your digital experience analytics platform.

Whether you’ve made the change to GA4 already or are taking this transition as an opportunity to find ways to complement it, here are 3 must-haves for your digital experience analytics platform.

1. Make it easy.

Businesses are complex. Platforms like Google Analytics have been built to mirror that complexity–with each new technology we’ve added to our digital properties, we’ve added even more complexity to analytics. It’s time to make it easier. 

You can make it easy for those teams to align with session replay. On its own, session replay isn’t going to do much for you. But linked at its core, with a robust analytics platform? Now we’re talking. 

That’s also why we created Atlas: industry-specific guides focused on improving specific experiences that people have with your digital properties. Anyone from a marketer to an engineer to a customer support specialist should be able to get access to the data and insights they need to grow your business.

2. Understand and measure impact.

In experience analytics,  the route you create for customers to take through your site or app is called a journey

But, even though you plan for it one way, most users will take their own journey once there. Some platforms, like Google Analytics, will offer insights into the user journey. The problem is they take even more time to set up the tags and custom events needed to get those insights. GA4 even has limits on the number of custom events you can track, limiting your ability to understand anything but the simplest of user journeys. 

We know that journeys are not always simple. Out-of-the-box journey analytics makes set-up time faster and easier, ensuring you can see customer journeys without extensive tagging.

And we shouldn’t be limited to seeing what pieces of content lead to conversion. Is it the content or the placement driving clicks? Are people interacting with or even seeing my most important content? Too much time and effort goes into creating these properties not to understand. Interaction heatmaps take journeys to the next level by answering these questions.  

Once we understand the user journey, we should be able to quickly quantify just how much incremental revenue we can drive by improving it. That quantified impact should be in a language every team can understand: dollars.

3. Keep customer data secure and private.

Last but not least: security and PII

We’re all making this transition to GA4 because Universal Analytics didn’t take customer privacy seriously enough. The market got ahead of the product, and the product still hasn’t caught up. It’s been 5 years since Europe passed GDPR, yet GA4’s future compliance is still uncertain. We don’t know how that will play out, but we do know that the need to respect customer privacy and security is not only increasing but accelerating. 

Digital experience analytics platforms (and, by extension, those who use them) capture a lot of data, so it’s important that any platform you use place customer privacy at its heart. Treating PII securely is table stakes. Controlling access to different levels of customer data by team and user is a must-have. Google Analytics was built in the world of the third-party cookie and has been trying to tack on privacy features ever since. Insist all your technology platforms are built privacy-first.

Find the right digital experience analytics platform for your team. 

Ready to enrich your Google Analytics with digital experience analytics? The experience analytics buyers guide lays out the 7 critical criteria to evaluate in your search and the exact questions to ask every vendor.

Download the guide here.

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