How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love GA4
With almost a dozen migrations to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) under our belt, we've learned what it takes to make a migration successful. We've also noticed a surprising pattern in the results: clients who migrate to GA4 are forced to embrace an enterprise analytics footing. By that, we mean that their analytics solution requires a more mature skillset to operate but it provides more advanced capabilities and value.
While this may be a surprise to businesses that became familiar with the simplicity of Universal Analytics (GA3), we believe that there's a ton of opportunity available to businesses that embrace this change.
We'll come back to that opportunity, but first, we’ll explain why GA3 wasn't built to last and why some businesses are struggling with the switch to GA4.
It's Hard to Say Goodbye to GA3
Launched in 2012, there's one simple reason why GA3 holds the market share that it does: it's free. However, as the adage goes if the product is free then you are the product. Google was willing to front the costs of processing data for its users because it received a treasure trove of data that it could use in its advertising software to improve ad targeting.
Recently, as privacy regulations and consumer expectations around privacy have changed, the calculus for Google has also changed. You can see this in the privacy features built into GA4:
- Consent mode for cookie-less tracking
- Behavioral modeling to backfill data lost due to non-consent
- No IP tracking by default
- Regional data collection to keep EU data in the EU
GA3 was simply not built for this privacy-centric environment and had to be abandoned. If we can assume that Google receives less value from the data it collects in 2023 than it did in 2012, then it makes perfect sense why they might be willing to leave behind a large, but unprofitable, group of users: small businesses. Small businesses will see a high switching cost without a commensurate amount of added value. This segment is least likely to utilize any of GA4's paid features, and Google seems willing to wave goodbye.
Say Hello to Enterprise Analytics with GA4
The same attributes of GA4 that might alienate small businesses should excite medium to large businesses. With a moderate amount of investment, they receive a free or low-cost solution that has enterprise capabilities. By that, we mean GA4:
- Brings several paid-only features of GA3 to GA4 users for free (BigQuery export, custom funnels, etc.)
- Provides unlimited scale in data volume with no sampling
- Offers granularity of data down to the individual, not just aggregate metrics
- May feed into an enterprise data warehouse which allows for data blending, removing web analytics as a data silo
- Allows businesses to deploy any business intelligence suite they wish (Ex: Tableau, Power BI)
- Provides opportunities to deploy machine learning based on event-level data
- Delivers privacy mechanisms to appease internal compliance officers
- Provides interoperability with the over 100 products available in the Google Cloud Platform
Many of these capabilities leverage Google's cloud data warehouse solution, BigQuery, which uses a consumption-based pricing model. Although there is a very generous free tier. There's also a hidden cost in the training necessary to take advantage of these capabilities. To flip the saying on its head: You are not the product, but the product is no longer free.
How You Can Break Down Data Silos with GA4
The promise of data-driven marketing has been held back in large part due to the data silos that form within organizations. The rise of SaaS marketing tools has come with it an increase in silos that trap customer data. As a response, savvy businesses have adopted the modern data stack and cloud data warehouses as a way to break down data silos to activate their customer data.
The ease with which GA4 fits into this new paradigm is where your organization’s opportunity lies. For example, GA4's raw data export makes it the perfect entry point for creating a Composable Customer Data Platform (CDP).
While migrating to GA4 takes effort, the long-term benefits go way beyond its flashier reports and new user interface. If you’re willing to invest in this potential you’ll be rewarded with a modern, enterprise-grade solution that has the potential to break down your data silos and improve your data-driven decision-making.
Ready to migrate to GA4? Reach out. We can help you efficiently migrate to GA4 and provide you with the training you need to make the most of its features. Also, want to learn more about what the migration process entails? Check out our webinar, “Goodbye GA3, Hello GA4!”.