As of October 2020, Google officially launched Google Analytics 4 (GA4) – the unified experience for app and web tracking. This is quite possibly the largest update Google has released since Universal Analytics, but many brands are questioning if they need to upgrade and what are the benefits. In this article, we’ll cover the major differences between Universal Analytics and GA4 and break down the top 3 reasons you should consider upgrading.
What is GA4 and How Does it Vary from Universal Analytics?
GA4 is the latest version of Google Analytics that combines app and web traffic into a unified reporting view. GA4 offers new features, changes to the UI, and a completely new way to read and analyze data. Like Universal Analytics, GA4 also uses the gtag.js library but uses an event-driven data model instead of a pageview data model. Major differences include:
- Event Driven Data Model: Universal Analytics uses different hit types such as pageview, events, timings, and ecommerce. Each of these hit types have their own configuration that tie to specific parameters/metrics. With GA4, everything is tracked as an event, which offers more flexibility with data collection. You can attach any additional attributes as a parameter to the events you find necessary for reporting. If you are familiar with Firebase Analytics, the event-driven data model will be easy to digest.
- Combines Mobile and Web Traffic Under One Property: Previously, you would have 2 properties to view app traffic and web traffic. With GA4, you can roll-up both platforms into one reporting view using data streams, allowing you to view all traffic and events seamlessly.
- DebugView: Quite possibly one of the best new features GA4 has to offer from an implementation perspective is DebugView. Previously, with Universal Analytics, if you wanted to debug your implementation, you would need to use real-time reports to verify events and pageviews. Unfortunately, to debug ecommerce events you would need to wait for the hits to process into the aggregated reports. This can be very time consuming. With DebugView, you can instantly verify events at a granular level as they are happening. In debug mode use a data filter to automatically exclude this traffic from reports while using the DebugView to not inflate metrics.
- UI Changes and Funnels: At first glance, the UI may look similar with the left-hand report selectors, but once you dig into these reports, you will quickly notice the report categorization and options have changed. You now have reports such as Engagement and User Acquisition, which is a clear indictor that Google is putting more emphasis on the user. Another cool feature that was previously only available to GA 360 users is the Analysis Hub. The Analysis Hub allows you to create custom funnels and other complex reports to dive deeper into user engagement.
Top 3 Reasons to Move to GA4 for Ecommerce:
Aside from the new features, there are other reasons to consider upgrading to GA4 for ecommerce:
- No Limits: If you are a non-360 user, you’ll be happy to know GA4 doesn’t have data collection limits so you are free to track any shopper interaction you wish without being sampled.
- Custom Funnels: With the analysis hub that was only available to 360 users on Universal Analytics, you have more flexibility with building funnels, reports, segments, and audiences.
- Predictive Insights: There’s a variety of features for predictive insights including purchase & churn probability, which further improves audience building.
Do You Need to Upgrade?
GA4 will not import historical data from your Universal Analytics property. GA4 starts collecting data as soon as the tracking is implemented. The sooner you add a GA4 property, the more historical data you will have to report on when Universal Analytics is phased out in the future. Having the dual-tagging of Universal Analytics and GA4 in place will allow you to reap the benefits of both systems.