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Google Analytics 4: A Brief Glimpse Into What’s Coming

Universal Analytics, also known as Google Analytics, will be discontinued on July 1, 2023. But if you’ve been waiting until some future date to look into logistics, don’t stress: Here’s the quick and clean on what you need to know about the basic changes and how they will affect vehicle retailers.

Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Universal Analytics

As consumers’ needs evolve, so must the internet to meet them. Universal Analytics, designed over fifteen years ago, was created to measure specific data points and depended on tracking activities through cookies. The primary measurement was sessions – interactions by one user within a given time. 

Like the DeLorean, Universal Analytics is no longer an efficient vehicle. Outdated and clunky, it began the journey to obsoletion with the advent of smartphones. The new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) works with the future in mind: Privacy-focused, omnichannel-centered, and customizable.

Customer Journeys: Now With Fewer Cookies 

Over the past few years, consumers have become accustomed to opting out of data sharing: Asking apps not to track their activity, blocking ads, denying cookies. As consumer behavior becomes more difficult to track via these older methods, search engines — and retailers — must adapt. 

Consumers have also come to expect to interact with businesses whenever and however they want: On smartphones, computers, tablets, and in-store. GA4 can track all of these data streams, whereas Universal Analytics can only track mobile and desktop data. This means a more complete picture of the customer journey for vehicle retailers, enabling them to provide consumers with more personalized interactions and touchpoints.

What Did Cookies Do, and What Will They Do Now? 

Cookies deposit data so that websites can customize user experiences. Historically, the internet has used third-party cookies, which track activities across the internet. 

To respect consumer privacy, GA4 has allowed consumers to opt out of sharing third-party cookies, relying instead on first-party cookies. First-party cookies do not track activities across the internet but operate only on a single domain.

Although this system increases consumer privacy, the loss of third-party cookies causes customer experiences to be less customized and more generalized. GA4 fills in the gaps using machine learning (ML) to educate algorithms and tailor customer experiences. With GA4, consumers have more privacy, and retailers can customize shopping journeys.

Combine, Capture, Customize 

Consumers often switch devices or profiles as they interact with websites. Flexible tools are necessary to make sense of these different data streams. GA4 can measure, unify, and de-duplicate all the interactions consumers have with your company across devices and platforms, giving you a complete, relevant, and timely understanding of the customer experience. You can use Google’s signed-in data, bring your own identifier for signed-in users, or seamlessly use both, and GA4 will always choose the best available option for each situation. Let’s take a look at a few ways in which GA4 will provide a new customer — and user — experience.

How long will Google save your data?

Universal Analytics provided the options to save consumer data from 14 months to… forever. Google Analytics 4 isn’t so laissez faire with shopper information: It can be saved for either two months or 14 months.

Events versus Sessions

While Universal Analytics was session-based, GA4 is event-based. Interactions, like page views, will be considered events. In the past, the number of page views within a time frame was considered part of one session. 

Spam Detection

Only hits with a private key can send data to GA4. In the past, spammers and bots could send fake information to a website, leading to false reports. 

User Interface

Universal Analytics pulled quick and simple reports built on templates. With GA4, dealerships have the flexibility to create custom reports — but they also need to learn how. 

Dealerships can use GA4 to identify trends and patterns in their data to help them create customized shopping experiences and make informed business decisions. These updates to GA4 empower dealerships to take control of their analytics and gain visibility into behaviors like website traffic origin and engagement behavior. To learn more about how GA4 can benefit your business and to get started using it, download our guide.