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Google’s Universal Analytics (UA)–also known as Google Analytics 3–will soon give way to its sleeker, shinier successor, Google Analytics 4. That’s right, the search engine’s decade-old Universal Analytics will sail off into the sunset. By July 2023, Google Analytics 4 will take over all analytics data. What does the new version have in store for social retail?

Introduced in 2020, GA4 offered users a new way to look at data. In addition, Google took notice of the growing concerns with data privacy and is slowly moving away from the use of third-party cookies. Instead, GA4 will now focus on first-party data–but will place controls to comply with privacy standards, such as GDPR and CCPA.

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What’s New in Google Analytics 4 for Social Retail?

Outside of improved data privacy controls, GA4 also offers online marketers a slew of improvements. The newest iteration of Google’s analytics tools will provide new ways to look at data and report it. The result is that page owners can generate richer insights from user interactions on their sites. What makes GA4 different from UA? Outside of improved privacy controls, the differences boil down to three major areas:

Focus on Events, Not Sessions

Universal Analysis tracks users via sessions, meaning what they do on a given web page in a given period of time. After a certain period of inactivity, Google closes the session and records a new one. Now, GA4 does the tracking via events. Instead of creating sessions, Google simply tracks all events triggered by the user on the page. This can be clicking a link, playing a video, making a purchase, etc. The shift to events allows the search engine giant to acquire data on what users actually do on a site, rather than tracking how the user got there.

Improved Reporting

Compared to GA4, reporting in Universal Analytics is a bit more fixed. Customizations are allowed to some extent, but in most cases, the reports are what Google determined them to be. For GA4, only top-level reports are standard. Web owners can customize which data and how in-depth the analytics will be in their reports.

Expanded Tracking

UA considers properties (pages, social media apps, etc.) as separate entities. Website owners had a more difficult time gathering and consolidating data on user activities. GA4 allows users to mix data from your website and your social apps to come up with unified data. This means that site owners can use a single tracking code for their webpage and social media accounts.

Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4: Should You Upgrade?

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The short answer to this question is ‘yes’. Universal Analytics will stop accepting data by July 2023. This means that Google Analytics 4 will assume all analytics duties from that day forward. Sticking to the tried-and-tested UA only buys one more year, leaving you scrambling to upgrade regardless.

Site owners who highly depend on user data will need to consider starting the transition early. Well, now, actually. Shifting to GA4 now means having more time to master the controls. Analytics tools are a lot more complex to master than other software.

In addition, GA4 is more suited to today’s environment where data privacy is a right. The newer analytics tool features granular data analysis and improved user opt-in and opt-out controls. This helps your site better comply with data protection standards implemented in certain counties and regions across the world.

Key Merchandising Benefits of Google Analytics 4

Social retail will benefit from the improvements introduced by Google Analytics 4. The decision to track events instead of sessions means site owners can collect detailed data and generate deeper insights from specific user activities. Instead of measuring how many hits a user performed during a session, Google now increases its coverage to include other activities. This includes actions like pressing a button, buying an item, and engaging in social media. These improvements lead to richer data that can ultimately help marketing and sales teams craft even more customized programs.

This also means that companies can now gather insights from willing customers across omnichannel platforms. Marketers now have the added benefit of tracking how users move from one channel to another as they complete the buyer’s journey. Getting this highly-detailed information can help them create highly-customized programs that target users at specific touchpoints.

Advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools will also mean better data for retailers. Over time, AI and ML will use their knowledge of your customers’ behavior to identify specific buyers’ journeys and what leads them actually to buy. At the same time, GA4 can use this analytics data to ultimately project sales based on specific customer types and specific touchpoints.

Social Retail and Google Analytics 4: How It Works

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Google Analytics 4 opens up a whole new world of possibilities for retail marketers. The shift to a better way of tracking user behavior over websites and social channels means a better understanding of how customers navigate the web and social media when embarking on a buyer’s journey.

Measuring events across a company’s properties means that data about user behavior can now come from multiple sources, such as web pages, social channels, and online stores. Instead of having to track user data across individual channels, owners can now enjoy a holistic view of a customer’s entire purchase journey. This can lead to the development of better promotions and strategies that are aimed at funneling customers through the buyer’s journey.

In addition, customers can now breathe easier knowing that Google is now phasing out third-party trackers. These cookie manufacturers attach themselves to websites and social channels to gather data on users. Instead, GA4 will now insist that sites only use first-party cookies–and that they need to get users’ permissions before doing so. While giving users an opt-out for tracking may sound like a loss for advertisers, many consumers see it as a win. Long-term, the presence of choice can restore customer confidence in trusting legitimate sites with their data.

Get the Best Social Retail Tools for Your Business

Google Analytics 4 is an inevitable outcome for companies that believe in data-driven decisions. The earlier companies adopt the new technology, the more proficient they can become by the time UA goes offline.

For retailers in the midst of making the transition from UA to GA4, industry-leading platforms have you covered. For example, Zobrist’s Smart Merchandiser is an excellent eCommerce tool to manage your digital storefront. The cloud-based software helps you create and maintain a complete and highly visual online product catalog. Smart Merchandiser also helps customers get to know more about each product by integrating with the company’s social retail accounts and displaying engagement scores and review ratings. When tracking and managing analytics data, Smart Merchandiser works well with both Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4.

Learn more about how Smart Merchandiser can work for your online retail business. Visit our site and leave us a message. We’ll be happy to learn more about your company to craft tailor-made solutions just for you.