UA to GA4 and What It Means for Brands

Thought Leadership

Universal Analytics (UA) will soon fade into the digital marketing history books. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will take its place. What does this mean for brands and the digital marketers who support them?

First up. It’s a BIG change.

Ask digital marketers how they feel about the upcoming transition from UA to GA4, and they might tell you they’re nervous. That the deprecation of UA is coming too soon. We feel it, too. We are also jumping at the bit.The truth is, this change is big AND it’s exciting. And Google is making it easy to be proactive in preparing for the transition from UA to GA4 by communicating the timeline well in advance and building in an overlap, i.e., really generous grace period.

  • GA4 has been available since October 2020.
  • UA will stop processing new hits on July 1, 2023.
  • UA 360 will stop processing new hits on October 1, 2023.

Check it. Google has given us a solid three years for making the move from UA to GA4. That feels about right.

It’s a change for the BETTER. And for the future. 

UA was built and optimized for a primarily desktop-based internet, with people interacting with brands and information while seated in a chair, looking at a big screen, navigating with a mouse. You probably still know the motions.One of the key differences between UA and GA4 is the ability to measure users’ interactions with brands across both websites and apps, desktop and mobile, creating a more unified look at their engagement with brands’ data streams. A combination of more powerful identity signals and event-based modeling takes this a step further, making it easier to deduplicate data and pinpoint a given user’s specific actions on a brand site or app.In addition to improved measurement overall, GA4 also offers:

  • An increased emphasis on machine learning and cross-platform measurement, which will make it easier than ever to create a detailed snapshot of the customer journey. 
  • A plethora of new tools intended to simplify insight discovery and create new ways to interact with your data. 
  • Higher-powered reporting via a new tool called Explorations, which allows digital marketers to manipulate data to gather the insights that matter most to a particular brand or campaign. Whereas UA relied on predefined reports and a limited set of custom report options, GA4’s Explorations enables free-form, drag-and-drop mode. Or you can build reports by choosing from a long list of available techniques like funnel exploration, cohort exploration, segment overlaps, and more. 
  • Advances in user privacy. GA4 positions digital marketers to keep up with expectations regarding the protection of users’ data. Most notably, GA4 doesn’t rely on cookies, utilizes event-based modeling rather than session-based modeling and will not store IP addresses.

These features work together to create a clearer AND broader understanding of users’ relationships with brands that UA just didn’t provide. We’re already living in the future that GA4 is built to address—engaging with brands at the literal touch of a screen—so it’s only natural that we shift measurement and analytics to match.

NOW’s the time to make the change.

In order to stay ahead of the program, it is imperative for businesses to establish GA4 properties well in advance of the deprecation date of July 1, 2023. The good news is that GA4 properties can be set up alongside existing UA properties, so digital markets can ingest data and take advantage of GA4’s new features without affecting your UA properties.As we familiarize ourselves with GA4 and discover the powerful insights it is capable of producing, apprehension surrounding the transition is sure to melt away. The move from UA to GA4 opens the door to a more comprehensive understanding of customers and their behaviors across platforms. The more we understand about the customer journey, the more informed our decisions become, empowering us to achieve and exceed brands’ business objectives.All to say, we’re already well on our way to making the transition for the brands we support. If you have questions about how your digital marketing team is preparing your brand, let’s talk.