Check out this graphic image created by Google to promote the public beta release of Universal Analytics. What does it tell us? It looks like a mobile device, a shopping cart, a tablet, desktop, cash register and game console – all linked in to Google Analytics.
That’s because this is what Universal Analytics is here to do – give business owners better and more complete information about how all their touchpoints work together to achieve outcomes (like sales). Universal Analytics has just been rolled out in a public beta, meaning anyone can now start using it. It’s free to use, but you should know that it’s also quite complicated and not necessarily going to be the magic marketing bullet for your particular business.
What is Universal Analytics?
Universal Analytics is Google Analytics but with new features which allows businesses to get more understanding about how their customers move from offline to online, from mobile to desktop, between browsers and more. It is basically following your customer through the many touchpoints they use to interact with your business.
How To Start Using It?
Like I mentioned – Universal Analytics is free, and now available in public beta, so in theory you can start using it now. All you need to do is;
- Set up a new web property (can’t be your existing one)
- Update your tracking code
In relation to updating your tracking code – you can use Google Tag Manager to do this, and it is also a good idea not to remove your existing analytics tracking.
What New Features Does Universal Analytics Provide?
- Custom dimensions and metrics – which means you can add new dimensions like phone calls, point of sales and other offline interactions.
- Online/offline data sync capabilities – you can upload/import offline data into your Google Analytics
- Multiplatform tracking – allowing you track incoming data from any device
Simplified configuration controls -access to options within the Google Analytics interface that were previously only available in the development environment
How Will It Track Customers?
To track customer activity from offline to online and across browsers, you will need to assign customers a unique ID and have this associated with all their transactions on and offline. For example, you might use a sign-in form online to track across devices, or you might have a customer membership number to track offline and online(e.g. loyalty card).
If you can assign an ID to an action, you can track it and follow user behaviour. E.g. if you had people swipe a card at your event, at your store, or use the number in your mobile and on your site or on a phone call – you could understand their behaviour across all those touchpoints.
Accordingly, you will need to update your privacy policies and allow people the option of opting out.
How will Google Analytics get all this data? It will use their new Measurement Protocol to allow developers to make http requests to send raw data directly to the Google Analytics servers.
What Should I do with Existing Analytics Profiles and Code?
Because Universal Analytics is in beta, doesn’t have a lot of community experience/support yet and is quite complicated – it’s best to keep your Google Analytics code running as is for now. You can put the new snippet on your site alongside your old one, and have both running simultaneously.
You will also want to maintain your current profiles in analytics to maintain your history.
Before diving into Universal Analytics it would be a good idea to map out all the data you want to integrate, how you would do it, and what your reports might look like. If this is then considered valuable information to your business, you can go ahead and implement.