Cologne, 31 March 2022. In 2023 Universal Analytics (aka Google Analytics) will go away. The free version will end on July 1, 2023, and three months later for the paid version “Universal Analytics 360”. Universal Analytics will be replaced by “GA4” which requires a full new web tracking implementation. It’s only 15-18 months to go.

Now millions of websites have to change their web tracking implementation. Many processes and daily routines require a careful transition to continue the daily duties without data losses or flawed data. It is even more challenging as reports in Universal Analytics have to be re-set up in GA4, if any possible with the different data model. Also, any ongoing Year-over-Year reports must have GA4 up and running within only 3 months from now, otherwise the data collection will stop for Universal Analytics mid 2023, or the data collection would start too late in GA4!

Time to change?

Google’s announcement forces every Universal Analytics account to do a full re-implementation to continue with GA4. The same workload also comes up when implementing any other tracking solution. Maybe it is time to gain back control and focus on the power of 1st party data?

There are some myths that Google Analytics is a must when using Google Ads. This is not true as, of course, Google Ads can be used and connected to other web analytic tracking tools – otherwise no other tools would exist for a commercial use.

Last but not least, there are good reasons to not let advertising and web analytics be done by the same provider. But this is an individual decision for every company and based on multiple factors.

Legal compliance vs. user experience?

A GDPR-compliant web tracking system has to ensure hosting and data processing to happen fully and only in the respective country. This issue has yet to be solved for Google Analytics which global cloud system is not designed for data to stay solely and entirely in a local region, or that US authorities would not have access to it.

Alternatively, privacy regulations in the US would have to meet the standards of the EU regulation, but that is an unlikely option.

While users increasingly demand more transparency, which relates to data hosting and data processing, users also demand a personally relevant user experience. This need not be in conflict.

The Customer Engagement Platform ODOSCOPE, for example, is very transparent about how its algorithms work and what data points are taken into account. Since the technology behind works with the existing 1st party data, on which consent is either implicit or has already been granted, there are no legal issues coming up.

Data activation is key

Data-driven personalization requires different data sets and the ability to act on it in real-time. It is about displaying “the right message at the right time to the right user”.

Behavioral data is in the web tracking, also for unknown or new users. In addition, static data sets exist for known users and customers, e.g. in the CRM system. Combining both data types is the key to success.

CEPs like ODOSCOPE are doing exactly this: combining session data with static data to engage users individually and in real-time.

To be actionable, the web tracking has to be customizable for any event tracking, it has to be complete (without sampling), and it has to be available as raw data. There are different tracking solutions which fulfill these requirements. Some of them are open source, some are licensed. The question is about paying a license without having to care about the data modeling and processing or using an open source tool with own data hosting and processing.

Actions to take

Companies running Google Universal Analytics have to act now. Either they stay with Google and implement GA4, or they consider another web-tracking system in order to re-gain control of their data which is the highly recommended solution. Either way, there’s no time to lose. Drop a line if you have questions on this topic or want more information about suitable tracking solutions like Matomo or SnowPlow as open source solutions hosted and processed on your servers or a managed infrastructure.

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