A Data-driven Year Ahead

As a Web Analytics agency, at this time of the year we plan for the next 12 months. From budgets, to recruitment and sales pipelines. In such a young and fast-paced industry a big part of answering these questions is to understand how the market might evolve in the next 12 months; what sort of services our clients will require and how we need to adapt to offer these. Below I am sharing my thoughts on which direction things will take in 2014 from a Web Analytics and Google Analytics (GA) perspective.

Fewer Tools – More Integration

For the last couple of years, the Christmas Elves at Google have been beavering away with all kinds of integrations and imports to make our digital measurement lives easier. They felt our pain at having to break into cookies or write endless queries and vlookups just to integrate data from our CRM, Web Analytics, Display Advertising and ERPs into one spreadsheet.

Some of the last new features will bring data from multiple sources together and house them under one roof. Much of this ties in beautifully with the Universal Analytics tracking and reporting suite. In particular we are all going to start using the below features to make our lives easier and therefore more fulfilling:

  1. The ability to upload cost data from more or less any marketing cost base, for example: Bing campaigns, other display networks and even TV advertising cost data.
  2. Passing non-Web Analytics data, such as CRM status and email campaign data into Google Analytics.
  3. Tracking offline transactions, logins and membership IDs in GA means that even reporting on non-web based stuff suddenly got possible.
  4. The ability to see all of your DoubleClick Campaign Manager campaign data in GA, including post-impression interactions in conversion funnels (for Premium accounts only). This is of course, in addition to the already present and correct AdWords, AdSense and Webmaster Tools integrations that allows you to enhance GA data.

2014 should see GA begin to become more useful as an integrated reporting tool. For that we thank Google for a 2014 with less hacking and fewer formulae.

Focus On Users Instead Of Sessions

In 2014, we, the masses, will start to think more about measuring users and customers using Web Analytics. This won’t replace the concept of visits or sessions any time soon but it will add an extra depth to our analysis. It’s going to take us a while and for some of us, just getting the mechanisms in place might be enough for 2014. Some of these capabilities aren’t exactly brand new; good old customer databases have been doing some of this for a while. When Google (Universal) Analytics makes a feature like this available, suddenly just about anyone with a website has access to it, at no cost to them and with the customary snazziness that GA always brings to the table.

Tracking User ID in Google Analytics is finally being rolled out to users with Universal Analytics. This gets more powerful when combined with some of the capability to segment across multiple visits. We start to get into multi-session, cross device conversion attribution and behaviour tracking.

The ability to track logged-in users by user id across multiple sessions will be very attractive to so many types of online business; publishers with onsite logins will be able to track the behaviour of their users across different platforms and different devices. They will be able to answer questions about how users consume different types of content and media on different platforms, what proportion of users consume across more than one platform, what the progression from one platform or device to another looks like and more.

Retailers will be able to match online and offline behaviour for the same users, attribute online sales to offline purchases, map the path to purchase with devices as touch-points, calculate lifetime value and profit with cost data upload.

There are so many uses for so many types of sites that I couldn’t possibly list them all; dating websites (or indeed any kind of subscription site), online tools with logins in finance, betting, music, gaming, recipes, fantasy football even will all suddenly have customer base visualisation tools to play with. Add this to the ability to track any web connected device using the measurement protocol and we get user behaviour across platforms and devices way beyond our traditional understanding.

Imagine being able analyse a given cohort across multiple visits regardless of the number of different devices or browsers each visitors use. Mix this in with the ability to report on it quickly and easily and even import cost-base and margin data into the same tool. Well, starting now… you don’t need to imagine anymore! Just for good measure the Google Analytics Premium Big Query integration means that you can investigate groups of visitors using raw data with hit level time stamps (imagine the funnels!) This of course, comes with the ability to mash data from multiple sources together within Big Query itself.

In 2014 we will begin to get more of a picture of our customer base rather than a list of sessions. The sooner we get started thinking about this, the sooner we will get to learn about the possibilities and limitations of these features.

Google Analytics Premium

2014 is going to be the year that Google Analytics Premium takes off properly. Do I mean that it will become a significant proportion of all Google Analytics accounts? No, definitely not, the scale that Google Analytics has achieved over the last few years means that it just simply is not possible.

However, the truth of the matter is that many organisations are reaching a point in their Web Analytics life-cycle where they need more from their tools and guess what, the returns can now justify the cost. The great news for Google Analytics Premium is that along with this value comes a pragmatism and deeper understanding of what is important in your Web Analytics tool. Clue – it isn’t infinite flexibility and user levels.

Great features are a very important part of the whole but more than that it’s the ability to use the thing and get useful data out of it. EVERYONE can use Google Analytics, not just the one lad/lass you could afford to pay who sits in a different country to you and is still currently doing September’s monthly reporting. GA Premium will see more demand as marketing heads realise they can have their whole team looking at their marketing data every day, analysing campaigns and funnels and actually making improvements to their online presence.

This is mostly because of GA’s staggering market share but also because Google did a fantastic job of keeping the tool very usable for the basic/intermediate users. The next time you hire a digital executive or even offline marketing manager, the chances they are familiar with GA are very strong. This gives you and them a huge head start.

So 2014 will be a year when Google Analytics Premium starts to make serious inroads into the enterprise analytics market, partly by growing the market and partly by satisfying unhappy customers of tools that failed to realise the potential their shiny pitches hinted at.

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