A Sunset for Universal Analytics Means an Opportunity to Revisit Your Data Strategy

Thought Leadership

By Tav McGregor | September 14, 2022
4 hands putting a puzzle together

Google’s decision to terminate Universal Analytics in July 2023 has forced many businesses to look into new tools to discover, interpret, and communicate meaningful patterns in customer data. Moving to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has been the most popular response. But is it a well-informed response? 

There are dozens of data and analytics tools to choose from. And by opting for the default, without considering the pros and cons of what's in the market, you may be leaving valuable insights — and money — on the table. A more strategic response would be to rethink what data should be collected for your business — and how — before you think about moving to a new tool. 

According to a recent study, ‘realizing the value from data and not just using it' is an important trend that sets data-driven companies apart. Consequently, at Apply Digital, we take a comprehensive, tool-agnostic approach to analytics grounded in your unique business needs and focused on understanding your customers. We don’t just sell you a tool and call it a day. We prioritize planning and strategy to bridge the gap between your business objectives and customer data.

Here’s our approach that helps you determine the best tool that aligns with your business goals.

Aligning with customer needs to develop strategic intent

Today many businesses are migrating to digital experience platforms (DXPs) from traditional monolithic suites. DXPs enable analytics at the component level rather than at the page level. This helps companies understand which components are driving conversions and which aren’t. At the page level, such predictive analysis is not possible. So naturally, our data work is centered around DXPs. We start by having some informal conversations with business owners to understand the purpose of their DXP.

Here are some questions we ask:

Why does your DXP exist? What matters to you and your customers? What were your big wins last month/last year? What new achievements are you hoping for this year? Who are the customers that contribute to your success?

From these conversations, we build out a few key themes and create a summary document, also known as a requirements document. This document suggests you to ‘stop’ what’s not working for your business, ‘start’ solidifying new ideas that might work, and ‘continue’ using the successful solutions. 

For example, a client can access the number of visitors on their website and know the number of conversions — purchases and trial signups. But they require data for the most crucial actions taken by customers leading them to those conversions — for example, which site elements were useful to the customer and which ones led to site abandonment. The requirements document helps various teams— product, marketing, business owners, etc. — think about these actions. They decide on processes that need to ‘start’, ‘stop’, or ‘continue’ for the guaranteed success of these actions. This document also becomes the basis of our next step, where we bridge the gap between business objectives and key results using measurable data.

Turning strategic intent into measurable outcomes using OKRs

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) form the basis of an action-oriented goal-setting methodology for communicating what you want to accomplish and what milestones you'll need to meet. After gathering our requirements, we hold an OKRs workshop with product and business owners, where we collaborate together to formalize objectives and key results for their DXP. 

This OKR workshop informs event tracking on your website or app. We then connect the dots between high-level objectives (North star), key results, key performance indicators (KPI), and actual data points.

Here's a step-by-step model of OKRs in action:

Business objective: Turn the website into a lead generation machine Key result (KR) measured every month/year: Lead generation conversion rate Key performance indicator (KPI) measured hourly/daily: Landing page abandonment rate Data captured hourly/daily: Number of visitors exiting from the landing page

The OKR exercise guides the team to take action and improve their DXP’s performance down the pipeline. We go through the entire digital experience to identify all key user interactions we’ll track and what kind of data we’ll pass along when these user events happen. 

For example, expanding on our OKR work, we helped one of our clients determine what optimal homepage design might look like for their website. For this, we tracked the conversion rate of individual components (KPI) on the homepage. An improved design helped increase the lead generation conversion rate (key result).

At this stage, we also conduct an implementation audit to determine the fitness-for-purpose of any existing analytics ecosystem. Very often, poorly executed implementations fail to grasp the strategic needs of the business. They report on metrics that are easy to track but have no business value — for example, time spent by a user on a website. In close collaboration with the client, we ensure that our focus shifts to measuring what matters. 

The outcome of the OKR exercise is a measurement plan that summarizes our tracking requirements. This plan is a comprehensive data dictionary that serves as a precise visual reference for choosing implementation styles and tools.

Choosing a tool that complements implementation 

To report on your objectives, key results, or KPIs, we need data. With a strong strategic framework, it is time to roll up our sleeves and start tracking data. But first, we make a decision on how to go about the implementation. There are two options to choose from:

  • Developer-led implementation: Tracking is implemented directly into the source code of the app or website. 

  • Analyst-led implementation: Tracking is done through Google Tag Manager (GTM), occasionally requesting support from developers  

Implementation styles differ from business to business as each company has a different set of capabilities and constraints. We help identify an implementation style that will maximize insights while minimizing manual oversight.

For a healthcare client, we had to implement a more granular and specific tracking to get comprehensive data, allowing supervisors to constantly re-purpose common data points for different analytical use cases around vaccine administration. And for a SaaS client focused on process automation, we implemented template-driven tagging to capture values of tracked elements dynamically. This helped our client filter through the most visited pages, leading to a website rehaul.

Once the implementation style is finalized, we recommend a tool that best complements the implementation, although our clients make the final decision on the tool.

For example, one of our healthcare client's analytics needs were driven by both product and marketing. We propelled them to move from UA to GA4 because one of GA4’s primary benefits lies in its ability to integrate with Google Marketing Cloud, making it an excellent solution.

On the contrary, we used MixPanel for Nursegrid, a scheduling platform for nurses. They needed a close integration between their mobile and smartwatch app. MixPanel is better at bringing together multiple app experiences, allowing for granular data visualization across platforms. 

What does it take to select the right tool? 

Let's look back at where we started.

To pick the right tool, we spend time and effort on developing your data strategy — creating the requirements document, auditing your existing implementation, carrying out the OKR exercise, and choosing the right implementation style — all grounded in your business objectives. 

We might be tool-agnostic, but we’re pro benefits.

So, bid a bold farewell to Universal Analytics

With the sun setting for Universal Analytics, organizations are compelled to move fast. So, it’s time to consciously decide on a new tool by connecting the right dots to make your data tangible. A careful rehaul of your analytics strategy with the right tool will help your business stay focused and on track. At the heart of this change is the opportunity to build a robust and future-proof data ecosystem. Apply Digital's data team can help you bid farewell to Universal Analytics with confidence.

There are many data tools in the market, and we have years of proven expertise in working with leading tools like Adobe, GA4, Mixpanel, and more. Contact us, and together we'll turn your business strategy into an analytics roadmap to help you select the right tool for your business.

Co-Written by Rashika Srivastava