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Gemma Holloway

What Is Universal Analytics And Why Is It So Awesome?

4th Apr 2013 Analytics 4 minutes to read

Universal AnalyticsFor many years now digital marketers, such as myself, have relied upon data from Google Analytics to help us understand the activity on our websites.  The limitation with this is Google Analytics offers visit centric data meaning, that upon returning to our website, user interaction is tracked as a new visit…  Enter Universal Analytics – A new technology within Google Analytics which allows us to track interaction on a website from a user centric approach.

In this blog post I am going to explore what Universal Analytics is, the exciting new opportunities it provides and what these mean for the digital marketing industry.

So what is Universal Analytics?

As I explained in the introduction, Universal Analytics is new technology within your Google Analytics account which allows you to track user interaction from a user centric approach as opposed to a ‘per visit’ approach allowing you to customise your user experience on a whole other level.

This approach is possible by assigning a unique client ID to every user that registers to your website.  From then onwards, whenever that user is signed in, their interaction will be recorded using their client ID rather than a new visit.  It’s worth noting at this point that Universal Analytics is most beneficial when it is a requirement that users are signed in to gain full access to your site.

Universal Analytics is currently in Beta and can only be used when a new web property is added to Google Analytics.  You can’t currently upgrade your account, although this is something that we expect to see available in the near future.  You can request to be whitelisted for the roll out preview here.

So, what can we do with a visitor centric approach that we couldn’t do before…

Track Multiple Visits

The client ID means we can anonymously identify when a specific user returns to our website.  This allows us to make comparisons between their visits and determine ways their interactions differ dependant on their visit number.  For example, you may discover that during their first visit a user spends a long time viewing all sections of your site (products, about us, blog etc.), whereas the second time they head straight for the products section.  This will mean that you can present visitors directly with the products sections upon signing in from the second time onwards.

Multiple Browser Tracking

With Universal Analytics we can use the client ID assigned to users to identify when the same person accesses our site on a different browser.  For example, if I register for a website using Chrome and then revisit the same site via Firefox, by signing in, my client ID will allow my interaction to be tracked as the same user.

Cross Device Tracking

Something digital marketers have longed for, for quite some time now, is the ability to track user behaviour across multiple devices.  For example, say purchases are 20% higher on desktop than mobile, with Google Analytics it was near on impossible to determine which of these users had first viewed your products on a mobile to then go on and make the purchase at a later date on a desktop.

Hallelujah! With Universal Analytics this is now possible.  The client ID allows us to track that a specific user is interacting with our website across a multitude of devices.

Offline Activity

Online OfflineThat’s right.. you read it correctly!  With Universal Analytics we can now track online and offline behaviour.  By formatting data according to the Google Analytics protocol, data can be collected from various systems, such as call centre systems and loyalty card schemes, by sending a hit to Google Analytics using the Universal Analytics Measurement Protocol.

The Techy Bit

Universal Analytics doesn’t use the ga.js javascript library.  It requires the analytics.js javascript library, as below:

Google Analytics Code

Unlike Google Analytics which is client side based, Universal Analytics Measurement Protocol works by combining the client side Universal Analytics (analytics.js) with the server side Measurement Protocol.  The Measurement Protocol is a set of rules which allows you to send data from any system/ device to your Google Analytics account.

For a full technical guide on how to implement Universal Analytics, please visit the Google guide.

So what does this mean for the Digital Marketing industry?

Universal Analytics provides the opportunity to understand customers on a one to one basis, providing the opportunity to deliver an exceptional personalised consumer experience.  For example, we can now determine, across channels how long it takes a customer to make their first purchase after registration, regardless of whether this purchase is in a different browser, on a mobile or even in a shop.  This allows us to prompt customers who don’t purchase regularly enough or reward those who are frequent purchasers.  Most useful for retailers with a multi-channel strategy, Universal Analytics allows us to take data interpretation to a whole new level.

I would be interested in your opinions on Universal Analytics, especially anyone who has experience using the new technology.  Please leave your feedback in the comments below.

Image Credits:

Analytics by BigStock
3D Online Offline Crossword by BigStock

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