Google is rolling out a new reporting tool, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) with Universal Analytics (UA) and GA360 deprecating on July 1, 2023. GA4 was primarily created for the future of GDPR-compliant measurement. As a result, GA4 changes how data is collected, stored and moved. In addition, GA4 tracks user activity across websites, apps and devices for clearer vision into how consumers engage with companies.
What do these changes mean for financial and banking organizations?
Analyzing the ways customers or members engage with a financial institution across devices and platforms can help inform processes and communication strategies to ultimately improve the experiences of both existing and prospective customers/members.
One benefit of GA4 is that it streamlines the ability to track users across both the website as well as the online banking app. This feature offers a more holistic view of the consumer life cycle with privacy-safe and actionable insights. GA4 will more precisely attribute results to individual steps of a user’s journey so a marketing team can measure ROI more accurately. Through Google Signals, users who signed into their Google accounts can be de-duplicated across multiple devices, providing a better understanding of interactions across devices and sessions. GA4 allows for granular measures, such as the time taken from a homepage visit to opening an account. The movement away from session-based tracking to user-based tracking will also allow for cross-device attribution to properly attribute a conversion event to a user if that user begins the journey on one device and completes the conversion on another device. This cross-device reporting will provide better visibility into the consumer journey when a user first interacts with a brand to when they open an account, for example.
GA4 also has a more effective definition for bounce rate that accounts for multiple types of engagement. For instance, if a prospective customer/member’s first interaction is more educational and exploratory, that user may spend time reading relevant blog material. In the old model, if that user left without any other actions in that first session, it would be considered a bounce, even if the user took several minutes to digest the content and then returned at a later point to take the next step. Now that there is a time element to this metric, the new bounce rate will be more reflective of engagement metrics to show a fuller picture of users engaging with content and to provide a better indicator of a page’s effectiveness within each portion of a consumer’s journey.
In addition to capabilities related to cross-device and engagement measurement, GA4 is driven by AI and machine learning. Its Predictive Metrics help fill in measurement gaps and predict the probability of a conversion, such as a prospective customer/member’s likelihood to apply for a loan in the future. These insights can help further inform both audience prospecting strategies and creative to audiences most likely to revisit the site and/or convert.
The standards for data privacy are higher now than ever before. The landscape has been constantly evolving in recent years. It’s important for financial marketers to take these standards seriously to protect consumers’ data, maintain consumers’ trust, and mitigate the organization’s legal risk.
In addition to analytics advancements GA4 will offer, there are many privacy enhancements that support online privacy. GA4 will reduce the reliance on first and third party cookies by discarding IP addresses and leveraging anonymized user data through signal detection and machine learning. Google will also introduce Consent Mode as part of this transition, which respects user cookie consent decisions, and models and populates data accordingly.
Navigating user privacy regulation is nothing new for our team at Lewis. Our years of experience in the financial, education and housing verticals (some of the first to be impacted by laws that limit finite ad targeting) have poised us for guiding banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions in this moment.
Data Collection & Retention
Although GA4 sets parameters to read data during any and all customer journeys, another factor to keep in mind related to data collection is that many tools financial institutions use for secure online banking, financial educational resources, call tracking, and more may be incompatible with GA4. Metrics and parameters may be lost since each financial site has different security standards, some requiring authentication in different steps, logins, and different 3rd parties that ensure data confidentiality. During the transition from UA to GA4, financial marketers should ensure all third-party vendors related to the website and/or app have a plan in place for data storage and collection prior to and after GA4 implementation.
GA4 will also offer flexibility in data retention. The new version will default to 2 months but can be adjusted for up to 14 months. Campaign attribution should be evaluated to select the most appropriate retention window, especially for products that have a lengthier conversion path.
Online Banking & Filters
Along with planning for external data storage, financial marketers should also ensure that their ability to filter out returning customers and their online banking activity from their data will not be impacted during the GA4 transition. Luckily, GA4 offers a very similar solution to UA through segmentation. A segment can filter a specific combination of event name and parameter values to exclude users who have triggered an event that is only accessible by existing customers, such as signing into an account.
When analyzing main site traffic, traffic related to online banking actions (i.e. users checking their account balance) can also still be configured to filter out certain URL values. Once configured, segments can be applied directly to outgoing data exports to ensure all data streams remain consistent. Segments can also be applied in numerous third-party visualization applications. This method allows for the flexibility to view the entirety of a data set while also quickly and accurately filtering down to potential new customers for marketing efforts.
At Lewis, these new insights and applications for the financial industry are at the forefront of our planning and optimization efforts. GA4 is positioned to benefit companies and marketing performance, but transitions can be challenging. If you have questions or concerns related to GA4, we would be happy to assist.