In 2020, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) was created to challenge Universal Analytics (UA) as the standard for analytics measurement. It’s much more than a mere upgrade, though. GA4 includes not only an entirely new interface, but robust new features, reporting, settings, and a complete shift in Google Analytics’ philosophy of data collection, which will force businesses across all industries to rethink their strategies around data collection and analysis.
What This Change Means
On July 1, 2023, Google will end Universal Analytics. Marketers won’t be forced to switch over to the new version of Analytics immediately, however, any new properties or any newly created accounts will default to GA4. In addition to offering more privacy protection, this change will improve Google’s measuring and tracking standards while delivering more reliable and optimised analytics.
Google Analytics 4 was created for three main reasons. The first is that any up-to-date web analytics tool needs to work across different devices and platforms. Another reason that Google created GA4 was to better adhere to multiple data privacy laws such as GDPR and CCPA. Last, but certainly not least, GA4 offers AI-powered machine learning that can give businesses insight into those users who refuse to be tracked at all.
GA4 has shifted away from the commonly used “session-based tracking” and towards a more user-centric form of analytics. Instead of data broken down by page views, it will now be organised with a focus on users, their complete online journey, and their overall engagement with your digital presence. With GA4's optimised method of measuring the user journey, Google will be able to provide a more complete view of how users interact with your hotel’s business online.
What You Can Do with GA4
Understanding the complexities of online customer behaviour has been a challenge since the birth of digital marketing. The concept of multi-platform customer journeys is fundamental to GA4 since the new data model is intended to combine audience insights from both web and app interactions.
Imagine that someone is planning their holiday while at home. They find a hotel website that they trust and some room options that they like. Later that night, they use their personal phone to view the same hotels. A week later, they finally select and book a hotel from their work computer. The original setup of Google Analytics would track three separate users in this situation instead of one. As you can see, for companies that have long customer journeys that cover multiple products and channels, this system of tracking doesn’t give a full picture of the different ways conversion is influenced. With GA4, these issues are no longer a barrier to understanding how users are accessing and experiencing your hotel’s online presence.
This is only one example of how GA4 has been adjusted to fit today’s technology and online user behaviour. Here are some other ways to use GA4 to boost your hotel’s marketing strategies:
1. Enjoy a more User-Friendly Interface
Not only is the GA4 dashboard more comprehensive, but the setup is almost intuitive. With a real-time report, you can see what’s happening on your hotel website as it happens. This includes a screen that shows you where your current visitors are located and options to view the number of users currently on your website, the pages they’re viewing, and how they’re interacting.
Previously, you would have had to set up different tags to track all kinds of metrics. With GA4, these parameters are tracked automatically with one click. Other simplified characteristics make it easy for marketers to track and measure on-site actions that matter such as page scroll or video play without having to add any code whatsoever. This even includes your setup on Google Hotel Ads as it is automatically shared with your Analytics account and vice versa, saving your team time and effort in merging all of this information together.
2. Understand the Customer Journey
The “Life Cycle collection” of GA4 includes four types of reports: acquisition, engagement, monetisation, and retention. The thoughtful combination of these metrics is a much more accurate way of calculating the customer journey; allowing your team to get a top-level view of how potential guests are finding you, engaging with your content, making bookings, and coming back for more.
Additional reports, like those for ‘audience’, can give your business a clearer insight into the demographics behind your current audience in order to help you target them more strategically in the future.
3. Respect User Privacy
As visitors become more likely to opt out of cookie usage and other methods of data collection, businesses that rely on these services will find it increasingly difficult to acquire complete and/or accurate data due to cookie consent options and international privacy regulations. Thankfully, GA4 uses machine learning algorithms to fill in these missing data points tracked with its event-based tracking system. Concerns around data privacy, cookie reliability issues, and web tracking limitations are solved with these new features.
4. Predict the Future
The “Predictive Metrics and Audiences” feature also utilizes machine learning to give marketers insight into trending data while empowering your team to find and target User Audiences that are most likely to convert into future guests. This allows businesses to estimate the probability of converting a visitor into a customer. This technology can also predict outcomes, like churn rates and the potential revenue a hotel website could earn from a particular segment of customers. Valuable insights like these can help hoteliers anticipate actions that their website visitors might take in the future and focus on higher-value audiences to boost conversion.
Get Started Now
If you haven’t gotten around to setting up GA4, now is the time to do so. This will allow you to collect historical data, familiarise yourself with the new interfaces and data structures, and utilize the benefits already available within GA4.
And since both platforms are very different, the data collected on each will not perfectly align, so it's important to set it up now, manage the difference in information, and understand what additional reporting your business requires.
There will be more updates, capabilities, and enhancements released as GA4 grows into the powerhouse tool that Google is planning. Making the switch to GA4 sooner rather than later will allow your hotel’s marketing team to migrate more data for stronger insights. By doing this, you’ll start to store your historical data into GA4 which will enable you to have a thorough view of your past and present data in one place. You won’t have to go back and forth between multiple properties to merge reports when the current analytics tool finally becomes obsolete.
Note for Hotelchamp customers: Google is currently recommending that GA4 is set up now in preparation for the sun setting (closing down) of Universal Analytics in July 2023. Hotelchamp currently uses Universal Analytics for our reporting—when the switch to GA4 happens, we will be ready and keep you updated as this happens to ensure that there will be no issues with your Hotelchamp reporting or tracking. In the meantime, if you set up GA4, so long as you still have your Universal Analytics working (which is the recommendation from Google), there will be no issues or disruptions. We recommend referring to Google’s comprehensive documentation about how to set up GA4.