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Businesses urgently need to prepare for the retirement of Universal Analytics

By Thuong-Le Phong | Senior consultant



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June 8, 2022 | 6 min read

With the 2023 Universal Analytics (UA) retirement around the corner, those wishing to migrate to GA4 need to act now. A delay could significantly impact businesses' ability to understand year-on-year performance and the impact of brand campaigns. Thuong-Le Phong and Ama Ukpe, senior consultants at Frog, detail the opportunities and challenges of Google’s changes.

frog on how brands can make the most of changes to analytics.

Frog on how brands can make the most of changes to analytics

Launched in 2012 as a successor to Google Analytics 2 (GA2), Universal Analytics (UA) has become the gold standard for many companies. The news that Google will sunset UA has caused a ripple across the analytics community.

Many web-based businesses will soon feel the impact. July 1, 2023 is the deadline when standard UA properties will stop processing new data. For businesses that are fortunate enough to have a premium (GA360) account, this deadline extends to October 1, 2023.

Why the change? New opportunities with GA4

Switching to GA4 means that tracking will be less reliant on cookies, enabling a better understanding of customer journeys across sessions and devices. We at Frog Data have outlined the wider implications of cookieless tracking. Having a presence on the web used to be sufficient for most companies, but with the rise of apps, UA’s web tracking facilities are no longer enough. ‘App + web’ tracking at your fingertips is one of GA4’s many promising features, with website data and app data available in a single property. GA4 also offers new ways of re-identifying users, for example via a device ID or Google account sign-ins.

The cherry on the GA4 cake includes its forward-thinking machine learning and AI capabilities that fill in data gaps and make ROI-boosting recommendations to users.

McDonald’s Hong Kong used GA4’s machine learning and predictive audiences features to engage likely purchasers. They could adapt to customers’ new cravings and drive in-app orders, resulting in an increase in conversion rate by 550% for “likely 7 day purchasers.” McDonald’s Hong Kong shortened the implementation and data analysis window to just a few weeks by leveraging the GA4 out-of-the-box solution and new data-driven strategy.

How should you prepare for migration?

Migrating reporting from UA to GA4 is likely to prove difficult; the array of new options can become overwhelming, and the way visits are recorded is different. The more customized your current reports are, the more time your team will need to configure these into the GA4 equivalent. We recommend starting to scope a migration project as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, in some cases, the data may never match up to your prior reporting view, making direct year-on-year comparison very difficult. This will impact your ability to see if campaigns are having the same impact as they did in the same period last year and the year before. Before you embark on migration, it’s important to develop a thorough understanding of which metrics are key to unlocking business value and which ones are critical to be able to compare year-on-year, to avoid wasted effort.

GDPR concerns and alternative routes

Due to the challenges in moving to GA4, this is an opportunity for companies to revisit their approach to web analytics and look at what other providers can offer too. It is particularly important to consider user privacy-related questions. The legal landscape around user privacy is becoming increasingly complex, so it is important to have the right tools in place to mitigate the risk of breaching GDPR or similar frameworks.

In response, new features have been introduced to GA4 to allow finer control of where data should be stored and processed and finer control on tracking behavior based on user consent. This addresses a recent court ruling in Austria which decided Google Analytics is not transferring personal data in a way that is GDPR-compliant, as it is processed and stored in the US.

Despite the GA4 updates, questions remain about whether these updates suffice as data that is collected through GA4 is still owned by Google. Companies like Snowplow offer software that allows you to build a capability to own your own data. You can decide where to store it and who can access which parts of it. Many of these companies have visualization and reporting features that are on par with Google Analytics. The primary area where Google Analytics has a clear advantage is integration with their own Google Marketing Platform (GMP) suite and the access to audiences that come with that.

Plan your next steps

Whichever route you decide to take, whether you upgrade to GA4 or switch to an alternative, don’t wait too long. Make a decision and start to plan your transition. Next year, when the sunset dates are imminent, you will want to have plenty of year-on-year data collected in your new analytics solution.

To learn more about Frog, part of Capgemini Invent, visit our site and get in touch.

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frog is a leading global creative consultancy, part of Capgemini Invent. Partnering with passionate leaders and visionary entrepreneurs, we apply creativity, strategy, design and data to re-invent businesses, drive growth and orchestrate customer centric transformation.

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