GA4: A Critical First Party Data Building Block

At this point no one should be surprised to hear that third-party cookies are on the way out, and digital privacy is firmly in charge. This begs the inevitable question: How will organizations change how they track user data & capture data to maximize their investments? The answer lies with first-party data. Organizations that are going to win in this changing and fast moving environment are those able to capitalize on their first-party data to make better business decisions, while giving customers peace of mind about their personal details.

January 24, 2023 - At this point no one should be surprised to hear that third-party cookies are on the way out, and digital privacy is firmly in charge. This begs the inevitable question: How will organizations change how they track user data & capture data to maximize their investments? The answer lies with first-party data. Organizations that are going to win in this changing and fast moving environment are those able to capitalize on their first-party data to make better business decisions, while giving customers peace of mind about their personal details.

  

    The good news is, first-party data is an asset that already exists within your organization. If you have a business, you have first-party data, especially if you sell to customers.  Your CRM data is the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to first party data. You’ve got it. The real question is, are you using it? 

     

    Why First-Party Data? 

    The changing user, regulatory, & technical landscape presents a remarkable opportunity for organizations to capitalize on the value their first party data represents.

    Organizations that figure out how to use this data they already have to build closer, more personal, consented, and incentivized relationships with their clients are the businesses that are going to win. Those who can’t figure it out, are going to fall by the wayside, caught by the worst parts of  the technical changes, the loss of signal and the privacy regulations of today’s landscape. 

    First-party data represents:

    • More personal & meaningful relationships with customers.
    • Personalized, consented experiences. 
    • Deeper insights into customer behaviors & greater outcomes.
    • Better visibility into customer lifecycle & conversion by integrating first-party data from other sources.
    • Advanced GMP capabilities to activate on insights generated from first-party data.

    First-party data has the potential to transform how brands engage with their customers, from driving bottom line results to providing personalized and privacy compliant experiences. 

     

    Why is GA4 a Critical First-Party Data building block? 

    “The future is consent based, modeled, first-party. That’s what we’re using as our guide for the next generation of our Analytics products and solutions.”  Google

    Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a completely new way to do marketing analytics because it introduces several major changes to how online tracking works with a significantly different data structure and data collection logic. 

    GA4 has a completely different technical architecture that is better suited to today’s world because it seamlessly collects user behaviors irrespective of device.  To be honest, you may never use the more advanced features we talk about in the next section,  but the fact alone that with GA4 you can collect data about what a user is doing regardless of whether they’re in an app, or on a website, or clicking the smart screen on their fridge is incredibly groundbreaking and makes GA4 adoption worth while.  

    One of the biggest issues brands have been dealing with for the past several years when it comes to accurate measurement of user behavior and experience has been the disconnect between web and app data collection and how to merge that data to create a more holistic view. Not only does GA4 solve this problem, but by also having this data available in BigQuery for downstream data processing and integration with first-party data is a game changer. 

     

    First-Party Data Centric GA4 Capabilities

    Google built GA4 with the ability to adapt to a changing environment and to be a  responsible, durable measurement tool that enables business outcomes for the long-term, with or without third-party cookies, making it a critical building block for a solid first party data strategy. 

    Let’s look at 3 of GA4’s top first-party data centric capabilities, but before we do, remember these are only a few capabilities available in GA4, not an overall picture.

    1. Consent mode

    What it is:  Google Consent Mode is essentially a website measurement solution designed to prioritize user consent when working with cookies. It changes how Google tags, Floodlights, and Google Ads behave based on user-chosen settings. With the end result of allowing organizations to collect a large amount of information without ever violating the user’s consent choices or privacy regulations.

    EXAMPLE:  A person visits a website that displays a cookie preferences window. When Consent Mode has been activated, Google tags will operate regardless of the user’s consent. However, these tags will function differently depending on the user’s chosen cookie settings. Using this arrangement bypasses the need for complex tag snippets or special tag firing conditions. 

    If the website visitor allows both ad and analytics cookies, Google tags will fire in default mode.

    If the website visitor denies the request for advertising cookies, both Floodlight and Google Ads tags will fire anonymously. Google’s ad platform will then receive this information as aggregate data, meaning the ad interaction doesn’t identify the visitor.

    It’s important to note here that  Google Analytics treats tags differently based on both of these tag settings. So, if a website visitor denies the analytics cookies, GA will treat the hits as cookieless pings since it can’t utilize cookies in this way.

    If the website visitor chooses to allow analytics cookies but denies access to advertising cookies, the tags should fire normally. However, the only data collected will be limited to user conversions and behavior. As a result, the user’s information can’t be used for remarketing lists.

    Why it matters: When Consent Mode is used, you can collect large amounts of non-identifying data when website visitors deny consent on Google Ads or GA. This helps fill in crucial data gaps and provides a more complete picture without violating users’ privacy. Learn more about Consent Mode

    1. Server Side Tag Manager

    What it is: GA4’s server-side mode provides an enhanced tracking capability that allows companies to accurately follow customers throughout their journey, even if they don’t stay logged in. 

    Why it matters: It unlocks exciting opportunities for detailed insight on the user experience across multiple devices and platforms – allowing brands to better serve customer needs with precision accuracy:

    Opportunity 1: Improved Conversion Attribution: By sending data as first-party instead of third-party, companies can track users across all channels over longer periods of time. No more guessing who’s new or returning; attribution is simpler and clearer than ever before.

    Opportunity 2: Overcoming Ad & And CookieBlocker Challenges: With ad blockers on the rise, brands need to take a proactive approach to ensure their data collection is not blocked. While third-party requests are denied by these tools, server-side tagging can allow your subdomain’s own cookies and scripts to pass through without issue – even if iOS or Android devices are used.

    Opportunity 3: Accurate Data: With GA4 server-side tracking, brands may be able to achieve unprecedented levels of data accuracy. Instead of relying on third-party solutions that typically only provide 80%-90% accurate user data, GA4 offers a reliable and comprehensive way for businesses to access 100% precise information.

    1. Modeling & Machine Learning

    Modeling is a way of analyzing first-party data to gain insights into customer behavior patterns. This process uses predictive analytics to identify trends in the data and predict future outcomes based on those trends. 

    This lets brands determine which strategies are working best for different segments of their audience so they can focus their efforts on the strategies that are most effective. 

    For example, if a brand notices its mobile app has higher engagement rates than its desktop site for certain demographics, it can focus its marketing efforts on targeting those demographics specifically.  

    Machine learning (ML) is an artificial intelligence technique used to automate decision making by “learning” from large datasets over time. By leveraging ML algorithms with first-party data sets, brands can optimize processes like targeted advertising campaigns more efficiently and accurately than ever before. And, because ML algorithms are constantly evolving over time as they learn new patterns in the data sets they analyze—businesses will always be up-to-date with current trends in consumer behavior.  

    Leveraging first-party data through modeling and ML techniques offers an unprecedented level of insight into customer behavior. Allows brands to tailor their offerings accordingly while easily optimizing processes like targeted advertising campaigns. 

    Modeling enables businesses to identify trends in the data, ML automates decision making with AI algorithms based on these trends—ultimately allowing them to make informed decisions about how best to engage target audiences for maximum impact. 

    Basically, leveraging first-party data through modeling and ML technologies provides invaluable insights not available any other way, and are essential for all modern businesses looking for an edge in today’s landscape.

     

    Conclusion

    Collecting, analyzing, centralizing and leveraging first-party data is an essential part of any successful digital strategy today. By utilizing first party data effectively, brands can get closer to their customers while future-proofing their strategies for long-term success. 

    We believe a critical building block for any first party-data strategy is GA4, in our opinion it is the perfect tool for helping brands gain powerful insights from their first-party data.

    Are you interested in leveraging your first party data with GA4 but do not have the necessary team or expertise to do so? Napkyn has you covered. Contact us today to schedule an executive consultation.

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