Universal Analytics is coming to a site near you.

Originally announced last year, Universal Analytics will soon be running on any site that currently utilizes Google Analytics (GA). Google released an upgrade tool and announced that all GA profiles will be automatically upgraded in the future. From what we can tell, all sites will go from Classic Analytics (what we now call Google Analytics) to Universal Analytics (UA). Both the old and new platforms will still be broadly referred to as Google Analytics because they both fall under the Google analytics system.

One thing is clear: This news instantly propelled Universal Analytics from something businesses might be considering to something that they can’t ignore.

As a strategist, I’m most interested in how this change affects an organization’s marketing communications strategy as well as the data that is collected.

Why would a change in web analytics suddenly upend an organization’s marketing communications plan? Google Analytics is no longer just a web analytics tool: It is a business analytics tool. Universal Analytics allows users to import offline data — from CRM systems and traditional advertising campaigns to just about any business function that collects data. This means that Google is now going beyond the web and dipping its toes into an organization’s entire ecosystem, assuming organizations want to participate.

Universal Analytics is also bringing attention to the individual user by differentiating them with unique ids that are visible in reports. This means that rather than looking at reports and seeing big, generalized groups of users, we can follow individual users as they interact with our business systems. In short, Google Analytics is now user-centered business analytics. 

At a granular level, it will be much easier to identify anomalies in reports and to isolate consistent user behavior. At the same time, we can take a microscope to any outliers and implement solutions to better serve everyone. With the new system, it is much easier to fully implement an 80/20 strategy — solve for 80% of users and then take a detailed look at the other 20% — to drive further improvements. This means fewer broad generalizations (“Users tend to…”) and less guessing (“We think that users…”). 

So what about those strategy changes I mentioned? Universal Analytics brings big-business type data to the little guys, for free. Online and offline marketing, sales and even customer support can all be connected together to create one complete picture of the customer’s ecosystem. It’s the type of big business analytics that large corporations already gather and use to drive business. This of course, assumes that businesses upload their offline data into Universal Analytics. And we can imagine that not all businesses will have the ability or desire to take advantage of this option.

But, if we take advantage of the new features, we can measure all properties with the same criteria and see reports that combine data from multiple sources. This will probably mean some significant changes regarding where dollars and efforts are spent and even how things are measured and how teams are held accountable. It’s too early to say what kind of strategic revolution this will mean, but it is definitely on the way. 

Our analytics team has been testing, reading, planning, and preparing for the switch over to Universal Analytics. It’s currently working seamlessly with our custom analytics tool, GA Aware and we will continue to learn as Google’s products evolves. To learn more about the detailed changes coming in UA, read some of the articles below.