The Great Digital Analytics Reimplementation

Adam Greco

Product Evangelist, Amplitude

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6 -minute Read,

Posted on November 1, 2021

As both major digital analytics platforms evolve, the majority of digital analytics customers will need to reimplement in the next few years.

Digital Analytics Reimplementation

History buffs like to label large historical movements as “The Great…” this or that. Common examples are “The Great Depression” or “The Great Migration.” COVID has even produced what many have called “The Great Resignation.” I recently attended the Digital Analytics Association’s One Conference in Chicago and one of the topics of conversation is what I have dubbed “The Great Digital Analytics Reimplementation.” While it may not be as well-known as the other movements, it may be for those of us in the digital analytics field.

So what is “The Great Digital Analytics Reimplementation?” As I mentioned in the past, products in the digital analytics space are converging. Today, on the marketing side, the majority of organizations use either Adobe Analytics or Google Analytics. Both of these tools are in the process of changing their architectures to move away from page views and sessions and adopt the event-based model that Amplitude and others have popularized. This means that the majority of organizations using these tools will have to undergo some form of digital analytics reimplementation over the next few years.

Google Analytics

Over the past few years, Google Analytics customers have had quite a bit to keep up with. This article documents the evolution of the Google Analytics product over the years. The “classic” Google Analytics product became “Universal Analytics” about a decade ago. The acquisition of Firebase led some down a parallel track. Eventually, Google Analytics became “App + Web” in 2019 and now that has morphed into GA4. This rapid development and versioning has resulted in many organizations running different versions of Google Analytics and there is a push right now for organizations to migrate to GA4. Google, as it often does, is even providing digital agencies money directly to incentivize them to migrate customers to GA4.

Since GA4 has a different architecture, the migration to GA4 is not a trivial exercise. The migration will require changes to tagging, data layers and reporting. I have spoken to many organizations who have already spent time migrating from “Universal Analytics” to “App + Web” and are not excited about doing yet another migration. Ironically, Google itself even recommends that you still retain a Universal Analytics implementation as you reimplement GA4:

Google Analytics Implementation

This means that you have multiple implementations to maintain. I suspect that part of the reason Google recommends this is due to the fact that GA4 doesn’t yet have full feature parity with Universal Analytics.

So one way or another, if you are a Google Analytics customer, you will become part of “The Great Reimplementation” if you choose to continue using Google Analytics.

Adobe Analytics

If you are an Adobe Analytics customer, you may also be looking at some sort of reimplementation over the next few years. The future of Adobe Analytics is Customer Journey Analytics (or CJA). Like Google, Adobe is moving to an event-based model with CJA and the Adobe Experience Platform (AEP) that it is built upon. There are two ways for existing customers to migrate to Customer Journey Analytics – let Adobe automatically convert you or reimplement using the new AEP WebSDK. If you choose the former, Adobe will automatically convert your existing Adobe Analytics Success Events, eVars and sProps to XDM for you. This saves time, but you will not technically be using the new AEP WebSDK, which has many benefits and is the long term direction for Adobe. The latter is reimplementing using the AEP WebSDK, which you can read about in this great blog series by Frederik Werner. But if you read Frederik’s 8-post series, it will become readily apparent that this reimplementation is a lot of work. Personally, I am not a fan of stop-gap solutions or kicking the can down the road, so I would recommend reimplementing CJA using the latter approach if I were planning to use Adobe Analytics for the long run. In addition to the work effort, upgrading to Customer Journey Analytics comes with an increased price tag. While I doubt that Adobe will sunset the current version of Adobe Analytics anytime soon, it is clear that they want as many customers as possible to migrate to Customer Journey Analytics.

So why would customers want to go through a potential Adobe Analytics reimplementation and pay more money to upgrade? While there are definitely some improved features such as joining disparate data sources, unlimited variables, fewer unique limits, viewing a more complete customer journey (e.g. web + call center), and improved user identification, in many respects, migrating to CJA may bring more benefits to Adobe than it does to your organization (which is why many are getting pressure to upgrade). Adobe has invested heavily in its Adobe Experience Platform (AEP) CDP and clearly sees getting digital analytics data into the CDP as its first priority. Once Adobe customers begin using the AEP CDP, it will be easier for Adobe to sell add-on products built upon the platform. For those wanting to go “all in” on Adobe’s tech stack, that is great, but I have spoken to many organizations that value a more flexible and plug-and-play martech stack and are fearful of vendor lock-ins.

In addition, there are some cases in which Adobe Analytics customers will actually lose functionality if they move to CJA. Some examples include Entry & Exit Pages, Bounce Rates, Referrer Types, Marketing Channels, real-time data and Merchandising eVars. Many of these features are popular with digital marketers and compensating for these can require using complex SQL queries, which are not things all marketers are comfortable performing. Additionally, CJA/AEP requires that marketers learn new skills including building and maintaining XDM schemas.

So before you commit to Customer Journey Analytics, I would suggest you determine what additional features your organization will truly take advantage of and potentially lose and weigh that against the time and cost that will be required to perform the reimplementation.

Shameless Plug

As you might expect, since I now work for Amplitude, I am a tad biased! I pride myself on being as objective as I can be and have done my best to verify that everything written above about “The Great Reimplementation” is true (I even had third parties read it to verify this).

But if I am correct about much of the industry being in the midst of “The Great Reimplementation,” I do think it is a great time for organizations to take a step back and consider other analytics products or solutions. After all, if you have a lot of reimplementation work ahead of you regardless, why not take the time to see if the analytics product you have been using is the one you want to continue using for the next decade. When I speak to people about this, here are some of the questions I ask them:

  • How widely adopted is your current analytics product? Is it used by a small group of users or many in the organization?
  • How easy is it for casual data users to get their own data without help from a centralized team?
  • Are you using the same analytics product for all of your digital properties (e.g. web, authenticated site, mobile app, etc.)? If not, why not?
  • Since the future appears to be mobile apps, would you be better served with an analytics product that is built for mobile apps vs. a marketing analytics product?
  • Which analytics product would be the most likely to get product and marketing analytics teams to collaborate?

Even though there are over 20,000 marketers using Amplitude today and it was named one of the top 50 marketing softwares by G2, many in the digital marketing analytics field are still unaware of Amplitude. Here are the results of a quick poll I did on LinkedIn:

Adam Greco LinkedIn Poll: Amplitude vs Google Analytics vs Adobe

But with Amplitude’s recent Direct Listing and product enhancements, the movement of marketers turning to Amplitude is definitely picking up steam. In many ways our digital optimization system is actually ahead of the dominant analytics vendors like Adobe and Google Analytics. Here is why we feel that way:

  • Amplitude has had an event-driven architecture since the beginning and this architecture is powered by our proprietary Behavioral Graph.
  • Amplitude has best-in-class user identification technology that allows organizations to connect known and anonymous users to the extent that this is possible in today’s privacy and browser landscape.
  • Amplitude was built specifically for mobile apps and product teams which have a heavy focus on customer engagement/retention analysis and lifetime customer value.
  • Amplitude is an open architecture and lets you plug and play different vendors as needed. This includes the ability to build segments/cohorts of users and sync these to other martech products.
  • Amplitude was built from day one to focus on users, not sessions and has specific user property features.
  • Amplitude has personalization and testing/experimentation functionality that is completely integrated with analytics.
  • Amplitude treats data governance and data quality as a first class citizen as evidenced by its Govern module.
  • Amplitude was built for the masses such that anyone within the organization can run reports in a self-service manner.

So as you stare at the potential reimplementation work ahead of you and want to use this as an opportunity to explore some alternatives, I encourage you to reach out and learn more about Amplitude.

Learn more about how Amplitude differs from Google Analytics or request a custom demo today.

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Adam Greco

Adam Greco is one of the leading voices in the digital analytics industry. Over the past 20 years, Adam has advised hundreds of organizations on analytics best practices and has authored over 300 blogs and one book related to analytics. Adam is a frequent speaker at analytics conferences and has served on the board of the Digital Analytics Association.

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