Cross Device Tracking with Universal Analytics
Universal Analytics is a major upgrade to Google Analytics. It introduces a series of features that change the way data is collected and organised in your account enabling you to get a better understanding of how visitors interact with your site. Learn more.
The most important benefit of Universal Analytics is that it is user-centric. This means that Google now takes into account that we live in a world where we are permanently connected to the internet. We connect via work PCs, laptops and mobile phones and lately even our refrigerators are connecting to the internet.
Whilst the rise in online will be welcomed by many businesses it also poses a challenge – how do you keep track of your customers online?
If you are using an analytics platform such as Google Analytics you will probably already be looking at the number of visits – both total and unique, looking at how people find your site and what devices they use.
Now let’s imagine the following scenario. Ben has recently moved house and wants to buy a new lamp. On his way to work, Ben uses his mobile to search for lamps and clicks on your ad. Remembering your company’s name he then searches for this on his work computer, returns to your site and makes a list of the lamps he likes. When he gets home from work, Ben uses his tablet and goes directly to your site and makes a purchase.
Via analytics your website will have recorded three different users on three different devices. If you are looking at the numbers as they are now, you would come to the conclusion that the sale occurred via a tablet during a direct visit to the site. This however provides an incomplete picture of the user journey and prevents you from properly calculating things like ROI when it comes to your AdWords campaigns.
Thanks to Universal Analytics however you can now define explicit User IDs(uid) which will ‘stitch’ all the pieces together and show you the whole picture.
A User ID is any, non-personally identifiable, piece of information you can use to identify or authenticate a user. For an e-commerce website the User ID could be the Login ID. With the use of a User ID, Ben will now appear as one user using three devices and making a purchase.
A User ID shouldn't be confused however with a Client ID (cid) which is a Google Analytics randomly generated number. A Client ID represents a device and browser specific way to identify a visitor. In the example above, there would be three Client IDs generated but only one User ID.
Using a User ID you can now not only understand your users’ engagement across various devices but can also integrate offline purchases with your online web analytics data. You can connect your online property with a customer purchase in the shop, if you have, for example, a loyalty card, or customer number, or postcode or any other information that can tie that customer to a website activity.
This new method of using User IDs, although with great potential, also has a major drawback. Your customers need to be logged in as they start the session. If most of your customers are new, and they don’t need to create an account until they start to buy, and they buy infrequently, User ID won’t help.
The feature is most likely to be of benefit to larger eCommerce sites or sites where an understanding of customer behaviour across devices is required. The benefits of this data may lead to sites changing approach – for example to encourage visitors to login or create an account to save the results of a search.