On July 1, Google retired its Universal Analytics (UA) platform in a move the internet’s been anticipating for more than a year. GA4 is here to stay — and it’s infusing your data-collection endeavors with Google’s future-proofed vision, complete with elevated tracking and reporting capabilities, a shiny new UI, and powerful privacy features.

At RAIN, we live and breathe analytics, but we get that not everyone does! So, we put together a streamlined summary of the cool stuff GA4 can do for financial institutions that UA couldn’t — plus, why it matters. Let’s go.

What’s new in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?
The major differences between GA4 and UA are:

  • New data-collection methods. These help protect users’ privacy and supply better-quality intel.
  • Machine learning (ML) and AI tools. AI/ML helps you make educated guesses about information gaps.
  • Beefed-up tracking features. These let you define and track much more specific analytics data.
  • A remodeled user interface. The new UI offers enhanced customization, visibility and control.

What are the advantages of using GA4 over UA?

Let’s take this pep talk from theory to action. Here are some specific benefits financial institutions gain from each of the GA4 capabilities above:

1. Tracking: Cross-platform user journeys provide next-level data 

In GA4, all user interactions are set up as events based on tons of flexible and customizable parameters. That includes tracking users’ journeys across different devices and platforms.

GA4’s “events” have replaced UA’s “hits” and “sessions,” including event hit-types and their category/action/label structure.

GA4 can answer super-specific questions:

  • Did a website visitor fill out a form (even if they didn’t complete it)?
  • Did an app user scroll down the page?
  • Did lots of people watch your video, but stop it 7 seconds in?

2. AI/ML: GA4 helps fill learning gaps 

GA4 introduces machine learning capabilities UA could only dream of, providing deep insights and user behavior predictions. And ML used in your predictions or data sets is clearly marked, so your actual customer data will never get mixed up with AI-generated data.

GA4 machine learning can:

  • Identify potential customers based on how likely it is that a user segment will engage with your content.
  • Detect user behavior, web, or app traffic that doesn’t align with what’s expected based on historical data.
  • Offer personalized recommendations to improve your site or app’s performance.

3. Data and privacy: GA4 serves up compliance magic 

Google’s new mix of data-collection methods lets financial institutions control how user data is tracked, and for how long — making compliance with CCPA, CPRA, and GDPR laws (and others) much, much simpler.

Plus, GA4 won’t collect IP addresses or personally identifiable information (PII) such as names and contact info. That means you can protect users’ privacy even as you gain more robust insights about their behavior than ever before.

To protect user data, you can:

  • Delete it manually, or on a custom schedule according to local laws.
  • Turn off location-specific data collection.
  • Get and manage user consent for data collection and tracking.

RAIN has a curated list of settings we recommend for banks and credit unions. Schedule a meeting with us today to go over those, if you’re curious!

4. UI/UX improvements: Customize reports and unify data 

GA4 displays custom reports and metrics, along with more intuitive views of your data. Its reporting interface reflects GA4’s new measurement models, as well as the ability to set up different platforms (e.g., Android and iOS apps) as “data streams” that flow into a single GA4 property.

You can now:

  • Easily switch views within a single property to see both cross-domain traffic and traffic from specific data streams.
  • Define unique event-tracking parameters without coding.
  • Create reports using your own data points — you’re no longer limited to UA’s standard report types.

So, are there any drawbacks, or is it all good? 

We’ll be honest: Since Universal Analytics was sunsetted on July 1, we’ve missed a few features we were used to using, and many people in the tech world would agree that the switchover has been a bit of a bumpy road. Here are some things we’d like to see Google improve in GA4, sooner rather than later:

1. No automatic historical data 

GA4 doesn’t automatically import historical data from UA properties. This can create challenges when trying to perform year-over-year or other historical comparisons.

2. Limited predefined reports

UA offered a range of predefined reports that are absent in GA4. For example: templates for User Behavior and Landing Page Performance. GA4 has many, many more opportunities for customization and seeing data exactly how you want to see it, but sometimes you just want something that makes sense out of the box.

Without predefined reports and templates, it’s up to you to create meaning from your data. Sometimes that requires creating custom metrics and segmentations, or manually importing custom data configurations — and that’s not exactly what we’d call “user-friendly.”

 3. No more Unique Event metrics

We used UA’s Unique Events figure all the time, and we’re bummed it’s no longer available in GA4. Using some reporting and analysis workarounds, we can get close — but since it’s not exactly the same metric, the data isn’t comparable. It can be tricky to explain this issue to those who relied on Unique Events before.

4. Filtering internal traffic is… complex
In UA, we could easily filter out internal IP addresses to get cleaner data. GA4’s method for excluding irrelevant traffic data is more complicated, and it requires additional setup. (“Possible, but much more complicated” is unfortunately a common theme in GA4.)

5. Reports section doesn’t allow saved filters
In GA4, we can’t create and save filters directly within the custom reports interface the same way we could in UA. The GA4 paradigm has shifted toward creating audiences or using the Analysis Hub for more advanced, customized reporting, which can be a more tedious process.


How can FI leaders get the most out of GA4? 

Here’s our verdict: Despite some clunkiness and complexity, GA4 comes with powerful upgrades designed to increase data visibility, customize your insights and protect user privacy.

Here are a few tips to help you derive maximum benefits from these tools:

  • Keep learning. A great place to start is Google’s guide to comparing GA4 and UA metrics.
  • Check with your regulatory agencies, then customize GA4 parameters to take advantage of legally available data while keeping your clients’, members’ and the public’s trust.
  • Decide what you want to know. GA4 has so many new features that it can feel overwhelming. Narrow your focus by pinpointing your most important metrics, then solve for those events and parameters.
  • And if you love the idea of GA4, but just don’t have the time? We’ve got you.

RAIN’s team is armed with knowledge and prepared to deliver more and better insights to you, helping you make data-based decisions and market your products more effectively.

Contact us to learn how we can help you optimize your marketing tools and maximize your growth.