Earlier this week, an email from the Google Analytics Team started hitting inboxes across the company…
“We want to let you know that in October 2019 we will begin to sunset our Google Analytics for mobile apps reporting and the Google Analytics Services SDK.”
And it wasn’t long until a slight panic ensued.
Many of our clients have Google Analytics in their mobile apps, and we use that data for everything! Deciding what devices to test, what features to promote, what improvements to make can all seem like stressful initial steps. However, working through this planning phase provides a great opportunity to stop and evaluate your current analytics setup.
WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING?
Per Google’s Email:
“In 2019, we will begin to decommission properties that receive data exclusively from the Google Analytics Services SDK. Data collection and processing for such properties will stop on October 31, 2019. Reporting access through our UI and API access will remain available for these properties’ historical data until January 31, 2020. After our service is fully turned down, these properties will no longer be accessible via our Google Analytics UI or API, and their data will be removed from Google Analytics servers. At this time, no Analytics 360 properties are impacted by these changes.”
As of next October, you will no longer be able to send data into Google Analytics using the Google Analytics Services SDK, and three months after that you will lose access to your historical data as well (unless you’re paying for Analytics 360).
WHY THE CHANGE?
This announcement isn’t entirely out of the blue. Google has been advising new apps utilize its Firebase SDK instead of the Google Analytics Services SDK for a while now. Traditionally, Google Analytics was designed with web as the primary focus, and native apps as virtually an afterthought. The tying of hits to sessions and screens doesn’t fit with many apps that are more focused on a series of discrete events over time–think of using Lyft to call a ride, then sharing your ETA, and then having to rate your driver.
Google Analytics for Firebase, meanwhile, is entirely event-focused–even screen views are just another type of event–with events being aggregated at a user level, not by individual sessions. It also connects easily to other tools within Firebase, such as Cloud Messaging for Push, or use Remote Config to personalization.
Considering all of this, there’s a reason many of us hadn’t yet made the switch to Firebase from Analytics–dashboards and reporting may not be robust enough for many use cases. In addition, using Google’s own Data Studio requires signing up for a paid Google BigQuery subscription.
HOW TO PREPARE
Consider your tooling options
Google’s hope is that you will stay within their ecosystem and just switch over to Firebase, but that might not be the right move for everyone. Get together with your product, marketing, IT, and analytics teams and discuss your specific needs. Your team may opt for more out-of-the-box reporting and built in predictive tech, such as an Amplitude or Mixpanel. Maybe you will consider adding add a customer data platform–like Segment or mParticle–to your stack to make future platform changes easier on your developers.
Come up with a game plan for your historical data
Mark your calendars! By January 2020, you’ll lose access to all of your historical Google Analytics data. If year-over-year reporting is crucial to any of your business functions, you’ll need to begin exporting data out of the Google Analytics tool. You can do this manually within the interface, programmatically using the Reporting API, or alternatively using the Google Analytics Spreadsheet Add-On.
Rethink your tracking
Think of this as an opportunity. No matter what tool you move to, you’re going to be starting fresh, making this a great time to rethink your tracking. Have you been tracking every event and screen? Consider taking time to think through how your KPIs relate back to higher level business goals. If you can’t tie an event back to a specific business requirement or higher level goal, leave it out for now. Focus on actionable data for now, and iterate from there.
Google still hasn’t reported this change on their blog or even on their social media channels, so it’s possible more information is on the horizon. But for now, start talking to your clients, coworkers, friends and family to start preparing and stay ahead of the game!