Parting the Marketing Clouds: Google Announces Google Analytics 360 Suite

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Nearly 11 years ago (March 29, 2005) news dropped that Google had acquired web analytics software company Urchin. Since then we’ve seen the launch of Google Analytics as a free tool, its innovation to include an enterprise premium offering, the evolution of the digital analytics and technology landscape with Tag Management, and the release of “Marketing Cloud” software from the likes of Adobe, Oracle, IBM, Salesforce, and many others.

Today, more than a decade after Google changed the marketing landscape for good, I believe the announcement of Google Analytics 360 Suite is going to incite another revolution in the digital analytics space. Read on to learn why, and get a first-look inside the new Google Analytics 360 Suite.

Google Analytics 360 Suite Overview

The 360 Suite contains six products en whole:
  1. Google Audience Center 360 (beta).
  2. Google Optimize 360 (beta).
  3. Google Data Studio 360 (beta).
  4. Google Tag Manager 360.
  5. Google Analytics 360, formerly known as Google Analytics Premium.
  6. Google Attribution 360, formerly known as Adometry.
You can read my detailed review of them below, or read up on Google’s official announcement .

Forecast: Partly Sunny, or Partly Cloudy? 

I currently live in Seattle, but for a couple years I lived in Bend, Oregon.  While there I learned something: in Seattle, a forecast of “partly sunny” means you might see a break in the cloud cover and see some blue sky and sun, somewhere in the sky (not necessarily overhead of you).  In Bend there are over 300 days of sunshine per year. A forecast of “partly cloudy” means you might see a cloud somewhere in the sky, but most likely not overhead of you.

Not Just Another Marketing Cloud

What does this have to do with the Analytics 360 Suite?  I have to admit, at first I wasn’t thrilled with the name “Google Analytics 360.”  I thought, “why not call it a marketing cloud?”  However, as I’ve been able to go hands-on with the suite and digest just how massive an advancement this is, I’m pretty excited it’s not the “Google Analytics Marketing Cloud.”   While Seattle hasn’t been as cloudy as it used to be in recent years, it’s still gray a lot of the time, and, frankly, that’s what I feel like the over-hyped world of “Marketing Clouds” is—products with fantastic polish that lack the underlying foundation that is needed to really help transform business. Enter the Google Analytics 360 Suite—not just another cloudy day in the world of digital analytics and marketing. The Suite takes what has been an amazing foundation in Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager and Adometry, and is enhancing, repackaging, and massively adding to them, all with a centralized point of administration for ensuring governance of digital analytics capabilities across your organization.   But, why does this matter?

Know, Understand, Serve, Grow

When I step way back and think about what digital analytics is all about, at its core analytics is about knowing the customer , because business is about serving the needs of an addressable market of customers. To do that well, you have to know your customer really, really well .  In today’s highly digitized, multi-device, fragmented world, knowing the customer is really, really hard to do.   Therein lies the imperative of digital analytics within all organizations. Customers are increasingly, if not entirely, digital first in how they interact with your business. Human-to-human (in person, over the phone) touchpoints with customers are dwindling. Without that human interaction, how can you know your customer? So much knowledge is gained when you meet with someone or talk with them over the phone. Just imagine the job of someone selling shoes in a physical retail store. It’s a very personal experience where key knowledge like the brand, size and style of shoe can be learned quickly.   When it comes to the digital experience for shoe shopping, a user can express these interests pretty quickly too, but how do you know about them?  Without digital analytics, you’re at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to your ability to know the customer , while having a clear and concise view and understanding of the customer gives you a distinct competitive advantage—the kind you need to survive and thrive in the fast-paced and ever-changing digital world we now live in.

Knowledge != Power

Knowing the customer isn’t enough, though. You have to be able to gain insight and take action on that knowledge. The mechanics of doing this require several key ingredients, both technological as well as organizational. The best technological capability will fail without the right organizational alignment. The right organizational alignment with the wrong technological foundation produces an expensive and diminished analytics capability, ultimately failing to deliver on the value that analytics has the potential to provide.   To succeed with analytics, you need a sound strategy, a strong capability, delivery of insights, and ultimately to take action. I’ve written about this before. The key points in this framework that relate to the 360 Suite are the tools. An effective analytics capability requires a strong toolbox.  Taking action and delivering value likewise requires a strong set of tools. An ideal toolset will provide:
  • Broad data collection across all 1st party customer digital touch-points (this is what Analytics 360, Attribution 360 and Audience Center 360 together provide)
  • A capability to manage and and govern those means of data collection (this is afforded by Tag Manager 360)
  • A solution to deliver insight by providing the right access to the right data at the right time in an efficient manner (this is where the new Data Studio 360 comes into play)
  • An ability to efficiently act on data and insights by augmenting and personalizing the user experience (enter the new Optimize 360)
This is why I think the Google Analytics 360 Suite breaks through the clouds, so-to-speak.  While it’s not the first suite of products to have an offering that includes a solution for measurement, optimization/personalization, and audience management and advertising optimization, I do believe it is the leading solution set. Why leading? Because it’s using the latest in innovation rather than legacy technology with new paint on the walls!  Products like Optimize are brand-new, built from the ground up (and still in beta and thus with lots of development ahead).   When Paul Muret says “we’re just getting started” with the Suite, I 100% believe him. I’ve known Paul for a decade and he’s been an amazing leader for the Google Analytics team and platform. This latest step forward only sets the stage for the team at Google behind the analytics stack to refine and expand what the solution can offer.

A Look Inside the Google Analytics 360 Suite

Without further delay, let’s take a look inside the suite. I’ll spare you the summary details that you can read in lots of other posts from our friends in the industry, and rather give you my perspective on why each of these products is meaningful and how I think organizations should approach them as the platform rolls to market. NOTE: The 360 Suite and it’s new products are still in beta, so we should expect lots of changes over the coming weeks and months as the offering is refined. Given this, view the screenshots below with a grain of salt, knowing things are bound to change as Google enhances the new offerings. GA 360 Suite Overview Admin 1

360 Suite Overview & Admin

The Analytics 360 Suite is built around the concept of an “organization.” What we see in the Suite Overview product is the foundation for access, governance, and management of the “toolbox” that is the Suite.  The Suite Overview includes quick links to online documentation as well as contact information for technical and account support - also a win thanks to raising visibility across the organization of support access. Within the Suite Admin you will be able to manage and govern product usage and user access as well as access details like volume of usage (for growth, adoption, and cost visibility).  As you can see below, on the right-hand is the organization selector (opened, scroll through orgs, or search).  You can easily add users to an organization (if you’re an admin), as well as access admin settings for the various products in the Suite that you are subscribed to. GA 360 Suite Overview Admin 2 One of the most useful features of the Suite overview that I’ve experienced so far and am excited for our clients to experience is the focus brought through the organization selection tool.  It’s rather common for many users of Google Analytics and Tag Manager to have access to many different GA accounts for different organizations.  For your agencies, contractors, and even employees who might have a personal blog or other GA accounts they have access to, this blended state of account access has always been bothersome.   With the suite, everything you do is within the scope of an organization.  For those on the consultant/vendor/agency side, if you work with multiple organizations, you’ll now have a clear delineation between organizations you serve.  For the organization, you can clearly admin who has access to the Suite.  Long-term I think this part of the Suite sets a strong foundation for Google to advance the product around access controls and governance features. Google Analytics 360 Header 1

Google Analytics 360 Icon 2Google Analytics 360 (formerly Google Analytics Premium)

To date, Analytics 360 hasn’t changed much vs. GA Premium.  From the Suite Home you can see a summary of linked accounts and jump right into Analytics 360 linked properties. [caption id="attachment_31565" align="aligncenter" width="534"] Google Analytics 360 Suite Home 3 The Suite home has a handy tile with a summary of linked Google Analytics properties and their User volumes, with a quick link to access GA.[/caption] There is also a handy new header bar with an improved account selector for switching between Analytics 360 Accounts within your Organization and drilling into Properties and Views.  I’ve found this to be a nice touch. Google Analytics 360 Suite Accounts 4  The Suite header also provides a unified nav to jump back to the Suite home or over to another Suite product. Google Analytics 360 Suite Nav 5

GTM Header 1

Google Tag Manager 360 (formerly just “Google Tag Manager”)

GTM Icon 2As with Analytics 360, Tag Manager 360 hasn’t seen any major changes yet aside from the unified Suite nav.  The same benefits of the Suite’s organizational controls apply to Tag Manager as to Analytics.  However, I expect the Suite context is setting the stage for many product improvements within Tag Manager 360, so we’ll keep a close eye on this.

Google Data Studio Header 1

Google Data Studio (new product, still in beta)

Google Data Studio Icon 2Where to start on Data Studio!?  This product is one of the most exciting additions to the Digital Analytics landscape that I have seen in a decade.  While I think Data Studio 360 isn’t a replacement for other BI tools such as Tableau Software, Periscope, Looker and others (at least, yet…), it is an amazing companion to the Google Analytics ecosystem.   Data Studio 360 solves a key challenge in the analytics process.  I’ve written about my take on the analytics process before.  If you’ve been a Google Analytics user for much time, you’ll probably agree with me that the Dashboards within GA leave much wanting.  While they’re a step ahead of some of the other tools out there, and incredibly easy to setup basic dashboarding, the problems start with limited visual control and extend to what data you can include and barriers to access.  For analytics to be successful within an organization, you must be able to deliver the right data to the right people at the right time.  Everything in the process for analytics is pointless if you can’t deliver insights and take action.  Data Studio enables the insight delivery that is needed for a strong digital analytics capability in the “analysis and optimization” section in our analytics process. Google Data Studio Circle Graph 3 Just try sharing a native Google Analytics dashboard to a manager or executive and see how far you get… it’ll probably die at “login to your Google account,” let alone navigating into GA to get to the right Account/Property/View.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten an email from a client who is experiencing the challenge of providing executive visibility to the data within GA. Using only GA data you can create and share a highly customized, branded, and incredibly flexible dashboard that includes as many report “pages” as you want.  The amount of thought that has gone into this product is truly impressive.  I know several of the folks at Google behind it and my hat’s off to them for nailing the common pain points like persisting data sources across datasets on the dashboard, rapidly building a dashboard, and dealing with data access vs. report access. Enter Data Studio 360.   Note: At the time of writing (March, 2016) Data Studio is still in Beta and lots is likely to change, so don’t get too stuck on the screenshots of functionality in this post.  I’m confident a lot more good things are in store for Data Studio 360 in the weeks, months and years to come. Google Data Studio Dashboard 4 There are many ways to report and visualize data.  For example, Heatmap tables?  Easy.   Google Data Studio BigQuery 5 In addition to making the data within Google Analytics accessible and beautiful, it also connects to BigQuery.  It has intelligent mappings for the oh-so-hard to use GA export schema to BigQuery.  And, with BigQuery, it can ingest and analyze any other data you might pipe into the platform.  Ready to do some data blending?  Ready, set, go!   Google Data Studio BigQuery Data 6 In addition to data from BigQuery, Google Sheets, Attribution 360 and Analytics 360, the ability to create customized data types is basically infinite.  If you like Calculated Metrics in Google Analytics you’re going to LOVE Data Studio’s flexibility.   Google Data Studio BigQuery Data 7 One of my favorite uses so far?  Count Unique over time.  Want to know the number of Unique Pages viewed each day?  Now you can with just a few minutes in Data Studio.  Check this one out: Count of Distinct Pages by day, along with a second axis showing the ratio of Pageviews to Unique Pages that were viewed.   Google Data Studio Report 8 Creating this report outside of Data Studio would take quite some time. Within Data Studio?  It took about five minutes to create the two new Metrics and go to the report, edit it, and add the report tile. I could go on and on for pages about Data Studio, however I’ll save that for a future post, because we’re only halfway through the new 360 Suite’s products. On to the next!   Google Optimize Header 1

Google Optimize 360 (new product, still in beta)

Google Optimize Icon 2First thing to note, as with Data Studio above, Google Optimize 360 is still in beta.  While we’ve had the privilege to work with the product for some time during its development, there’s still a lot to learn about this powerful tool, and certainly a lot will change as the team behind Optimize at Google continues to enhance the platform. Where to Start with Google Optimize 360 I’ll spare the techie details in this post as Charles Farina has already covered an introduction to the amazing functionality and capabilities in Optimize in another post .  Rather, I’ll focus on what Optimize means for the marketplace.  First off, the world does not need another WYSIWYG A/B testing tool .  There are already some great options for that out there for this and more.   What the world does need is a way to put all that awesome data in Google Analytics to use .  And that’s exactly what Google Optimize 360 provides.   The things that set Optimize apart for me include:
  1. Single source of testing truth.  Data about testing and personalization feeds directly into GA 360 reports, ready for analysis and segmentation across the suite, including within BigQuery and Data Studio.
  2. Act on your data within Google Analytics.  The most powerful part of Optimize is, I believe, its ability to make use of the data within GA for targeting tests and content.  This makes Optimize 360 a full-blown personalization platform that unlocks the deep, deep well of data within Google Analytics for use.  This is really, really powerful!  I can’t say it enough.  If you want to target specific audiences based on your GA data it’s just a few clicks.Google Optimize Audiences 3
  3. Integrated collaboration.  As part of the Google Analytics 360 Suite, Optimize isn’t a separate and silo’d product.  That means it exists within the fold of management, maintenance, and governance.  Data from Optimize is visible.  Data from analytics is usable.
  4. Powerful Targeting.  In addition to Google Analytics Audiences (which, if that was the only thing supported, would be a huge step for humankind), you can target based on basically anything else you could imagine.  DataLayers?  Done.  Custom JavaScript?  Done.  Geography?  Easy.Google Optimize Create Rule 4
  5. Clear testing process and Control.  Optimize includes a really handy, kind of no-brainer feature: test hypothesis.  You actually have to fill this out in order to create an experiment.  This makes sure the test hypothesis is clearly documented.  In addition to this you can adjust targeting, control metrics reports, and so much more.Google Optimize Targeting 5
All in, I think Google Optimize 360 is one of the most significant, if not the most significant (data Studio is a close runner-up) release in the Google 360 Suite.  I can’t wait for it to become widely available and am excited for everyone to begin to use the product and unlock the data that has formlery been entombed within Google Analytics so that action can finally be taken with much greater organizational efficiency.   Google Audience Center Header 1

Google Audience Center 360 (new product, in beta)

Google Audience Center Icon 2Audience Center 360 is the answer to other DMP’s in the marketplace.  This product is still very new to the Suite ecosystem and access is still limited, but growing.  Where I’m most excited for Audience Center is when it comes to connecting all that data within GA with all the other solutions out there.  CRM’s, DSP’s, offline data and more.  A good DMP forms the connective tissue between all your dataset, and that’s becoming a critically important capability given today’s fragmented technology landscape. I often express the landscape for digital customer measurement with this illustration: Google Audience Center Graph 3 The big ??? part is exactly where Audience Center fits.  By creating a place where data can be blended betweeen ecosystems, organizations can truly begin to unlock the potential of digital measurement in understanding their customers and, ultimately, better solving the problems that the organization exists to serve.  This is what Audience Center 360 will do, and forms a critical piece of the 360 Suite offering as well as an extremely powerful capability given the wider context of what is included in the Suite. Google Attribution Header 1

Google Attribution 360 (formerly Adometry)

Google Attribution Icon 2Last, but definitely not least, I’ll cover Attribution 360 (formerly Adometry).  For background, Google acquired attribution software firm Adometry back in May of 2014 with much fanfare.  I saw a lot of excitement in the industry over the move, only to be followed with what I took as a collective sigh of disappointment when it seemed like nothing much was happening with the product.  Well, that disappointment should turn into jubilation with the 360 Suite announcement.   In my view, Adometry, reborn as Attribution 360, brings a final, critical piece to the puzzle for digital marketing and analytics.  While Google Analytics affords digital attribution for direct digital channels, and a sort of “shadow” measurement capability for offline marketing (I’ve written about measuring TV ad impact with Google Analytics Premium before), it’s not a tidy solution for assessing the impact across all digital and non-digital channels.   The new Attribution 360 should quickly become an essential tool in the toolbox for enterprise marketers.  It probably won’t be for everyone (small and mid-size businesses), however time will tell more as the product launch rolls forward.