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Futureproof measurement with Google Analytics for Firebase

When we say that people are engaging with your brand via multiple devices and that you should make data-driven decisions across these different touch points, it’s not something you’ve never heard before. Nevertheless, most companies are still struggling with measuring multi-channel behavior.
Well-known analytics solutions (such as Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, etc.) were initially born during the website era. Their data is structured and organized based on website concepts such as “page views”. These concepts however, are not applicable for many other (non-web) touch points such as mobile, IOT (Internet of Things) devices, and so on. What is required is a more generalized way of analytics where web analytics (a.k.a “page views”) is the one data source among many. This is where Google Analytics for Firebase comes in.

Web measurement should evolve in universal measurement

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When it comes to measuring website behavior, Google Analytics is a very powerful solution and one of the main market leaders. Remarkably enough, Google Analytics has been neglecting the measurement of other devices such as (native) apps, wearables, IOT devices or other non-browser based channels.

Most of the out-of-the-box reports available in Google Analytics, are mainly combining dimensions such as “Landing Page” or “Source/Medium” with metrics like “Sessions”, “Bounce rate” or “Pages/ Session”. These reports are actually only making sense when you want to analyze (traditional) website behavior.

Hypothetically speaking, if you want to measure the behavior of the fridges in your company, concepts as “Bounce Rate” or the “Browser Version” of this “Session” are just not applicable. If you want to calculate the ROI of buying new fridges for your company, you want something that reflects the actual usage of the fridge: how many times was the door opened? How long did it stay open? What is the temperature inside the fridge?

In this case, decisions will be made based on specific events such as “door opens”, “door closes” or specific metrics, like temperature and kWh. This example may be a bit abstract or less relevant for your business, but the same concept is applicable for your (native) app, paid campaigns, physical store visits or whatever behavior you want to measure and analyze. This requires a different, more generalized way of measuring, analyzing and reporting

Google Analytics for Firebase

With the latest update of “Google Analytics for Firebase” this generalized approach has now become reality. Let us take a step back and clarify the different product names of Google related to analytics (because it can be confusing).

Firebase already exists several years, it offers a variety of different cloud based services for Rapid Mobile Application Development such as: authentication, push notifications, database, storage and analytics. The analytics module of Firebase was named: “Firebase Analytics”. Firebase was acquired by Google in 2014 and is the preferred solution for app analytics in the Google ecosystem for a few years now. With the latest updates in Google Analytics, the new “Apps” and “Apps and web” properties is actually “Firebase Analytics” rebranded as “Google Analytics for Firebase”. 


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From a technical and data structural perspective, you are using Firebase Analytics. 

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So, in short: “Google Analytics App + Web” = “Google Analytics for Firebase” = “Firebase Analytics”. 

At The Reference, we have been using Firebase for several years with different purposes and use cases. Some of its (non-analytics) cloud services such as real-time database, remote configuration and dynamic links have been proving to be very powerful. However, we want to focus a bit on the analytics capabilities of Firebase a.k.a. “Google Analytics for Firebase”. 

1. Flexible implementation
Theoretically, you can track and measure anything you want. The Firebase SDK is available in different programming languages, both server-side as client-side. If you are familiar with Google Tag Manager, you can easily implement Google Analytics for Firebase on your website today! With server-side tracking you can measure non-browser behavior. This is necessary because most devices or interfaces do not support JavaScript (which is required for client-side tracking).

2. Event logging
The data is structured based on event logging. This may sound a bit abstract but an “event” is applicable on any device or application. A page view, a payment, a new lead, a transaction, a fridge that opens, … anything is basically an event. As a result, you can aggregate your data from different channels. E.g. if you have a native commerce app and an e-commerce website you can aggregate events like add to basket or transactions and compare conversion rates. 

3. Raw data without limitations
All this event data, together with other Firebase generated data, can be exported without limitations to BigQuery – for free. BigQuery is Google's highly scalable enterprise data warehouse. It is designed to make data analysts more productive with unmatched price-performance. Because there is no infrastructure to manage, you can focus on uncovering meaningful insights using familiar SQL. The BigQuery export of web properties is only available within the paid version of Google Analytics (a.k.a. Google Analytics 360). However, this export is a now a non-paid feature in Google Analytics for Firebase.

 

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This means that we can have raw and unsampled data available in BigQuery. This opens a lot of new doors:

- Transform your data in a preferred format with SQL (Structured Query Language) statements;
- Aggregate and connect your data with other (backend) sources;
- Visualize your data with Google Data Studio or other reporting solutions such as PowerBI or Tableau;
- Unleash Artificial Intelligence on your data with machine learning, anomaly detection or predictive modeling capabilities in the Google Cloud Platform.  

Conclusion

“Google Analytics for Firebase” opens many doors but it will require a bit of mind shift to measure and analyze your data. Compared to the traditional web properties of Google Analytics you will probably miss a lot of the out of the box dimensions, metrics and reports. Google Analytics is therefore still the preferred solution if you want to analyze website behavior. But we need to think broader than measuring website behavior. Any interaction has the potential to give relevant insights. Therefore, both solutions can perfectly co-exist, but eventually (Google Analytics for) Firebase is more future proof. 

This article was created by Thomas Danniau and Geert Michiels.

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The Reference is nothing without its customers. Melexis is the stock market-listed global player in the semi-conductor and sensors industry for whom we facilitated future company growth by updating the brand, building the completely new corporate website and giving shape to the use of online channels. Read more about this client.