There’s a heightened necessity to understand better both who our customers are and what they do. A report from Marketo and the Economist Intelligence Unit revealed that “over the next three to five years, 75 percent of marketers say they will be responsible for the customer’s lifetime end-to-end experience.” This means it’s no longer enough to skim the surface of our customer intelligence.

Today’s marketer must be savvier, more creative and more data-oriented than ever before to meet the expanded marketing scope and the growing consumer demand for more personalized, relevant and targeted messaging. As a result, there are countless tools available that promise to give greater transparency and increased visibility into our customers.

It’s easy to get distracted by the noise and equally tempting to stick with one tried and true method of analyzing your data, Google Analytics. As a free solution to monitor site traffic and activity, it’s hard to find a company that hasn’t at least tried Google Analytics. In fact, according to W3TECHS, Google Analytics is used by 55 percent of all websites, with more than half of those sites using Google Analytics as their only source of marketing data.

While this is a quick and inexpensive solution for marketers seeking to gain an overarching view of their audience, the use of Google Analytics alone leaves many gray areas in the customer life cycle that the modern marketer must understand to connect with and engage their customers.

Here are four limitations of Google Analytics that may be holding you back (and what you can do about it):

1) You don’t know who your visitors are

Incomplete customer profiles & data inaccuracies

Who Your Visitors Are

As a marketer, if you can dive into the profile of a successful customer or understand the challenges of a failing customer, the potential for change is exponential. Also referred to as user identification or individual level tracking, understanding the “who” within your data can help to optimize the customer experience, personalize messaging, identify problems and create data-driven solutions.

Out-of-the-box, Google Analytics is not designed to provide information at the individual user level. While you will gain insight into how visitors find and use your website, you still are unable to identify who that person is.

There are two reasons for this: First, the Google Analytics legal policy prohibits personally identifiable information (PII) to be collected. This includes identifiers such as names and email addresses. Second, as traffic to your site increases, Google Analytics will randomly select a small subject of your visitors to build a report on, displaying a sampling or estimation of your data to try and fill in the gaps.

Sampling data can be adequate for statistical analysis, but marketing based on generalized data is like strutting down the street with horse blinders on. Would you walk into a board meeting with a guess on the number of deals that closed during the previous quarter? Board members expect facts, not calculated guesses. If you’re looking for anything in Google Analytics other than a standard report, be aware that you are probably looking at sampled data.

As such, it’s crucial to know the “who” to take the guesswork out of your marketing and quickly identify areas for improvement.

2) You don’t know what your visitors do

Cross-Channel tracking insufficient

Phone Call

Today, we communicate with our customers and prospects through a growing number of channels. Whether responding to a support ticket via live chat, sending a survey through text or delivering a newsletter through email – every interaction holds clues to the success of your business. Google Analytics focuses heavily on website and mobile analytics, but what about the other channels?

Setting up Multi-Channel Funnel reports within Google Analytics, will allow you to track conversion paths from sources such as search, social, email and referral sites. This can help marketers to understand the different channels that are driving traffic to their site, but while you can see different traffic sources, you cannot attribute the different traffic causes. For example, do customers who interact with you on social channels tend to submit more support tickets than those who communicate with you via live chat?

Google Analytics data cannot be combined with external data sources. With the fragmentation of data or complete lack of data aggregation, marketers will not be able to identify the offline and non-direct traffic sources, behaviors and paths that their visitors take throughout their lifetime.

3) You don’t know where your visitors do it

Limited Cross-Device tracking

What They Do

People jump across devices more frequently and seamlessly today than ever before. Throughout my 45-minute morning commute, I may get some Amazon shopping done on my iPhone, research a new piece of software iPad and complete work on my laptop. How can marketers track what’s happening across multiple devices to get an accurate picture of customer behavior?

With Google Analytics, the more devices a visitor uses, the more inaccurate the data becomes. Let’s use Mary as an example. Mary is taking a mid-day walk and researching a product on her phone. As she’s searching, the store places a cookie on her device. She gets home and hops onto her laptop, where she then purchases a product from the store’s website on her Macbook.

In an ideal world, Mary’s behavior is tracked as she switches devices. As it is, with Google Analytics, the purchase would instead be attributed to a brand new visit. Google Analytics has introduced a feature called User ID that allows you to “associate engagement data from multiple devices and different sessions with unique IDs.”

Here’s how it works: After setting up User ID, if a visitor comes to your site, a unique User ID (looks something like this – UD13EEE4032) is assigned to that user. If the user then visits your website on a different device or a different browser, the user’s behavior is tracked over the course of those sessions.

This helps to eliminate some of the duplication that happens within Google Analytics by following the same user activity across devices. But, two problems still exist: First, User ID does not track users and their activity from the very first time they visited your site. For example, if Mary researched a product on your website three weeks ago and then came back to make a purchase, her first visit would not be tracked. Second, User ID only works well for users that are logged in. So, if Mary visits your website multiple times but does not log in, she will not be tracked.

This happens more frequently than you might think. Check out this infographic from Crazy Egg Analytics. According to their research, 41 percent of those surveyed researched a product on their smartphone before making a purchase on their computer. Without an accurate timeline of that purchase behavior, it becomes difficult to know where to optimize and how to attribute each channel.

4) You don’t have enough data to take action

Not enough data to trigger real-time personalization

Flow Diagram

According to a survey by Infosys, 86 percent of consumers say that “personalization plays a role in their purchasing decisions.” As discussed in the previous points, the data tracked by Google Analytics misses key identifiers that play a significant role in personalization.

Moreover, the reporting that you can pull is not delivered in real-time. In fact, it can take anywhere from five minutes to 24 hours for individual data sets to accurately display (often 48 hours for Search Engine Optimization data). To help mitigate this, Google Analytics offers Real-Time reports that give a more up-to-date view of activity, but the reports are limited to the number of active users on your website and the number of hits during each visit.

Without real-time data allowing you to personalize on an individual level, marketers are missing out on an enormous opportunity to increase engagement and conversion rates. It’s no longer enough to view a sampling of delayed data. It’s time for customer analytics to be available, actionable, accessible and leveraged across all marketing efforts.


Google Analytics allows you to track visitor flow, aggregate data over multiple pages and have an overarching view of your visitor activity. But, only using Google Analytics will deliver siloed and limited insights. It is only by aggregating data across multiple digital touch points that you can create a full profile of your visitors, from initial interest to close and throughout the customer lifespan.

How can marketers do this? Tools like Woopra provide comprehensive customer profiles, allowing companies to track every user interaction and trigger actions based on that information. Woopra aggregates data from multiple sources including mobile, web, marketing automation, CRM, in-app activity, social and support tools. By capturing and merging data across all touch points, marketers can segment and view the complete customer journey. Enabling companies to better understand, monitor and react to their customer’s throughout every activity in the customer lifecycle.

As with anything, the data you receive is only as good as what you do with it. Nearly all marketers (90 percent) see individualization as the future of marketing – moving “beyond segmentation to true one-to-one personalization in a real-time context,” according to a report by Teradata.

As Samuel Scott put it in his latest TechCrunch article, “the more we rely on Google Analytics, the more we will use strategies such as direct marketing over AdWords that are easily trackable in GA rather than strategies that are less trackable.”

Customer data must be constructed, managed and leveraged in a way that aligns with your specific business goals. Fill in the missing gaps such as who your visitors are, how they find you, what their journey looks like and how they engage with your product. Answering these essential questions will provide a more holistic and comprehensive understanding of your customer’s and remove the 51st Shade of Grey.