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Universal Analytic’s and the Challenges of Cross Device Tracking.

Google analytics is now one of the most popular web analytics packages. With the introduction of Universal analytics as a free enhancement to the standard google analytics we can create a much richer picture of how our prospects and customers engage with various digital properties.

The benefit of Universal Analytics is that it would allow the connection of a user ID with multiple devices and sessions. This in turn would unlock cross device reporting. Further universal analytics would allow us to extend the analytics reporting to incorporate additional data such as offline sales to a customer.

The only challenging part being, how do we generate a unique user ID’s across sessions and devices that can form this link. To do this we either need to identify the user, Google analytics provides us a number of ways to do this:

  • ja for tracking on websites []
  • Google Analytics SDK for mobile apps []
  • Measurement Protocol for tracking on various digital devices such as an information kiosk or games []

Whilst these methods might work well once we have identified the user e.g. via a login or data provided when an App has been downloaded we still can’t easily link up previous sessions. This is known as Session Stitching in the industry. If you have a CMS system such as Kentico EMS this can more easily be implemented as the CMS records individual interactions of anon users and builds a profile as they take actions such as opening emails, signing up to newsletter or logging in.

To make use of this approach we turn on session unification:

Google Session Unification

Pass on the Kentico ContactID when we have identified details of a contact e.g. after they login or open a newsletter.

Alternatively we can achieve some level of session stitching by:

  1. Retrieving client id from the _ga cookie and then storing it in a new custom dimension (with session scope).
  2. Collecting user id into GA by storing it in a new custom dimension (with user scope).

Obviously with this option you can’t really connect users that have used multiple browsers or when multiple users use the same computer e.g. in a cyber café.

Given the complexity of allowing such tracking to happen the real question should be what decisions would this analytics data help us make? Obviously this would vary based on the type of business that’s conducted. In a scenario where the customer base consists primarily of repeat customers that login in, from multiple devices universal analytics would provide a more detailed perspective of the customer journey.


I come from a background where I have built up and run as successful marketing agency. I am now interested in looking at new more innovative approaches, particularly in the area of Big Data, Business Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence and Statistics.

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