The following article assumes you have read/completed the following:
- Trailhead: Google Analytics 360 Integration for Marketing Cloud
- Google: Salesforce Marketing Cloud audience integration
- Documentation: Google Analytics 360 Integration for Marketing Cloud
How the GA360 Connector works
Put simply, the GA360 Connector creates a link between your Google Analytics 360 and Salesforce Marketing Cloud accounts that enables Google to send non-personally identifiable information to SFMC for the purpose of re-marketing.
This is achieved with the following user/data flow:
- An email is sent from SFMC to a Subscriber with personalized links/tracking. The Subscriber clicks on the email and is sent through to the company website with tracking parameters; including “sfmc_id=”.
- Google Analytics detects these parameters and stores the “sfmc_id” value against it’s own Google ID.
- As users interact with your website, Google Analytics checks the Audience Definitions in your account to see if they qualify with any of the definitions you’ve built.
- When a web user has qualified for an audience that has been connected with Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Google Analytics checks to see if they have a “sfmc_id” value stored. If the user has a sfmc_id, then Google Analytics sends the value through to Salesforce Marketing Cloud as a Synchronized Data Source.
How tracking changes everything
Not so long ago, the only data most email marketers had access to was Open/Click data from their email platform, and any uploaded 1st party data such as customer information or purchases. Now with the GA360 connector, email marketers can access website traffic generated by their subscribers, closing the loop and uncovering the interactions that take place in-between the email engagement and purchase.
Best of all, the website tracking data isn’t limited to the session that started with an email click! Google Analytics stores the sfmc_id value against their own customer identifier; so your subscribers are tracked even if they return to the website days later and from different channels!
The advanced conditions & sequences in Google’s Audience Builder allows marketers to create an incredible range of re-targeting opportunities. Google has created a sample list of activities you can create using Audience Builder, however the sky is the limit!
Activating your audiences in Salesforce Marketing Cloud
After you’ve created your Google Audiences and selected Salesforce Marketing Cloud as the Audience Destination, it will take up to 24 hours for them to appear in SFMC. For Australian users, Google Analytics publishes audience data at 4am EST each day.
The standard way to activate this data is via a GA360 Entry Source in Journey Builder. This will be sufficient for most use cases, however it can become impractical when you have multiple audiences/activities that a subscriber could qualify for at the same time.
There is a way to access GA360 Audience data in a Data Extension:
- Create a new Journey using the “Google Analytics 360” entry source.
- Add some flow controls to the journey – such as a Random Split or Wait Activity – and press save.
- Close and reopen the Journey to refresh the interface.
If you look at the details in the Entry Event tile you will see the “Data Extension Name” has a funny value starting with “EA_”. This is the name of the synchronized Data Extension used by Google Analytics. Since this is a Data Extension, it can be accessed just like every other DE in SFMC.
The following SQL can be used to access a GA360 Audience Data Extension:
SELECT SubscriberKey FROM ent.[EA_xxxxxxx_X_xxxxxx]
More ways to activate web traffic
Accessing the data directly allows marketers to use GA Audience data to create opportunities outside of the standard Journey Builder activation. Rather than thinking of GA Audiences as a tool to create re-targeting segments to activate on directly – we can expand the use cases to include data sets based on customer behaviors that may not be individually actionable, but can instead support other activities.
For a B2C Retail/eCommerce example, we could make an audience that captures web users who have visited over 10 generic pages, but have not made it further down the conversion funnel into the shopping cart. We could use this audience data to infer that the customer is just browsing and not in a purchase state of mind, and then suppress them from more sales-heavy sends.
Alternatively, we could make an audience for customers that have visited the “shipping prices” page in the same session as an “Add to Cart” event, but has not clicked purchase. Normally this would trigger an “Abandoned Cart” activity, however we could infer that this customer is conscious of the shipping cost, and perhaps we could add them to a DE of Subscribers in SFMC that will have a “Free Shipping” promotion banner added in the body of their next EDM.
Listening to activities after the initial outbound click of an email gives marketers access to each customers full digital story, and these insights can help to personalized targeted messages and make you customers feel like you truly understand their experience with your brand.
Unassuming actions such as a visit to the Contact Us or Shipping Information page are not reason enough to trigger an activity or communication, but are a great modifiers to existing activities like Card Abandonment, Welcome Emails or general Sales and Newsletters sends.