Can Google ‘democratize’ Analytics with natural language and machine learning?
The company hopes that GA will become easier to use and more accessible to more people.
This morning Google announced “voice-activated assistance” in Google Analytics (GA) for its mobile app. Users will now be able to query the tool with natural language without some of the structured queries required to access data in GA historically.
It will show up as “ask a question” in GA and rolls out globally Wednesday, but only in English for now. Ginny Marvin’s explainer lays out what’s new and how it works. Voice isn’t yet available on the desktop, though users can still ask unstructured questions.
Voice assistance was announced roughly a year ago at Google’s advertising and analytics event in San Francisco and is now coming to market. It builds on Analytics Intelligence (automated insights), which was introduced last September.
Google’s head of Measurement & Analytics, Babak Pahlavan, said the company was motivated by a desire to make GA more accessible and easier to use with machine learning. He added that Google’s machine learning capabilities accelerated the development and launch. “If we were to build this outside of Google, it wouldn’t have launched until 2022,” Pahlavan speculated.
According to multiple surveys, at least 70 percent of small businesses do not use analytics. Enterprise challenges with data and analytics are also well-documented. However, Fortune 500 companies can employ data analysts.
It’s clear from lots of empirical and anecdotal evidence that there’s pent-up demand for tools that simplify access to data and analytics insights. The response to this should therefore be positive. Pahlavan indicated that today the system can address many common questions, but it can’t answer all user questions.
“We can address the ‘what’ questions; next will come the ‘why’ questions,” he explained. Indeed, Google sees voice assistance and machine learning continuing to simplify and make GA more accessible — “more democratic” — over time. Pahlavan sketched out vision for how simplification and natural language in GA could potentially improve websites overall and commerce across the internet, if more people were able to use it and glean its insights.
Google told us in an email that more than 700,000 people use the GA mobile app monthly, with most using it daily. Google says it has been testing the new ask-a-question capability with roughly 100,000 GA users since March of this year.
Overall, the company said natural language functionality has significantly increased engagement and usage of GA in the mobile app.
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