I have been playing with the recent beta of Google's Universal Analytics platform. And after reading through the documentation and starting a test implementation for a client its becoming clear to me that google is planning to transform Google Analytics from a mere web traffic reporting tool to a centralized hub of all marketing and sales data. Some of the steps it has taken to achieve this is to
Allow users to import cost data from 3rd party marketing campaigns [think facebook, adcenter, adroll, affiliate] into google analytics. Previously only adwords cost data [clicks, impressions, cost] was available and this integration was one of the major selling points of the GA platform. But now that GA has 10 million+ web accounts it makes sense to open it up to get more data about performance. This has been a big feature request for a while now. We personally have spent time building solutions that mimicked this. So its awesome to have a solution that does.
Moving from a visit driven model to a user driven model. In the existing model a visit defines the basic metric of measurement. With the rise of the multi platform customer this approach was getting a little long in the tooth and getting shown down by KISSmetrics. Not anymore with the new version this all changes as Analytics now allows you to send data with your own unique visitor identifier. Though GA still doesnt allow to pass you personally identifiable information so we are still stuck with anonymous personas for the time being.
Full fledged Attribution Modelling. With Multichannel attribution last year google analytics gave us a easy way to see what sources were helping visitors convert, but you couldn't specify how much credit to give to each source. With this update google is now allowing users to write custom attribution rules to split credit for sales and revenue between marketing campaigns.
All these changes in addition to its work on redesign over the last year now opens up quite a lot of possibilities for GA to become a central hub for all marketing and sales performance: now that you can send the data with a unique visitor identifier it becomes alot more simpler to tie online and offline together, combined with the ability to import all advertising costs online and off into GA, the ability to build customized rules to attribute revenue to sales and of course the powerful ability to segment and transform the data and it becomes easier to see why with a little push small businesses might decide to dump what they use and move to Google Analytics as a central hub for all their reporting at the low price of free.
The initial response among the savvier clients has been of excitement especially online businesses who had to pull data into spreadsheets from 3 marketing channels and then mix it with GA are eager to jump. I expect the wider businesses to realize this too once Universal analytics comes out of beta and google puts some efforts to promote it.