Google, please stop hyping Firebase and Web+App Properties like the Garden of Eden!

Google Analytics for Firebase tells me that the God of all KPIs, “Event Count per User” rose for a certain campaign. CEO material.

I may make a fool out of myself with this

Now that I started this article, I know that it COULD be that Google will publish something next week that makes all these points invalid. After all, they have been promising for some years now (and now promised this to happen 2020) that Firebase and classic GA360 properties will reach “feature parity”, even in “Enhanced E-Commerce”. But hey, I will be happy to put this article into the archive if Google does that and congratulate them on a big achievement.

1. Don’t sunset a product before offering a replacement

When Google announced about 1 1/2 years ago that the GA Mobile SDK would soon no longer be supported for non-GA360 customers, we (another agency and myself) told the client that Firebase seemed like the only valid choice for tracking his planned app (and various others that are in the pipeline). This client is not able to do changes quickly and has many apps and websites to manage, so going with the old Mobile SDK first as long as it is supported and then moving everything to Firebase-only was not an option.

2. Why Firebase Event Parameters don’t replace Custom Dimensions

Custom Dimensions and Custom Metrics? Who needs Custom Dimensions and Custom Metrics? We have the awesome Firebase Event Parameters of which you can send 25 per Event, and you have a total of 100 Parameters “available in the interface”, 50 of them numeric (=> think: Custom Metric) and 50 strings (=> Hit-based Custom Dimension). Ah, and 25 User Properties (=> User-based Custom Dimensions). As there are no Sessions in Firebase’s “data model” aka “logging”, there are also no Session-based Parameters.

  • item_id
  • item_name
  • item_price
  • item_stock
  • item_brand
  • item_category
  • item_variant
  • item_list
  • item_quantity
  • transaction_id
  • transaction_revenue
  • coupon_code
  • payment_method
  • delivery_type
  • etc.
  • item_list_click
  • item_view (Product Detail View)
  • add_to_cart
  • remove_from_cart
  • begin_checkout
  • checkout_progress
  • ecommerce_purchase
  • ecommerce_item_purchase (btw since Firebase does not allow sending more than one product in one Event Hit (because people never buy one more product in one transaction, right?), you need to send another Hit for each product, which makes things like impression tracking of search result lists with e.g. 100 products quite an “eventful Event” (we don’t do it because of that))
By activating transaction_id for the ecommerce_purchase Event, we have used 1 of 50 available event-string parameter combinations. If we want to report on the transaction_id for each ecommerce_product_purchase (to see which products were in which transaction), we are down to 48 parameters even though the parameter “transaction_id” is the same.

3. The “But You Can Use BigQuery” Running Gag

But hey! Some advanced GA users will think now: But you can use BigQuery, all data is in there! That was also Google’s standard answer: No problem! Just use BigQuery plus Data Studio! I wish they gave this advice to the puzzled client’s business users: “Hey! I know you have been using Enhanced E-Commerce Reports a lot. Our interface is super-limited, but why don’t you learn advanced SQL just to set up some basic reports with BigQuery? Or invest some more money in your Google Partner agency or give even more work to your in-house Analytics girls because they love doing standard reports in Data Studio!”

4. Debugging with Handcuffs

How do you debug whether tracking in an app works as specified? Whether all parameters and events are set correctly? You use your Fiddler or Charles debugger as a proxy for your smartphone, and then you can see all the requests as if they happened in a regular browser.

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Lukas Oldenburg

Lukas Oldenburg

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Digital Analytics Expert. Owner of dim28.ch. Creator of the Adobe Analytics Component Manager for Google Sheets: https://bit.ly/component-manager