Achieve digital perfection with data layer capture
Product Updates · 5 min read

Achieve digital perfection with data layer capture

The FullStory Team
Posted May 17, 2022

How FullStory helps you keep data consistent across tools for better digital experiences

Picture this: You’re a director of product at a SaaS company. Your marketing team puts a meeting on your calendar to discuss updates to the new website. This is amazing news from a visibility standpoint…but you’ve got to look beyond the launch and think about the data you’re collecting. Understanding who is going where and why they’re doing what they’re doing is vital to your company’s continued growth.

How can you keep data consistent from one application to the next?

For many companies, data consistency begins with a data layer: a JavaScript object that collects data on your website in a standardized way. Every tool you connect to your website—analytics, heat mapping, chat bots, etc.—accesses this one layer of data, which ensures two things:

  • Each tool gets the data it needs.

  • The data each tool uses is the same.

Introducing the latest data layer capture integrations from FullStory

Many FullStory customers have invested significant time and effort into building a data layer that lets them track custom events and user variables, often via data layers provided through vendors like Google, Tealium, or Adobe.

As such, customers often ask how the data collected in their data layer can be made available in FullStory.

Now, in FullStory, admins can enable new out-of-the-box integrations that automatically capture information from the following data layers:

Separate from information held in servers (which are often used to house more sensitive data), data layers can contain mountains of important business data, including ecommerce conversion information and user profile data. From working closely with FullStory customers, we discovered that this rich vein of data was an opportunity for FullStory to provide more insights into the performance of the digital customer experience.

FullStory’s data layer capture integrations were built to tap into a customer’s data layer(s) provided by popular analytics platforms such as Adobe Analytics and Google Tag Manager.

Because of what we know about these vendors, FullStory is able to automatically capture all the common attributes and make them available in our application as custom events or user variables. You can reference data from any data layer or even make changes, and send the resulting information to FullStory—all without writing any custom code.

We have taken an intentional approach to data capture using vendor guidelines, and FullStory does not record user-specific information out-of-the-box. And rest assured, our data layer capture uses the same approach as our core data capture script to maintain fast response times and keep your site moving as quickly as it should.

What is a data layer's job?

Most websites, softwares, and applications have a series of layers, each with a different purpose:

  • A presentation layer, which is what the visitor to your website sees. Oftentimes this layer is built using HTML and CSS.

  • A data layer, the layer for collecting and managing the data produced. It’s a JavaScript object, often an array.

  • An application layer with all the tools you connect to your website, like Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, and more. These are usually JavaScript snippets.

Every website has a presentation layer, and almost every site has some sort of application layer. But not every site has a data layer to act as a dependable place to collect data as it’s generated. Without a data layer, data collection becomes the responsibility of other layers–and that’s a problem.

Here’s why:

Using DOM scraping or CSS selectors to collect data can introduce additional risk. Making even a small change to your site’s structure or design can have a huge impact.

Using the application layer to collect data is problematic in a different way because each tool would be allowed to collect its own data, each in a slightly different way. For instance, a page in Google Analytics might have a different name than in Mixpanel. Although it might not seem like a big deal, think about how it would complicate something as simple as trying to make sense of your website’s overall performance.

A data layer not only creates a dedicated place for data collection, but it’s also insulated from changes to other layers. Your stream of data won’t be subject to switching tools, design, or layout. It also makes sure each tool receives the data it needs to do its job. For example, say your new site needs some web analytics, so you turn to Google Analytics as well as Google Tag Manager (GTM) as your tag management system. With a data layer in place, implementing these tools won’t impact your website’s data.

Put simply, a data layer can make your data more reliable and enhance functionality. What’s more, a data layer encourages your team to understand and align around data strategy.

Here’s an example of how it all comes together:

Maggie is a checkout product manager for a large ecommerce website. For years, her company has used Adobe Analytics to measure the effectiveness of different campaigns. She brought on FullStory hoping to gain more insight into the “why” behind what she’s been analyzing in Adobe. But since many of the variables she leverages in Adobe (e.g. cart total, element impressions, AB test cohort) aren’t available in FullStory, getting answers is a headache. It seemed her options were either to go without this data in FullStory, or (re)create custom events and fields for things that already exist in the Adobe data layer.

With the Adobe data layer capture integration Maggie can navigate (or ask her admin) to the Integrations settings page within FullStory and quickly ‘toggle-on’ the integration to start capturing data layer variables into FullStory, all without any extra lines of code or additional setup.

Interested in learning about how to use these new integrations ?

Check out this FullStory Knowledge Base article on data layer capture or our latest learning course on Integrations, for additional information on how it all works and how you can put it into action.

The FullStory TeamContributor

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