The User Lifetime Report in Google Analytics 4 [Beginner’s Guide]

The user lifetime report in Google Analytics 4 offers exciting new possibilities to learn more about how visitors have been behaving and will behave on your website or app since they first arrived. Let's unlock your past and future in this new exploration…

In this article, you will learn how to set up and interpret the GA4 user lifetime report correctly to make smarter business decisions.

What Is the User Lifetime Report in Google Analytics 4?

The user lifetime report in GA4 is one of the new exploring reports. Once it’s set up, you will better understand the behavior of users on your website or app since their first visit. The report uses machine learning to predict the likelihood of future purchases, activity, and revenue.

Analyze past behavior of users to predict their next steps?

Yes, and this is only one of the many new features that are shipped with the replacement of the old Lifetime Value Report.

4 Excellent Reasons To Start Using The New GA4 User Lifetime Report

You can access the old LTV report in GA Universal version under Audience > Lifetime Value.

Access the old Lifetime Value report in GA

Let's have a look at what you are missing out on when you keep using it.

Reporting versus predicting behavior of users

The (old) Lifetime Value Report only contains historical data. And although it is smart to know what happened in the past, looking into the future is a next level of smartness.

Imagine you, as a marketer or owner of a web shop, site or app, had the superpower to predict:

The big G machine needs to learn how to do this magic for your specific app or website and it can only do so when specific conditions are met.

Let me give you one example.

You need to have at least 1,000 users who return to your site or app and 1,000 users who do not return in a given period (7 or 28 days).

For a complete overview of all the conditions to get access to predictive metrics, you can visit this Google support page.

Or you can easily find out in GA4 if your site or app is eligible for the predictive reports.

  • Click in the Variable column on the plus sign, on the right of SEGMENTS.
  • Then click on PREDICTIVE, next to the magic wand.

If your site or app is not eligible for the predictive magic, you will see this marked in red.

Check if your site or app is eligible for predictive metrics

More data, more user-friendly, more accuracy

Compared to the old LTV report, you can include a lot more dimensions, metrics and segments in the GA4 lifetime report.

You can also easily alter your report in the two menus: Variable and Tab Settings. That's a vast interface improvement.

The colors are a pleasant touch. They serve as visual hints to help you compose your report faster.

  • You can drag dimensions (green bar) to rows
  • And metrics (blue bar) to values
Metrics blue, dimensions green in the GA4 lifetime report

Assigning percentile scores helps you to get more accurate and reliable statistics.


Your options are almost endless.

Your time is not, so let’s move forward and look at the next big change: semantics.

Audience versus users

Google changed the name of the game from Audience to Users. That’s not a coincidence or a detail.

It reflects how you and I have evolved as homo connectus. We find our destination on the internet with many devices that open the gateways to infinite information.

Users of your site or app are only a part of your audience: not everybody who follows you on Instagram will visit your site.

Wouldn’t life be wonderful if every follower (audience) or visitor (user) handed over a dollar to you (customer)?

Google didn’t take it this far, but you can also add Customers to the matrix. They are the cherry on the top of your Audience cake.

From a business perspective, there is an enormous difference between Audience, Users and Customers

From a business perspective, there is an enormous difference between Audience, Users and Customers

Besides, in the GA4 User Lifetime Report, you can build your own Audiences from your Users with a few clicks.

One way to do so is to go to the Variables table and click on the 3 red dots of a segment of your choice. Then click Edit.

Edit a segment to build your audience

Now you can add all sorts of conditions.

Create as much audiences in GA4 as you need to measure your marketing effectiveness

On the right of your screen, you can see if the conditions result in a usable segment.

The summary shows if your audience conditions make sense

When it does, tick the box to Build an Audience and hit the blue Save and publish button.

Save your audience as a segment

Later on, you can use these Audiences as segments and compare their lifetime value with each other. We will illustrate this further down the page.

90 days vs 120 retention period

In the old Lifetime Value Report, you can see the average revenue a user generated from the first visit +89 days. That equals the average lifespan of a mosquito.

In the new GA report, you have access to this data for the first 120 days of a new user. That is more or less the same as the lifespan of the Madagscan Labord’s chameleon after it has hatched. Side note: the chameleon eats mosquitos.

What matters more to you than biological trivia are two time related items.

No end date

Unlike in the old LTV report, you can not define the end date in the GA4 User Lifetime Report.

In GA4, you can only change the starting date of a user lifetime report

Why is August 16, 2020 an important day in GA4?

GA4 started collecting data for the User Lifetime Report on the 16th of August 2020.

This date is important if you

  • are still using the LTV report in GA Universal
  • started using GA4 before that day
  • want to remember all the fun you had on National Joke Day

All jokes aside, business decisions based on wrong data can cost you money.

Let me introduce you to my brother.

He is an interior designer and loves exclusive furniture that fits in no other place than his house. He even bought a chair from your web shop. And as you may have guessed, he did this before the 16th of August 2020.

In September 2021, his dog broke his expensive floor lamp. Ouch, you would think. But my brother just ordered a new lamp, again from your site.

In your user lifetime report, he shows up as a new user. Which he clearly is not.

Think of my brother the next time you analyze your GA lifetime data.

While we are at it, here is another important date: July 1, 2023.

Mark it in your calendar.

On that day, Google will stop processing your data in Google Analytics Universal. At one moment, you will have to make the switch to GA4 and use that data stream instead.

And although a new interface may look overwhelming and confusing, the next step may bring some peace to your mind.

How to set up the User Lifetime Report in GA4?

You can find the User Lifetime report as a template under Explore in the left side-bar of your GA4 account.

The Explore menu in GA leads you to the template gallery

Click on the user lifetime template and you are ready.

The user lifetime report template

That is to say, your User Lifetime Report is now pre-filled with default segments, dimensions and metrics.

The user lifetime report in GA4 shows data from the default settings

You can start playing with it. Or you can first have a look at 2 examples on how to configure the report to your needs.

2 Examples of Configuring the new GA4 User Lifetime Report

Your business is unique. Even when your competitors sell the same T-shirts at the same price, your marketing strategy will be totally different on many levels:

  • Budget
  • Channels
  • Campaigns
  • Audience
  • Content
  • Etc.

The lifetime report can give you information about all these aspects. But the answers your competitor is looking for may not be the same as the ones you need.

In that respect, the following 3 configuration examples only give you

  • an idea of how powerful the User Lifetime Report can be. Your business may require different metrics, segments and dimensions.
  • one possible way to get your answer. There are more, but it’s up to you to… explore.

Question 1: Which of your paid campaigns generated the highest lifetime transaction average?

  • You ran a YouTube ad campaign to attract visitors to your app or site.
  • Simultaneously, your Google Ads campaign tried to do the same.
  • Now you want to compare the performance of both campaigns to decide where to allocate your complete online advertising budget in the coming weeks.

Possible steps for your lifetime report configuration

  • Build new segment
  • Suggested segments > Templates > Acquisition
    • First User Source > YouTube
    • First User Campaign > Pick one from the list
    • Save and Apply
  • Suggested segments > Templates > Acquisition
    • First User Source > Google
    • First User Campaign > Pick one from the list
    • Give your segment a descriptive name (optional but helpful)
    • Save and Apply
Comparison LTV Average report for different campaigns in GA4

Question 2: Which medium is more likely to drive a higher revenue in the next 28 days?

  • You want to know on which medium to spend your resources on to get the possible highest return on investment in the next 28 days.

Possible steps for your lifetime report configuration

  • Build new segment
  • Suggested Segments > Predictive
  • Predicted 28-day top spenders
  • Rows: first user medium
Predicting LTV in the user lifetime exploration of GA4

2 Key Factors To Correctly Interpreting The Use Lifetime Report

Depending on the metrics you configure, you can retrieve totally different data.

I cannot stress this enough: make sure you understand the following 2 limitations before you change your website, app, campaigns, budget, or your business itself.

Lifetime is not the same as happily ever before

I mentioned this above. But since it is important, I will repeat it.

GA4 considers your users as new from August 16, 2020 onwards.

A device is not the same as a user

Increased privacy regulations make it harder to identify and track individuals across different devices. This is the main reason many businesses switch to server side tracking.

Google tries to identify unique users in different ways. Trying differs from succeeding all the time.

User ID

The user ID is the most reliable way to identify a user, but if a user is not signed in, Google cannot collect it.

My brother and his spouse live in peace, but not when it comes to gardening. After having washed his hands 10 times, he is sometimes allowed to use the laptop of my sister-in-law to order some tools from your web shop.

Since he doesn’t login to his account on her laptop, Google tries to define him with the device ID. If this is impossible, he will show up as a new user in your lifetime exploration report.

Device ID

The second option for Google to identify a unique user is by device. This method is not watertight either.

My brother sometimes uses his desktop at work to order more gardening equipment. It goes without saying that he does this only during his lunch break and in incognito mode.

In that case, Google is totally left in the dark. And so are you for analyzing your lifetime metrics 100% correctly.

Conclusion: Is The New User Life Report in GA4 Worth Your Time?

If you track the revenue of your site or app in Google Analytics, the User Life Report is certainly worth exploring along with most of the other new aspects within Google Analytics 4.

To use the magic of the predictive metrics, you need to have a substantial amount of both active and inactive users for a longer time. In this respect, bigger brands have another advantage over smaller ones, who need more time to build a stable user base.

Value can also be expressed in other currencies than $. Your brand reputation, for instance, is clearly important for any business. Even in those cases, the User Life Report in GA can give you quick insights without the need to track your revenue in GA.

Are you eager to explore this new report and get a glimpse of the future?

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