At the Shopify Unite conference today I heard plenty of great ideas such as ShopifyPay but the most interesting for me as a data specialist was the marketing events API.

Since we launched our Fix Google Analytics Shopify app earlier this year we’ve known that reporting was a weak spot in Shopify’s platform offering, and they admit that ‘understanding marketing campaign performance’ is one of the biggest challenges of Shopify merchants right now.

shopify marketing events and google-analytics

The ability for other Shopify apps to plug their campaign cost and attribution data into Shopify (via the marketing events API) is a logical step to building Shopify’s own analytics capability, but I don’t believe it will be a substitute for Google Analytics (GA) anytime soon.

Here’s why:

1. Google Analytics is the industry standard

Every online marketer has used Google Analytics, and many have favourite reports they’ve learned to interpret. Moving them to use a whole new analysis platform will take time– and it’s taken GA 10 years to achieve that dominance.

2. GA provides platform-agnostic data collection

For a store using Shopify as their only source of insights, moving away from Shopify would mean losing all the historic marketing performance data – so it would be very hard to make like-for-like comparisons between the old platform and the new. Many of our customers have used GA during and after a platform shift to get continuous historical data. Which ties into my first point that over 85% of businesses have a history of data in GA.

3. Incomplete marketing tagging will still cause issues

Making valid analysis on multi-channel marketing performance relies on having ALL the campaigns captured – which is why our GA audit tool checks for completeness of campaign tagging. Shopify’s tracking relies on the same ‘utm_campaign’ parameters as GA, and campaigns that are not properly tagged at the time cannot be altered retrospectively.

4. Google is rapidly developing Google Analytics

I’d like to see the Shopify marketing event collection evolve from its launch yesterday, but Google already has a team of hundreds working on Google Analytics, and it seems unlikely that Shopify will be able to dedicate resources to keep up with the functionality that power users need.

5. More integrations are needed for full campaign coverage

Shopify’s marketing analysis will only be available for apps that upgrade to using the new API.  Marketing Events has launched with integrations for Mailchimp and Facebook (via Kit) but it won’t cover many of the major channels (other emails, AdWords, DoubleClick for Publishers) that stores use. Those integrations will get built in time, but until then any attribution will be skewed.

6. GA has many third-party integrations

Our experience is that any store interested in their campaign attribution quickly wants more custom analysis or cuts of the data. Being able to export the data into Littledata’s custom reports (or Google Sheets or Excel) is a popular feature – and right now Shopify lacks a reporting API to provide the same customisations. You can only pull raw event data back out.

That said, there are flaws with how GA attribution works. Importing campaign cost data is difficult and time consuming in GA – apart from the seamless integration with AdWords – and as a result hardly any of the stores we monitor do so. If Shopify can encourage those costs to be imported along with the campaign dates, then the return on investment calculations will be much easier for merchants.

I also think Shopify has taken the right pragmatic approach to attribution windows. It counts a campaign as ‘assisting’ the sale if it happens within 30 days of the campaign, and also whether it was ‘last click’ or ‘first click’. I’ve never seen a good reason to get more complicated than that with multi-channel reports in GA, and it’s unlikely that many customers remember a campaign longer than 30 days ago.

In conclusion, we love that Shopify is starting to take marketing attribution seriously, and we look forward to helping improve the marketing events feature from its launch yesterday, but we recommend anyone with a serious interest in their marketing performance sticks to Google Analytics in the meantime (and use our Shopify app to do so).