Every good business runs on good data.
It doesn’t matter if you’re choosing a store design, analyzing your marketing, or setting revenue targets, it all comes back to what the data tells you.
On the flip side, running on bad data can lead to your store whiffing on those big decisions. That’s where, if you’re a Shopify store, Shopify Analytics (and other analytics options) come into play.
In this post, we’re going to:
- Break down what Shopify Analytics does
- Discuss Shopify Analytics’ limitations
- Share tools that can give you deep, accurate data and drive revenue
- Show you how to add powerful data tools to your ecommerce store
What does Shopify Analytics do?
Built within its platform, Shopify has an analytics tracker that allows you to generate data based on your store’s performance. This data includes high-level metrics like your total store sessions, number of sales, returning customers, and the average value of orders placed.
Metrics like these help you get a snapshot of how visitors are interacting with your store. That way, you can pinpoint elements of your website to tweak or update based on what the data is telling you and continue to improve your metrics overall.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the more popular metrics that Shopify Analytics displays within its overview dashboard:
- Total Sales: This metric displays the total revenue your store has generated over a specific date range minus costs like shipping and taxes.
- Online Store Sessions: The online store sessions metric counts the total number of customers who visited your site in a given date range, including repeat visitors.
- Returning Customer Rate: Returning customer rate shows the percentage of customers who have purchased from your store more than once. These customers are valuable due to their loyalty and subsequent higher lifetime value.
- Online Store Conversion Rate: Conversion rate tracks the number of visits that led to a purchase.
- Average Order Value (AOV): Average order value is calculated by taking your total order revenue and dividing it by the number of orders.
The first step to using these metrics to improve your store is knowing where to find them.
How to use Shopify Analytics
Shopify displays data and reports about your store’s performance within its “Overview Dashboard.” The Overview Dashboard also allows you to carry out a range of basic data analyses.
- Comparing the value of your current sales to a previous date range
- Tracking how many sales you receive from a variety of marketing channels
- Generating your AOV
- Tracking your site trends over time
To access this Overview Dashboard, start from your Shopify admin page and go to Analytics > Dashboards. The dashboard will display data generated from today and compare it to the day before. You can change this date range by selecting the date menu.
You can also change the comparison period for this data by clicking compare to previous dates, then Apply and your data will be generated.
You can then select “View report,” which gives you a more detailed analysis of your chosen metric. Be aware, however, that not all metrics will generate in your report. The metrics you can see will depend on the Shopify plan you are currently on.
What analytics are in Shopify
If your store uses Shopify Lite, your analytics report will show you a basic range of metrics, including the overview dashboard, finance reports, and analytics about your products. To access detailed reports like visitor behavior analysis or marketing and sales reports, you will need to upgrade to the Basic Shopify plan or higher.
Shopify Analytics can generate a few other metrics beyond the most high-level ones mentioned above.
Incorporating these into your data strategy is also important to maximize marketing attribution and revenue.
Some of the most valuable sales metrics generated through Shopify Analytics include:
- Total sales - the amount of revenue that was generated through your online store or your Point Of Sale if you have a physical storefront.
- Sales Source - this lists the sources from which your sales generated (i.e. social media channels, ads, or direct traffic.)
- Total orders - this metric displays the total number of orders generated through both your ecommerce store and your physical store.
- Top products by units sold - This metric shows the items in your store which sold the most by volume, helping you identify your most popular offerings.
- Top site landing pages - This indentifies the most frequent landing pages on your site where visitors started a session.
- Returning customer rate - This gives the percentage of customers who have bought from you repeatedly in a selected time period.
Shopify Behavior Reports
Shopify also provides behavior reports which record customer actions on your site and allow you to:
- Track how your online store conversions have changed over time.
- Determine the top online searches for your product.
- Track how your product recommendations change over a given period.
All these metrics can play a key part in your overall marketing strategy and help you improve marketing attribution.
But to make the best decisions for your business, you need truly accurate data — something Shopify Analytics has a spotty record with.
Is Shopify Analytics good?
Shopify Analytics is a good tool overall for what it is: an out-of-the-box solution for basic analytics tracking on your ecommerce store.
Shopify Analytics provides the top-level metrics to give you a broad snapshot of your store’s health and customer behavior. But it lacks the detailed reports of a more robust analytics service like Google Analytics.
What is Shopify analytics lacking?
Unfortunately, Shopify Analytics also has a poor history when it comes to accuracy. Shopify Analytics’ tracking has shown to be both unreliable and incomplete. In fact, an analysis conducted of Shopify Analytics found that for every 100 orders tracked in Shopify Analytics, 12 go missing.
There are a handful of other shortcomings those who rely on Shopify Analytics as their main data source face, as well.
- Cross-domain tracking being setup incorrectly
- Server-side tracking is missing
- Sales data doesn't segment between first-time purchases and recurring transactions (subscriptions)
- Refunds not included in Google Analytics
Many of Shopify Analytics’ shortcomings obscure traffic sources and disrupt attribution tracking. As an example, when customers check out on your Shopify store they’re redirected to a Shopify domain, causing the visitor’s session to end suddenly — even if they are in the process of buying an item. This affects what Shopify Analytics shows as their last click and takes away from the power of the data you’re collecting.
So, is there a better way to track referrals sources, collect customer behavior metrics, and ensure accurate analytics? Yes: using a more powerful analytics tool like Google Analytics.
Shopify Analytics vs. Google Analytics
Google Analytics (GA) is a household name for analytics reporting across nearly every industry. In fact, it’s the world’s most popular marketing analytics platform, used by 98% of online stores.
While both Shopify Analytics and GA offer unique benefits, store owners who opt for GA get more data for their dollar. We can see this first hand on a metric like sales by traffic source.
Tip: Read our full ebook on why Shopify Analytics and Google Analytics don't match, plus how to fix it for your store.
Littledata looked at 180,000 orders from 10 Shopify stores, and the marketing channels in Shopify Analytics were as follows:
- Direct 83.5%
- Social 9%
- Search 4.5%
- Unknown (other websites, not social or search) 3%
- Email ~0.1%
The Direct channel sticks out like a sore thumb, mainly because it dwarfs every other source of traffic. Compare this with the last-click attribution of sales from GA, and the difference in accuracy becomes clear:
To put it simply, Shopify Analytics lacks both the accuracy and specificity of data that a tool like GA provides.
How to add Google Analytics to Shopify
While GA doesn’t work automatically with Shopify, it’s not difficult to set up for your store. There are multiple ways you can add Google Analytics to Shopify, and the method you choose will depend both on your technical skill and the time you have to dedicate to set up.
Once you’ve created a Google Analytics property for Shopify, you can follow your preferred method to add GA to your store and start getting full, accurate data.
Read on to discover which method will work best for adding GA to your store.
For Universal Analytics
Before 2020, Universal Analytics was the Google Analytics default. To find out if your store has Universal Analytics, check your web property ID. A universal analytics web property ID will start with ‘UA’.
If you’re using Universal Analytics, the two options we’d recommend to connect GA to your Shopify store are:
- Using Shopify’s built-in tracking, found in-store preferences
- Using Littledata’s advanced Shopify to Google Analytics app
For Google Analytics 4
Since late 2020, GA4 has operated as the default Google Analytics property.
There are a handful of benefits to using GA4, not least of which being that it provides more thorough reports delivered within a faster timeline. Shopify does not yet support Google Analytics 4, so the built-in tracking feature is not an option here. However, you can try using GA4 and Shopify Analytics in parallel to test the performance of both and see the differences yourself.
The “least hassle” option
If you want to add GA to your store and you’re looking to save time and get things done correctly, implementing Littledata is likely your best bet. Littledata provides a Getting Started guide to help you add Google Analytics to your Shopify store. Once connected, the Littledata app gives you a thorough data overview and sends weekly updates as Google and Shopify add new features.
Tip: Try Littledata's Google Analytics connection free for 30 days to see how it can fix your tracking while integrating with your other Shopify apps.
Using Google Analytics with Shopify Analytics
GA and Shopify Analytics can be used in conjunction with one another, as each have their uses.
As an example, you could use Shopify Analytics as a quick overview dashboard for store performance while relying on GA for a complete analysis of sales and marketing efforts. In depth data decisionmaking will still most likely be coming from what you see in GA, but you can still rely on Shopify Analytics to capture big picture metrics.
Connecting dashboards and reporting tools
The most successful modern DTC stores operate not with GA alone, but with a full data stack that helps them cover each step of the customer journey. They increase the scope of their data coverage by connecting other data dashboards and tools.
A great tool to connect to your store, especially if you offer subscriptions, is the ReCharge Connection. This connection is an advanced GA integration that helps you to track subscription ecommerce behavior.
Connecting Shopify and ReCharge with Google Analytics allows you to obtain accurate sales data, including first-time orders, recurring payments, and subscription lifecycle events. It also allows you to obtain accurate marketing attribution for first-time orders, recurring payments, and subscription lifecycle events.
A further tool you could use to track your Shopify data is the Segment app connection, which allows you to track each customer touchpoint within your website, including the checkout steps taken by customers, sales information, and the lifetime value of a specific customer.
Segment is a Customer Data Platform (CDP) that makes it easy to combine customer data with marketing data, then send that data to other platforms you use, whether that’s a data warehouse or an email marketing tool. As such, Segment isn’t just for analysis. It’s also a popular way to build new marketing audiences, such as building lookalike audiences in Facebook from your highest-spending Shopify customers.
Google Ads and Facebook Ads
Online advertising is a major source of traffic for modern DTC brands. To ensure your making the best decisions in your advertising strategy, you need accurate data. That’s where the Facebook Ads and Google Ads connections can play a key part in your overall analytics stack.
The Facebook Ads connection fixes campaign tagging and allows for importing ad costs so you can drill down marketing attribution costs. The Google Ads connection is ideal for tracking sales expenses in reports and connecting marketing data with ecommerce performance.
Wrapping it all up
Now that you know exactly what Shopify Analytics can provide for you, what analytics strategy will you implement to ensure you’re making smart business decisions for your store?
Using Google Analytics with your Shopify store gives you:
- a thorough view of the data
- a complete snapshot of the entire customer journey
- advanced metrics you need to improve attribution and boost revenue
Using these, you can plan changes to your store and product offerings based on accurate data while improving your visibility by taking control of your analytics tracking.
And once you’ve connected other powerful reporting tools and dashboards like Littledata’s ReCharge and Segment apps, you’ll have all the information you need to dial up your store’s growth.
Take the first step by getting a free data audit when you start your 30-day free trial with Littledata.