With Universal Analytics’ deprecation date quickly approaching, merchants and agencies alike have been looking to ecommerce platforms, like Shopify and BigCommerce, to lead the way in integrating their stores with GA4. But little progress has been made by ecommerce platforms, leaving merchants to their own devices. 

But one thing’s for sure: with the right partners, you’re not alone. Last week we joined forces with some of the best and the brightest in the ecommerce analytics world to answer merchants’ biggest questions about migrating to Google Analytics 4:

  • What’s different between Universal Analytics (UA) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?
  • What exactly is event-based tracking?
  • Why hasn’t Shopify offered a plug-and-play solution for GA4?

Whether you’re working with an ecommerce agency like Irish Titan, an ecommerce reporting tool like Daasity, or an ecommerce data platform like Littledata, data should be at the core of every business decision you make. 

Up until this point, 87% of Shopify stores have relied on Universal Analytics as a trusted reporting tool for their store’s sales and revenue, marketing attribution and campaign performance, and for a complete view of their customer journey.  

And that’s why we held last week’s webinar: to gather the top GA4 experts in ecommerce analytics to answer your most asked questions about GA4, provide some clarity around your migration, and arm you with the tools you need to succeed in the next generation of Google Analytics.

Watch the full webinar on-demand>>>

Key takeaways

Custom reporting

Merchants have grown accustomed to the 50+ built-in reports that UA offers, and are understandably uneasy with GA4 providing only a fraction of those reports out-of-the-box. 

But the good news is that all the reports you’ve grown to know and love in UA can be custom-built in GA4, offering the opportunity for you to zero in on the metrics specific to your business’s unique set of goals. In a matter of minutes, your Source/Medium Report or Sales Performance Report can be up and running. 

Find out how to build custom reports in GA4 with our series of free GA4 courses on YouTube.

Once you’ve set up your GA4 property, the next step is crucial. Ensure that all your events are set up properly, including any custom and ecommerce events that you’re tracking in UA. Your events set the foundation for your reports and ensure that your custom-built reports work seamlessly. The easiest way to do this is with a GA4 connector Shopify app

Tip: Whichever GA4 connector you choose, make sure it takes advantage of server-side tracking. Otherwise, your data discrepancies will just get worse!

New data model

GA4’s tracking is fundamentally different from UA’s. Previously, Google captured data based on hits or sessions, whereas GA4 uses event-based tracking. Similarly, Google has shifted away from its last-click attribution model and has turned to data-driven attribution instead.

What exactly is event-based tracking, and what does this mean for many of the metrics you’ve relied on in UA? Some of the metrics merchants have used to monitor their store’s performance have changed in meaning or are no longer available. 

‘Events’, for example, track actions within a page in UA, including video views, widget clicks, and downloads. In GA4, ‘events’ measure every user interaction with your website or app, including loading a page, clicking a link, and completing a purchase. With GA4’s event-based tracking, merchants are no longer limited to UA’s predefined hit types and can create custom events to track any action or piece of information that they like.

Tip: Stay in the loop on GA4’s new terms, metrics, and reports with the GA4 Glossary.

Some other small but impactful changes have been made to metrics that many merchants are familiar with, including ‘sessions’ being redefined. ‘Bounce rate’ and ‘session duration’ are no longer available in GA4, instead, they have been replaced with engagement metrics. ‘Bounce rate’ can be understood with its inverse, ‘engagement rate’, which measures the number of engaged sessions divided by the total number of sessions over a specified time period. While these new metrics may cause some confusion, Google’s new engagement metrics help merchants uncover a detailed look at how customers interact with their website or app more accurately and will empower merchants to identify their conversion rate optimization areas with ease.

Google’s data-driven attribution model provides a holistic view of all of the touchpoints that contribute to a conversion and distributes credit for the conversion based on data for each conversion event. GA4 allows merchants to funnel in multiple data sources, including your website, app, email marketing platform, and advertising platforms, like Meta, to properly attribute sales across your marketing efforts. Google’s data-driven attribution model will help brands maximize their marketing efforts and budget, which is especially important in today’s uncertain economic climate.

google analytics 4 predictive audiences

Merchants can now leverage Google’s machine learning capabilities with predictive audiences, providing insights into what users are likely to purchase are doing on your website, and comparatively, what users who are likely to churn are doing on your website.

Built on first-party data

In a way, GA4 is Google’s response to increasing privacy regulations and tracking prevention. With the growing absence of third-party cookies, we’ve seen accuracy in client-side tracking slip away over the past few years. Unlike UA’s reliance on third-party cookies, GA4 is built on first-party data, offering merchants accuracy in tracking and in-depth insights into how users interact with their website and app.

Exporting GA4 data into BigQuery

Many of the features that were previously limited to GA360 users on UA (for the hefty price of $100k+ annually) are now available to all GA4 users, free of charge. This includes the ability to export raw data from GA4 to BigQuery, and from BigQuery to any destination of their choice. 

GA4’s automatic BigQuery export not only relieves merchants of the tedious and costly manual data export, but also opens up opportunities for data transformation and analysis outside of GA4’s interface and API constraints — the possibilities are endless!

Watch the full webinar on-demand>>>

What you should do now

As echoed by all of our speakers, you should start tracking your ecommerce analytics in GA4 now! And with the right tools, getting complete Shopify or BigCommerce insights in GA4 is simple.

If you haven’t started already, now is the time to start tracking in parallel with UA and GA4. You won’t be able to export UA data into GA4, which is why it’s so important to get as much overlap as possible, especially if you’re serious about understanding your store’s performance year-over-year. 

For a step-by-step guide to creating your GA4 property, read GA4: What Shopify stores should do TODAY.

“Make a data plan. Determine which are your brand’s most important marketing and business questions, and build exploration reports to answer those questions with data. In doing so, you’ll be surprised with how quickly you become an expert in GA4!”

—David Pascu, Head of Client Services at Littledata

Once you have created your GA4 property, ensure that you’re tracking your ecommerce analytics in parallel, or sending data to both UA and GA4. This lets you capture browsing behavior and sales performance in both places, so you can analyze the data, build comparative attribution models, and start to get a sense of how UA and GA4 are different — as well as where they converge.

The easiest (and most accurate) way to do this is with an ecommerce data platform like Littledata. Littledata automatically captures ecommerce events in UA and GA4 and links them to the original touchpoint. Book a demo to learn more.