There have been rumors circulating about the latest version of Shopify checkout not supporting Google Tag Manager (GTM). Is Shopify cutting off support for GTM on the checkout completely?
This might be the biggest announcement from Shopify this year, but also the most overlooked.
We have been working with Shopify tracking since the beginning at Littledata and have followed these updates closely. So let me unpack what is and is not changing for GTM tracking on Shopify and Shopify Plus.
What is Google Tag Manager?
Many Shopify stores use Google Tag Manager (GTM) to deploy marketing ‘tags’ across their web pages, without the need to directly edit the store theme.The free tool developed by Google has shot to popularity ahead of paid rivals such as Tealium.
GTM makes it easy for these stores to track pageviews and on-site events in Google Analytics, Facebook Ads and other analytics and marketing platforms, but capturing checkout steps and transactions (orders) is more difficult.
Until recently, Shopify Plus stores had the ability to also add GTM to the checkout pages, by adding the GTM container to the theme checkout.liquid file. This allowed tracking of checkout steps to power, for example, abandoned checkout retargeting via email or Facebook Ads. Even though there are automated solutions that track checkout steps accurately and securely without the need for GTM, some merchants and agencies still tried to do this manually via GTM.
When will GTM be blocked on the Shopify checkout?
Starting in November 2022, Shopify has been gradually limiting Google Tag Manager in the checkout for Shopify Plus stores.
Shopify has been rolling out a new version of its checkout to Plus stores which will remove the ability to add scripts via checkout.liquid. The checkout.liquid file will still be present but be ignored. (UPDATE: Shopify has announced the official end date for checkout.liquid as August 13, 2024).
Shopify will no longer be allowing Google Tag Manager in the checkout
Stores will get the ability to modify aspects of the checkout experience from within Shopify admin, but not the ability to add GTM to the checkout.
This is not a temporary measure; it’s a long term solution to increase security in the checkout.
You can still track completed orders on the order status (thank you) page via the Checkout Order Status Script section, but this client-side tracking is increasingly unreliable.
Why didn’t merchants get a headsup?
To be fair to Shopify, they have flagged extra scripts on the checkout as a security risk for a few years. They have been trying to close the Additional Scripts loophole since 2020, and have added a browser console warning about third-party scripts being blocked on the checkout.
Their long term solution is the Web Pixels API, to allow tracking of checkout pages without access to the checkout pages – but this solution isn’t quite ready, and doesn’t include key steps of the checkout journey.
How to replace GTM on the Shopify checkout
If you run GTM on a Shopify Plus checkout you need to find an alternative to tracking the checkout steps. And you need to do so ASAP.
Although GTM may still be running in your store, it won’t be for much longer.
You have only two options I’m aware of:
- Use Littledata’s end-to-end tracking, which tracks tracks Shopify checkout steps server-side and automatically sends those events to data destinations such as Google Analytics, Segment, Facebook Ads (via Conversions API). This has the added advantage of tracking pre-checkout events server-side, which improves both page performance and data accuracy.
- Use an app that integrates with Shopify’s Web Pixel API. Apps like Elevar have taken this route, even though Web Pixel is still quite limited.
Neither solution will provide quite the same level of customization as Google Tag Manager, but then it comes without the risks either. Can your store really take the risk of interrupting the checkout journey for the sake of some minor marketing optimization?
Littledata tracks Shopify checkout steps server-side, without the need for GTM
Why is Shopify restricting usage of GTM?
On pre-checkout pages of a store the worst impact is container bloat – multiple tracking tags from different vendors slow down the user experience for customers.
The antidote to bloated GTM containers is to push most of the tracking server-side. Server-side tracking allows for faster page loads while improving data accuracy.
But adding GTM to the checkout pages presents a much greater risk. As well as potentially interrupting a business-critical path to payment, rogue scripts loaded from GTM can scrape credit card details from the page and facilitate credit card fraud.
The final straw for Shopify seems to have come in August when Shopify’s checkout was out of action globally for the best part of a day due to a conflict with GTM.
I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about the @shopify checkout issue. 12 hours and massive stores are still affected with no announcement from shopify— Matt Schroeder | 3PL Operator 📦 (@SchroedsBiz) August 31, 2022
Here’s a fix, if your store is affected pic.twitter.com/rkvr72AlBP
With over $500M a day of GMV processed through Shopify checkout in Q3 alone, that is just too big an operational risk for Shopify to bear.
Is GTM safe on the rest of my Shopify store?
Yes, I can’t see why or how Shopify would restrict third-party scripts — including GTM — on the pre-checkout storefront. Shopify allows stores to add any functionality to the storefront as they want, even if that does make the pages load more slowly.
That said, two advances in web tracking technology may make GTM redundant for your store:
- Enhanced Measurement in Google Analytics. This allows stores to track clicks, outbound links, video engagement and page scrolling without adding any code to the storefront. These were all events that required GTM to trigger previously. And it’s completely compatible with Littledata’s Google Analytics 4 connection.
- Server-side tracking across the customer journey. Browser-based tracking via GTM is increasingly unreliable as cookies and tracking scripts get blocked. Although Google Tag manager also supports server-side containers, the setup can be fiddly and requires you to run your own server infrastructure on Google Cloud. Littledata’s out-the-box server side solution provides all the benefits of server-side with none of the maintenance.
So even if you’re quite happy with GTM – and not on Shopify Plus – I recommend you have a think about whether you really need GTM, or could find a lower maintenance solution.