Lunch with Littledata: Jumping into GA4 with Google Analytics Expert Krista Seiden

The rise of Google Analytics 4, the newest version of the world’s most popular analytics service, is predictably a very big deal in the world of data. As we move full steam ahead toward a cookie-less future and leave third-party data behind, Google has revamped its Analytics service to give users both a new look and new tools to check on the health of their businesses. Changes as big as this, though, always come with a learning curve. That’s when it helps to have an expert that can smooth the transition. In this edition of Lunch with Littledata, I spoke with KS Digital founder and former Evangelist for Google Analytics at Google, Krista Seiden about what GA users can expect from GA4, which reports come out of the box and which require more effort to build, and what to do to set yourself up for success starting today. [tip]Not sure what GA4 has in store? See our top 10 reasons to make the switch.[/tip] Edward from Littledata: You're obviously a well-known evangelist for Google Analytics (GA). Could you tell me a bit about how you got into the world of analytics? Krista Seiden: I like to consider my journey into analytics a bit of an accident (laughs). I was working at Adobe Systems way back in 2009 when my happy accident started. One of my responsibilities as a business analyst was to put together a monthly dashboard for the CEO, which included about 30 different metrics from around the business unit. I had to email probably 30 different people every month to get these metrics and put them together. It was very old school. And I realized that probably about half of the metrics I was collecting every month actually came from Omniture, which was their analytics solution at the time. I thought, “Well, this is silly. Why am I emailing all these people?” So I went to the web analytics team and said, “Hey, just teach me how to do this.” I spent some time with them and I learned how to pull the data myself. That was really helpful. Then Adobe bought Omniture, and all of a sudden all of that training that they had—which is generally really expensive—was available for free. So I thought, “Sweet. I'm going to learn all of this in more detail so I can be more useful in my current job.” And then as time went on, my job evolved and they asked me to just take on Web Analytics full time. So it was, I like to say, a happy accident because it kind of evolved into that new position, but it also just sparked from my interest in trying to make things more efficient and not have to bother everyone. So I spent some time at Adobe doing analytics, then I went to the Apollo Group and did analytics there using the free version of GA on a site that had millions and millions of users. This was predating even GA premium, so it was awful sampling. It was a horrible experience. I had to figure out all sorts of hacks and ways to try to make the data more usable. Just as I was onboarding Omniture there, I was tapped by Google to come run analytics and optimization for what's now the Google Cloud Group, what was then the Google Apps Group. Edward: Speaking of GA, I wanted to talk specifically about GA4 which is just launching. Now that its arrival has been officially announced and it's out of beta, do you think it’s ready for a high scale brand to use as their primary analytics tool? Krista: That's a good question. I think the answer is going to depend on who you ask. If you ask Google, they're going to say yes, it’s fully ready. If you ask somebody outside of Google, depending on their love or hate relationship with it, you will get a varying degree of answers. From where I stand, I think the answer is yes—but I think the answer is yes because Universal Analytics has a deprecation date (July 1, 2023). You don't really have a choice at this point, you need to start migrating (to GA4). For big companies especially, if you're going to need year-over-year data, you need to have GA4 set up and collecting data properly before the end of June 2022. That being said, there are features that are still missing, especially when it comes to ecommerce. We don't have our item scope custom dimensions yet, which is definitely a big problem for a lot of big ecommerce clients. There are ways that you can use other available dimensions to kind of fill that gap for now. It’s not the best, certainly. There are other features that are missing. But there's also a long roadmap and I'm pretty comfortable with where that roadmap is going in terms of the end product of what GA4 will eventually look like when a lot of that has rolled out. I think it's made a lot of progress in the last six months in particular, and it's a lot more ready now than it was not that long ago. [tip]See 10 benefits you can get from making the move to GA4 now[/tip] Edward: I do understand Google's dilemma that they want to sunset UA, but they simply can't launch everything now—there are a lot of features to build out. How are you advising brands go about making the transition to GA4? Is it about double-tracking using UA and GA4 for now? Krista: I think the narrative for the past year and a half has really been let's dual tag, get GA4 set up, start collecting historical data, and start getting used to it. My business, KS Digital, has stopped doing any sort of UA work. We actually stopped at the beginning of 2022, so we haven't taken on any new UA-specific clients since late last year. Our offerings now, when people come to us, are around getting them set up with a solution design and implementation for GA4. We’ll look at their UA data and maybe do a lightweight audit so that we at least have an understanding of what they're collecting, how they're doing it, and what we may be able to carry forward. But we're not really advising on UA anymore. That being said, I do still think dual tagging is a good idea if you are a current UA user and I will continue to recommend that all the way through the sunset. I think it's important to have that side by side, although I do also think it leads to a bit too much of a reliance on UA when people do need to start transitioning to GA4. So it's a little bit of a battle there, but I think it's important for data continuity. Edward: Yes, because the data collection migration has got to happen first, but then people have got to move over the reporting dependence. Krista: Yep. Edward: What are the biggest unexpected challenges you've seen with established brands who are transitioning to GA4? Krista: There are obviously some feature gaps and those have been challenges. But I think the biggest challenge is really just the mindset—getting people used to a brand new tool. GA4 looks and feels very different. You might log in and look at any of the reports that are out of the box and you see this very ugly scatterplot and you're like, “What am I supposed to do with this?” I think a lot of people don't fully realize what they can do with GA4. So, for example, you can completely customize the UI. You can change the visuals. You can add or remove reports that are important to you. You can organize them any way you want. You could never do that in UA—so you can really make GA4 your own. I think that's going to be really important to help people get more comfortable and want to move over. But I think the biggest hindrance is really just a lack of training, a lack of knowing what to do with the product, and just a bit of fear over that unknown. Edward: It’s deceptive because the UI looks very similar at first glance. But then when you start digging, you realize there’s a lot of stuff that’s very different. Krista: (laughs) Yeah. Edward: As you said earlier, obviously there are some feature gaps, particularly around e-commerce. A lot of the out-of-the-box ecommerce reports are missing. For us, the most obvious gaps are around the shopping behavior funnel and checkout completion funnel. But they also exist around the product level analysis which, as you say, is blocked by the lack of item scope dimensions. Are you seeing brands able to replicate some of those using the explorations module? Krista: Yes. So I have several large ecommerce clients that are working on GA4 and we have replicated a lot of those reports within Explorations. The nice thing about that is you actually get to be a lot more specific about what you want in those funnel reports. You can break them down, you can add multiple segments side by side. You can do things like showing the elapsed time between steps or making it an open and closed funnel. So I do think there are actually a lot of benefits to doing that way, but it’s more work to set it up out of the box. “The nice thing about (GA4’s Explorations feature) is you actually get to be a lot more specific about what you want in those funnel reports. You can break them down, you can add multiple segments side by side. there are actually a lot of benefits to (creating reports) that way, but it’s more work to set it up out of the box.” And because of the way that the Explorations permissions work right now, it's very frustrating. You can't actually share access to a report. You can share the report, but then somebody has to make a copy of it and edit it to make it their own. You can't have a shared report that anybody can, for example, change the date on or add a segment to. I think that that's limiting, so I'm hopeful that those permissions will change and become more friendly over time. Edward: Yeah, because the other thing that’s obviously lacking is any ability to share report templates. As ecommerce specialists, we have to build ecommerce template reports. Can you see Google opening up the template galleries to third parties? Or was their Custom Report Gallery not seen as a success? Krista: I don't know that they didn't see the Custom Report Gallery as a success. I don't think it was really top of mind for them. I hope that there will be some sort of a template gallery for Explorations. I think that as more and more people move to GA4 and see that they have to do a lot more in Explorations, that demand will bubble up. I guess we'll see, but I'm hopeful that we will see something like that. Edward: I think it would be a solution because as you say, the problem is not that you can't build analysis reports. The problem is that it just takes some analytics knowledge to build the report. Krista: And you can't do the same type of funnel visuals within Google Data Studio, for example, where you could ship that template because it doesn't have the same processing due to how data studio gets that data from the API. So it's not easily replicable in a shareable fashion. Edward: What about GA4’s connection with Google Ads? How do you think getting accurate data in GA4 helps brands make the most of Google Ads? Krista: I think it's similar to how brands are utilizing Universal Analytics with Google ads, right? It's that conversion data—so goals in UA or conversions in GA4. Then with Google Ads, you can link those conversions and optimize your campaigns that way. I think one of the hidden benefits that maybe isn’t very well known within GA4 is that conversion data is now essentially calculated based on data-driven attribution for everyone. So you can actually change that model and choose what you want if you don't want data-driven. But if you think data-driven is a good model for you, then your ads are now bidding to conversions that are based on that. So that's a difference, but it depends on how impactful that really is for your business. Other than that, I think GA4 operates pretty similarly to UA. [tip]Move your ad strategy to first-party data solutions all around by running dynamic Facebook ads with the new Conversions API.[/tip] Edward: That’s interesting. I see data-driven attribution as one of the big perks of GA4 because it was previously a GA 360-limited feature that is now available for all. So what you're saying is that not only can you run the data-driven attribution within GA4, but you can basically do that within Google ads as well? Krista: Using your conversions right from GA4, if those conversions are being calculated using data-driven attribution, then that will flow through to Google ads. Edward: Cynically, one of the problems we come against is brands whose agencies want to see the conversions directly in Google Ads. Because the attribution model is more greedy, and obviously from the agency's point of view, it makes their campaigns look better (laughs). Krista: Yeah, I've always wanted to say absolutely not. My conversions will be based on GA—but to each their own. Edward: The other big advantage for GA4—which gets our bigger customers excited—is the BigQuery sync or the “ensemble data export.” The question there is, do you think that will be a “free forever” feature? Because that was previously a big plus of upgrading to GA 360. Krista: I do think it'll be a “free forever” feature. However, in the past couple of months, Google has started to enforce the data limits of the free export. I think that limit is a million per day. So if you go over, then that's probably an upgrading type path for you. Honestly, if you have that much data, there are probably other reasons why you might want to upgrade as well. But I do think it'll be free forever. That's one of the big value props of GA4, that everybody now has access to this raw end data. Edward: Yeah. As you say, it's really just that they're just enforcing what was already consistent with regards to volume. Krista: Mm-hmm. But they have actually released the ability to filter the data that you export into BigQuery. So even if you are going over that limit, you can choose what data you want to export to stay under that limit. I think that's actually a really nice additional feature there that helps to make that BigQuery export continually usable, even for businesses with high volume. Edward: Are there any other big features we haven't talked about that you think would be beneficial to an e-commerce brand that made the switch? Krista: Yeah, one feature that I love that's actually beneficial to all types of businesses is enhanced measurement. I love enhanced measurement because out of the box, it's six additional events (well, five if you don’t count page views) that are just collected on your behalf if you allow Google to do it, and you can toggle them on or off. In my opinion, it really helps to democratize data because a lot of businesses were not going to have the resources or the time or effort to be able to go add those types of events. And now they're just going to get them out of the box, which gives them a lot more insight into what's going on on their sites. “I love enhanced measurement because out of the box, it's six additional events that are just collected on your behalf… it really helps to democratize data because a lot of businesses were not going to have the resources or the time or effort to be able to go add those types of events.” Edward: Back in the day when we were doing Google Tag Manager setups, these metrics used to be on the standard list of stuff that you’d say the brand could invest in for enhanced tracking, but it was all manual steps to do so. So it's nice that it's out of the box. Krista: Totally. Edward: Is there anything else you think might be interesting for our audience to know? Krista: Just one word of wisdom, really a warning to people—you're going to need to figure out how to save your historical data. Google said that at least six months after the deprecation date, views will still be available to look at. But after that point, access to them is going to go away. So you won't have access to that historical data after potentially January 1st, 2024. That means brands need to think about how they're going to export their data from Universal Analytics and keep that historical data. It is possible, and there are a lot of ways to do it. I think there's a big business opportunity. We're going to see a lot of new businesses going into this space here. We may see some helpful tools from Google as well. Who knows? But I think that's something to just keep in mind as we get closer to that deprecation date. Edward: I totally agree. I was recently chatting with a customer about the ways to do it. Ultimately it boils down to what analysis you’ll want to do with that data. Because using the reporting API, you can’t export every historical event. You need to decide ahead of time what you want to compare. I told the customer that ultimately you're going to want to do some kind of historical analysis, maybe year-on-year type comparisons. What’s tricky is, as you say, either businesses have got to take a greedy approach and export as much as possible before the close-off or really decide what they're going to want to compare after it. Krista: Yeah. I think for most of my customers, I'll probably recommend a simpler route where we narrow down what their key reporting metrics are (or have been) and focus on exporting those. The sooner you get GA4 set up, the more historical data you'll have there. I've been running GA4 for about three years now. But obviously, not everybody is. If you get it set up before June of this year, though, you'll have your historical data. Edward: Which for most brands is good enough. Krista: Right. There are some brands that want more. But realistically, how often are you actually looking back at that data from five years ago? Not very often. If you are, it's looking at very high-level metrics like how many users or sessions or page views you had and what you’re at now. Edward: Most brands I know have changed the tracking implementation multiple times within that five years. So it's not really valid to look back that far. Krista: Yeah. I think it's more of a shock factor that you're losing access to the data rather than something that people actually need and use all that often. Edward: To wrap up on something we discussed at the very beginning—as you say, the investment brands need to make in GA4 is more in learning how to use this new tool. Are there other particularly good resources you’d recommend for people to learn about how to build their reports? Krista: Yeah, I think there are a lot of great blog posts out there from so many different people in the analytics community. Selfishly, I'll say I have some great GA4 courses from KS Digital. My students have been very happy. You get to learn directly from me and they include live Slack access and office hours. So it's not just video learning but direct interaction where I'll answer all your tough GA4 questions. Google has some resources and there are other great courses out there as well. I've always learned so much just from following blogs and social media on the topic. Quick links: Get ready for the rise of Google Analytics 4 and sunsetting of Universal Analytics Learn why data is critical to your DTC growth strategy See We Make Websites ideal headless tech stack, featuring Littledata’s Google Analytics connector Read 10 benefits you can enjoy when you make the move to GA4 Use our complementary instant order checker for GA4 to check your property

2022-05-20

How to get the most out of your Google Analytics setup

There are seemingly countless analytics solutions on the market today for ecommerce merchants to choose from. None, however, have overtaken the undisputed leader in the data world—Google Analytics. In order to get the most out of GA, though, you have to know a thing or two about what capabilities the tool affords you. As you may have noticed if you've read our content before, we're big fans of GA here at Littledata. Our team of experts help clients get accurate, reliable data through the platform every day. To help you decide where to begin optimizing your GA setup and improve the reporting you're capable of, here are three blog posts answering questions we recommend you ask yourself about GA. Is now the time to move to Google Aanalytics 4 (GA4)? YES! Google has already announced they are sunsetting Universal Analytics (UA), a.k.a the old version of GA, for good on July 1, 2023. If you're just starting a GA property now, GA4 is the way to go. But the coming deprecation of UA isn't the only reason to embrace GA4—far from it. We have 10 reasons you should make the switch now and the benefits GA4's new features offer from an analytics expert's perspective. https://blog.littledata.io/2021/02/04/10-reasons-to-move-to-ga4-for-ecommerce-analytics/ [note]Littledata's GA4 connection gives you complete and accurate data in your GA4 property in just one click. Find out how to set it up on your store.[/note] Should I use GA to track my email campaigns? Email campaigns are a frequently used promotional tool for ecommerce merchants. The name to know when it comes to ecommerce email is Klaviyo, as it's one of the most popular marketing platforms in the entire industry. The best way to optimize your email campaigns for success is of course to track their performance. Google Analytics is not only a dynamic solution for this but an easy one to set up too. In this article, Littledata CEO Edward Upton walks you through how to get your email campaign reporting up and running in GA so you can get the most from your campaigns using data-driven decision-making. https://blog.littledata.io/2020/11/25/how-to-track-klaviyo-flows-and-email-campaigns-in-google-analytics/ Should I get a Google Analytics expert to help with my Shopify data? Google Analytics is the leader in analytics reporting, so of course, that means it's easy to use—right? In most cases, if you've armed yourself with a bit of data knowledge, this is true. However, if you're looking to really unlock the full capabilities of the platform, you need more than just the standard level of GA know-how. While gaining that knowledge is a great learning experience, it also takes a lot of hours—time that busy business owners and marketing teams don't always have. If you want to go beyond the basic revenue/transaction checks and ad campaign monitoring to unlock deeper insights into your customers' behavior, a GA expert could be just the right solution. We have a full article explaining everything a GA expert can help you gain access to in your reporting so you can see if it's the right next step up for your analytics setup. https://blog.littledata.io/2020/02/25/do-you-need-a-google-analytics-expert-to-help-with-your-shopify-data/ [subscribe]

by Greg
2022-05-13

The rise of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and sunsetting of Universal Analytics

Last week, Google formally announced that they will be “sunsetting” Universal Analytics and pushing all users to move to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) by the second half of 2023. Does this mean that you should drop everything now and start fully embracing GA4? Actually, things are a bit more complicated. Like everything in the world of data, we recommend a methodical approach to the change. We’ve already outlined Littledata’s approach to GA4 for ecommerce stores. So in this article, we’ll take a deeper look at what Google just announced, what this means for your analytics setup, and recommend next steps for merchants using Google Analytics with ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce. [tip]Get excited for what GA4 has in store with our 10 reasons to make the switch.[/tip] What’s happening to Universal Analytics? The summer of 2023 may very well be remembered across the ecommerce industry for the rise of GA4, as Google is officially sunsetting its predecessor, Universal Analytics (aka UA, GA3, or the “old version” of Google Analytics). Google’s official announcement, which you can read in full on their blog. This announcement may have come as a bit of a surprise to some. GA4 has been available for a while but wasn’t made a priority before. Fortunately, moving from UA to GA4 doesn't have to be a headache for your team—as long as you have the right setup in place. Littledata already has a GA4 connection in beta that select customers have been using by setting up their Google Analytics 4 properties and connecting the Littledata app for event tracking and analytics since the news broke. Google promises GA4 will bring an adjustment to more granular data, giving users more insights and better control over customers' privacy. This includes across multiple devices like websites and apps. That second point is especially important as the industry makes a major shift away from cookies toward embracing first-party data across platforms. Making it harder to track the customer journey without the proper setup.  [note]Setting up GA4 on your ecommerce store only takes a few clicks with Littledata. New and existing users can set up GA4 on their store free and ensure they're ready for the new era of analytics.[/note] What we know about GA4 On July 1, 2023, Google will stop standard Universal Analytics properties from processing data. Your Universal Analytics reports will remain visible for a short period after the change (Google hasn't specified how long) but new data will only flow into GA4 properties. In other words, if you haven’t already, you need to create a GA4 property ASAP. With the switch to GA4, Google promises several significant changes aimed at making its Analytics tool more “consumer-focused” overall. This, among other features, includes: A privacy-centric design to maintain key insights despite cookie blockers and privacy regulations A new UI designed to showcase customer behavior through data collection of key events, and out-of-the-box capability to track those events (without requiring set up through Google Tag Manager) Machine learning models that automatically identify trends in data, such as churn probability, potential revenue from customer groups, and demand increases Measurement of cross-platform which means both app and web interactions to snapshot the effectiveness of each of your marketing efforts Data export to your BigQuery data warehouse [tip]See Littledata’s 10 reasons to move to GA4 for ecommerce analytics.[/tip] At the heart of GA4, Google says, is your customer—and more specifically how they interact with your business. This marks a move away from the old platform-centric measurement to instead track via User ID. The change should give a better picture of what actions customers took after discovering your business and track the whole lifecycle from first impression to final sale more effectively. Potential GA4 user concerns While there’s a lot to be excited about with GA4, the change from UA brings a few uncertainties for longtime users. Early versions of GA4, while positively received, did contain their share of bugs. As the platform won’t be rolling out at 100% perfection, we’ll help answer a handful of the most frequently asked questions we’ve seen around GA4. Will I be able to import historical data from UA to GA4? Most likely, the answer here is no. While you can run UA and GA4 in parallel as you make the switch, Google is launching GA4 as a new platform completely separate from UA. How difficult will it be to use the new interface? There’s no doubt users will experience a learning curve when migrating to GA4’s new UI. In essence, it will come down to thinking differently about what data you’re looking for and then creating reports around that. While this was a common concern in the early beta launch of GA4, Google has already added a number of template reports on funnels, user paths, and cohort exploration. We’re excited to see what’s next! To help our customers with the transition, we’ve already begun building our own Monetization and Retention reports in GA4 that will take over from Enhanced Ecommerce reporting in UA. According to the Google blog, The new Analytics gives you customer-centric measurement, instead of measurement fragmented by device or by platform. It uses multiple identity spaces, including marketer-provided User IDs and unique Google signals from users opted into ads personalization, to give you a more complete view of how your customers interact with your business. These improvements, paired with Littledata's tracking, will improve how businesses customize and assign weight to conversion types. Giving marketers and DTC brands better understanding of the customers lifestyle. Google does provide help documents and introductory courses on using the new interface. However, an easier (and more time-efficient) solution may be to have an analytics expert help set up a GA4 integration directly to your Shopify or BigCommerce store. [tip]We've recently launched a new GA4 Glossary to keep you in the loop on new terms and functions. [/tip] Is GA4 going to be a privacy law compliant, long-term solution for my business? This is one big area where GA4 is not just a solution right now, but in the future as well. Many of the changes made—from the new event-based UI to the learning machine-powered core—are built to adapt and grow alongside the global expansion in privacy laws. In other words, as you venture into the world of first-party data, GA4 will be your loyal guide along the way. What you should do now Our Shopify and Big Commerce stores and agency partners know that when it comes to Google Analytics, you can always count on Littledata as a single source of truth for truly accurate ecommerce data. This will remain true with GA4, and we’re excited about the flexible reporting capabilities in the newest version of Google Analytics. [tip] Use our complementary instant order checker for GA4 to check your property [/tip] Our recommendation is to add a GA4 property now, but not to rely on it entirely. Instead, Littledata recommends continuing to use UA and GA4 in parallel until at least early 2023. This means that you will be able to explore GA4 while still having accurate, actionable data in Universal Analytics, including Enhanced Ecommerce reports, lifetime value reporting, and subscription analytics. All Shopify and Shopify Plus stores are able to activate both UA and GA4 connections directly from their Littledata dashboards. You can learn more about terms and definitions by reading our hand Google Analytics 4 Glossary.  [tip]Remember, setting up a GA4 connection for Shopify on your store has never been easier than with Littledata! Get expert advice on everything you need to know to make the switch.[/tip]

by Greg
2022-03-25

We Make Websites features Littledata in ideal headless tech stack

We Make Websites is one of our trusted agency partners at Littledata. The geniuses behind beautiful ecommerce experiences for Lauren Conrad Beauty, PANGAIA, and countless other Shopify Plus sites, We Make Websites are experts in headless builds. We were honored to be included in their new outline of a "perfect" headless tech stack for ecommerce merchants! Littledata's ecommerce data platform now supports any headless Shopify build, and we work together with top Shopify Plus agencies like WMW to help brands get accurate data to fuel their growth. The "perfect" headless tech stack Headless ecommerce isn't new, but the technology has improved across the board in recent years. With the rise of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and increasing popularity of React frameworks, it seems like headless platforms are everywhere you turn these days. Many brands are turning to sites that act like apps, and headless is a great way to do that. Even Shopify seems ready to go all-in with the launch of Hydrogen, which is focused on integrating React server components. As the WMW team explains, headless isn't for everyone. To really do it right (and keep maintenance costs down), you'll need a developer or agency with experience in Node.js and React/Vue as well as the Shopify ecosystem. When done right, headless sites like Recess and ILIA Beauty are lightning fast and provide personalized experiences for shoppers. In "Creating the Perfect Tech Stack for Your Headless Build", the We Make Websites team highlights top apps that work well in a headless environment, work well together, and "harmonize" with the wider tech stack. Here's their recommended stack. ShopifyLoyaltyLionKlevuYotpoNacelleNostoShogunRechargeLittledata Littledata is featured alongside some of our longtime integration partners Recharge (for selling by subscription) and Nacelle (for fast, flexible headless builds), as well as our friends at LoyaltyLion. So, this is an ideal stack for a customer-driven brand that is selling by subscription (at least in part) and is serious about data-driven growth. Note: Littledata also integrates with landing page builders like Shogun, Zipify Pages and Gem Pages Our headless tracking ensures that sessions are stitched together and linked to ecommerce events. We have also added default integrations with every major landing page builder, whether those pages act as your front-end or you're running hundreds of top-of-funnel landing pages. Should you go headless? As the WMW team puts it, one of the biggest reasons for going headless in the first place is the ability to pick and choose from modern commerce tools, including data platforms and CDP integrations: A headless architecture [lets you] employ a “best of breed” technology strategy. By harnessing the power and agility of APIs, headless websites allow you to create a tech stack that’s unique to, and perfect for, your business. We have certainly found that to be true in practice, especially with our merchants using Nacelle and Netlify. For the most part they have managed to keep their Shopify Plus tech stacks while improving speed and engagement . As Devin Saxon, senior sales engineer at Nacelle put it in our interview last year: Every headless build is unique. Not because of catalogue size, but due to what the merchant’s goals and needs are for their front end and overall architecture.The process itself is not dramatically different. We align with the customer on the build scoping process, including their goals, integration, and workflow needs, which can be the biggest determinant of the timeline. It’s best to work this out far before they start building, though, to mitigate any issues from coming up during the build. In our view, chief among those goals and workflows should be your data vision: what do you want to track, how do you want to track it, and who will be using the data? Check out our headless tracking demo to get sense for what's possible. If you're ready to start planning a headless build — or you've already launched are are ready to take data more seriously — let's chat.

by Ari
2022-03-17

Connect Smartrr subscriptions with Google Analytics

If you want to do more with your subscriptions data, you're in luck. Littledata now integrates fully with Smartrr to capture marketing data, shopping behavior, subscriptions and LTV. You can send the data to Segment, Google Analytics, or any connected marketing destination or reporting tool. Yep, it's that easy. Or should we say...smartrr! What is Smartrr? Smartrr is a popular new subscription engine for Shopify stores. Their no-code solution allows merchants to offer curated subscriptions and memberships. Personally, I love their membership portal which encourages both retention and upsells. There are easy options for gifting, add-ons, and subscription changes, and subscribers can manage all of this from email or SMS (so much easier!), not just the web app. Our shared customers have all noted the membership portal as well, so it's safe to say it's a pretty popular feature. If you want to see Smartrr in action, brands already using both Littledata and Smartrr include Aura Bora and Som Sleep. What does the integration do? Smartrr's own analytics dashboard already has useful information about sales, conversions, and AOV (average order value). So why do you need an ecommerce data platform like Littledata? Littledata connects Smartrr data with Shopify data, marketing data, and behavior data so you have one source of truth. This helps with everything from meaningful analysis, to impactful action. It can be hard enough to make Shopify match Google Analytics, and once you add subscriptions to the mix things become even more complicated. In fact, before they started using Littledata, over 80% of the subscription ecommerce stores we audited this year couldn't differentiate between one-off purchases and recurring billing in Google Analytics! We built Littledata from the ground up with server-side tracking to enable accurate data at every customer touch point, including repeat purchases and refunds. Say goodbye to siloed data and hello to a unified, accurate data stream. Subscription tracking Littledata's Smartrr integration captures one-off purchases, first-time subscriptions, and recurring orders — and links those back with marketing channels and browsing behavior. It's a plug-and-play solution: Make Shopify revenue and Smartrr revenue match what you see in Google AnalyticsSay goodbye to "Direct" traffic in GA, and know where visitors are coming fromSee accurate conversion rates for first-time subscriptions vs. other kinds of ordersSend Smartrr subscriptions datato Facebook Ads via the Facebook Conversions API (beta) Learn more about how the connection works to see the full scope of its benefits. We support headless setups, multi-currency sales, and anything else you might be doing! Tip: Not sure where to start? Book a demo and we'll audit your analytics setup and answer all your data questions Customer lifetime value (LTV) Smartrr helps you delight your subscribers and turn them into loyal brand advocates. Littledata is here to help you make data-driven decisions to keep those subscribers delighted over the years — and to find more high-value customers where they already like to spend time. Littledata sends complete LTV data as a custom dimension in Google Analytics or a property in Segment. We capture both purchase count and total customer lifetime value so you can analyze any way you see fit. There are many uses for this data, depending on your business model and growth plans: Understanding your average customer lifetime valueImproving return on ad spend (ROAS) by analyzing LTV by marketing channelAnalyzing LTV by subscription product or product groupBuilding LTV cohorts for advertising and remarketing (email, social, PPC) Our research has found that the most important subscription ecommerce metrics are AOV, LTV, and churn. But what good are those metrics if you can't connect them with the original marketing channel or customer touch point? Learn more in our ultimate guide to subscription analytics.

by Ari
2021-12-02

Is your data haunted? [Guide]

For ecommerce stores, nothing is scarier than wasting money and effort following decisions made using bad data. But, integrating Google Analytics with Shopify or BigCommerce doesn't have to be a horror story. Our Halloween-themed Google Analytics guide will help you banish the phantoms in your data and get 100% accurate analytics for your store. Don't let your data keep you up at night The best way to combat inaccurate and rotten data is to arm yourself with the right knowledge and tools.  In this Google Analytics guide, we share: How to fix your ecommerce trackingThe top tools to help you do itThe most common issues we see in analytics setupsHow to start making data-driven decisions for your store That includes our Google Analytics 101 guide which covers everything from why Shopify Analytics doesn't match Google Analytics to how to calculate customer LTV and track subscriptions in the Shopify checkout. See the full guide>>> Get the checklist to banish demons from your data While ecommerce analytics can seem a scary challenge at first, remember that many Shopify stores have been in your shoes before. The checklist in our guide will show you what ghouls stores most often find lurking in their data so you can rid them from your tracking and trust that you're using truly accurate analytics. Ready to claw the inaccuracies from your data? Get the full guide.

by Greg
2021-10-29

Shopify Analytics: Everything You Need to Know

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 doesDiscuss Shopify Analytics’ limitationsShare tools that can give you deep, accurate data and drive revenueShow 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. Shopify Analytics' overview dashboard gives you a snapshot of your store's high-level metrics. 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. This includes: Comparing the value of your current sales to a previous date rangeTracking how many sales you receive from a variety of marketing channelsGenerating your AOVTracking 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. Sales Metrics 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. Customer Metrics 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. Shopify Analytics' behavior reports help you drill down into how key metrics have changed over time. 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. These include: Cross-domain tracking being setup incorrectlyServer-side tracking is missingSales 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.[/tip] 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 preferencesUsing 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.[/tip] 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. ReCharge 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. Segment 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 dataa complete snapshot of the entire customer journeyadvanced 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.

by Greg
2021-09-14

Is it possible to track headless Shopify setups?

Headless commerce is not a new concept, but it's an increasingly popular solution. As larger brands continue to move to streamlined ecommerce checkouts such as Shopify and BigCommerce, they look to headless setups as a way to maintain speed or flexibility. An increasing number of those bigger DTC brands are going headless, whether that means a collection of landing pages leading directly to a Shopify checkout, or a full-on headless architecture implementation with a dynamic CMS. The question today is less whether you should consider headless in the first place (everyone is at least considering it), but more about your overall tech stack. When looking at the details of your stack (cost, functionality, maintenance, etc), it's important to consider headless pros and cons in general. But it's often even more useful to highlight specific use cases. We've previously written about how it's now possible to maintain your favorite Shopify Plus tech stack with a headless Shopify architecture. But what about your data stack? Does headless mean that your analysts will be dealing with a snow storm of anonymous IDs? Are there sacrifices to data accuracy, such as marketing attribution for recurring orders? With the right tools and plug-ins, you can still capture the complete headless journey on your headless site. In this post we look at headless Shopify tracking from several different angles and share resources for further reading. Why headless? DTC brands with a headless Shopify Plus setup now include Inkbox, Rothy's, Verishop, Allbirds, Recess, and many more. So why do merchants go headless? Headless commerce overview from Shopify Plus The main reason is speed, or site speed to be precise. When built the right way, modern headless sites are insanely fast. Ballsy increased conversion rates by 28% after going headless, thanks to dramatically faster page load times. (The average Shopify site sees around 4 seconds to full page load). At the same time, as our agency partner We Make Websites has noted, "extreme performance" isn't for everybody. Sometimes it can be like "the difference between buying a BMW or Audi, versus buying a Ferrari". Additional reasons for going headless include flexibility of controlling and customizing the complete frontend (with a CMS or other content framework). Of course, there are also limitations. When it comes to headless Shopify sites specifically, some trade-offs are the need to maintain multiple technologies or platforms, and the fact that Shopify's Storefront API uses GraphQL (there's currently no REST API for Storefront). Without the right tools, the other limitation is data accuracy and completeness. That can include: Marketing channels (paid channels, organic social communities, SEO)Browsing behavior (landing pages, product lists, website, mobile apps)Sales data (checkout behavior; one-off, first-time and repeat purchases)Ecommerce data from additional checkout apps (subscriptions and upsell flows) Headless tracking in Google Analytics / GTM It's no secret that Shopify and GA need some help to play well together. For every 10,000 orders processed on Shopify, 1,200 go missing in Google Analytics. For your average headless site, the stats are even worse. By default, different customer interactions with your brand — ppc campaigns, product lists, adds-to-cart, checkouts, refunds, recurring orders and subscriptions, email campaigns — are often either not tracked at all or not linked to the original user or session. In that way, you can end up with siloed data in different apps and platforms. Or even worse, everything could show up as anonymous activity or "Direct" traffic, even for repeat purchases. This isn't Las Vegas; what happens in the checkout should definitely not stay in the checkout! We have solved this problem by extending Littledata's server-side tracking to stitch sessions together from the client-side events captured on headless frontends . . . which is a rather technical way of saying that our Google Analytics app for Shopify now tracks headless sites automatically, from browsing behavior through the checkout funnel and beyond (we even capture subscriptions such as ReCharge payments!) This guarantees accurate sales and marketing data for any headless Shopify site. Check out Littledata's headless demo to see how our headless Shopify tracking works for Google Analytics. Tip: Using Google Tag Manager? Read more about our GTM / Data Layer spec. Headless tracking in Segment As mentioned, we have offered server-side tracking for Shopify since the beginning, and automatically linked this with client-side events. Now this is available for any headless setup as well. In theory, it should be easy to send data from additional cloud sources to Segment. Each part of your headless frontend stack can just plug right in. But in practice this means manually adding a hodgepodge of client-side and server-side event tracking, and maintaining this as you scale. If you're using Segment as your CDP — or considering using Segment — rest assured that Littledata's headless tracking now fully supports Segment as a data destination. You can try to set this up yourself, but it's much easier (not to mention cheaper and more reliable) to just use our Shopify source for Segment to track your checkout. With Littledata, you can automatically send sales and marketing data from a headless Shopify site to your Segment workspace. We also recently added more flexibility around which fields to send as the userId for known customers. Check out our headless tracking demo to see how our headless Shopify tracking works for Segment. Tracking landing page builders Not every headless site is using a Content Management System (CMS). For those who do, Contentful is the most popular with straightforward headless Shopify builds. There are also "soft headless" sites that rely on a series of landing pages or similar flows, which then lead to the main Shopify site or even directly to the checkout. In the first case, where the landing pages are truly landing pages and lead to your main site, you can use the default settings in Littledata's Shopify app and generally do not need to take the headless install route. For cases where landing pages go directly to the checkout, see the headless tracking demo linked above. We also need to take landing pages seriously. It can actually be just as difficult to get complete marketing attribution or even to link sessions together and track the purchases customers make after landing on one of these pages. To solve this problem, Littledata's automated tracking now tracks landing pages as "additional apps" on top of our main Shopify connections for Segment and Google Analytics. As long as the Littledata script is loading on those landing pages, everything will link together automatically. We have tested this functionality with three of the most popular landing page builders for Shopify stores: Shogun PagesZipify Pages Gem Pages  Drop us a line if you have any questions about additional apps or special requests for landing page tracking. Preferred headless tech partner: Nacelle Our merchants looking for a complete headless Shopify solution often choose our tech partner Nacelle. Nacelle powers storefronts that stand out from the competition, offering headless website builds backed by a robust data stack. Focused on Progressive Web App (PWA) technology, they build lightning-fast, responsive sites for modern DTC brands. We've been working closely with Nacelle on tracking setup for some initial merchants (many brands you would recognize...) and are excited to now be able to offer headless tracking for any Nacelle customer. Read our shared ebook on going headlessExplore our headless tracking demoCheck out our NPM package for grabbing client IDs [or forward this to your developer!] Littledata's Nacelle tracking works automatically once you follow a few simple setup steps. Plus, the data can be sent to Segment, Google Analytics, or any connected data warehouse or reporting tool.

by Ari
2021-09-10

Try the top-rated Google Analytics app for Shopify stores

Get a 30-day free trial of Littledata for Google Analytics or Segment