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28 Jun 2023

Best practices for using Google Analytics 4 to optimize your eCommerce business

Best practices for using Google Analytics 4 to optimize your eCommerce business

In the age of user privacy and the imminent disappearance of cookies, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is positioned as an advanced solution that meets today’s challenges. As the latest version of Universal Analytics (UA), GA4 is specifically designed to address user privacy concerns, and features an innovative data collection model. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the best practices for using Google Analytics 4 to optimize your eCommerce site. Whether you’re looking to improve your conversion rate, understand your customers’ journeys or adjust your marketing strategy, GA4 offers advanced features that will guide you in your decision.

On July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics will stop collecting data. From this date, it will still be possible to access your Universal Analytics reports for a while, but the new data will be transferred to Google Analytics 4 properties. Processing of Universal Analytics 360 properties will be extended until July 1, 2024. In the coming months, Google will announce when Universal Analytics data will no longer be accessible.

The main differences between UA and GA4

Data model

  • GA4 : Event-based data model (focus on users)
  • UA :  Session-based data model (focus on sessions)

Data collection model

  • GA4 : Unique Google user IDs and signals. Does not track IP addresses
  • UA : Cookies and IP address tracking

Automations

  • GA4 : Machine learning
  • UA : Limited automation

Conversions

  • GA4 : Lists all occurrences of the conversion event
  • UA : Conversion per session for each objective

Sessions

  • GA4 : Sessions are not restarted at midnight or when new campaign parameters are encountered
  • UA : If the user is on the website at midnight, a new session is launched. If a user enters new campaign parameters while on the website, a new session will be launched

Users

  • GA4 : GA4 would be able to recognize a user switching from their phone to their computer since the Google Analytics 4 property can use the User-ID
  • UA : The Universal Analytics property uses the Client-ID and does not recognize a user who uses a different device

Best practices

1. Remove Google universal analytics tags from your website

It’s important to remove the old g.tags to make way for the new ones. If you’re using a connector on your eCommerce platform, take care not to make a double integration of GA4. 

For example, if you’re using the Shopify platform for your online store, we recommend using Google’s native connector on Shopify and removing any Google tags that may be present in the checkout’s Additional scripts or the online store’s liquid.theme.

 

2. Adjusting GA4 settings

There are a number of settings to adjust when you first log on to GA4. All these adjustments are made in the “Administration” tab. 

  • Adjust the property’s time zone to match that of your eCommerce store;
  • Adjust the currency to match that of your eCommerce store;
  • Enable Google Signals, which are essential for collecting as much data as possible (more information);
  • Enable the collection of precise data on device and geographic zone (more information);
  • Define conversion accounting method (more information);
  • Check that data retention is set to 14 months (more information).

 

3. Data retention 

Unlike Universal Analytics, Google Analytics only retains historical data for 14 months. This means you won’t be able to compare data sets beyond a year-on-year comparison. There are two default data retention settings: 2 months or 14 months.

Two months is the retention period automatically applied to age, gender and interest data. This retention period applies to customized reports, also known as “Explorations”. For other types of data, you can go beyond this threshold. Fortunately, you can always import and store older historical data using a data warehousing solution.

4. Make sure the migration has been carried out correctly

A good way to make sure the migration has gone smoothly is to compare the data collected between UA and GA4 between now and July 1ᵉʳ. Make sure that conversions and sales on GA4 roughly match those on UA. It is still possible that there is a difference in user statistics, since there is a difference in tracking methods. Universal Analytics uses a session-based data model to collect user data. GA4, on the other hand, uses an event-based data model, in which every user interaction is recorded as an event and property to measure users and sessions, offering greater flexibility and personalization options. GA4 enables more flexible and granular data collection, as it can track user interactions across multiple devices and platforms.

 

5. Building custom reports

GA4 offers a better understanding of user journeys thanks to the introduction of event flow functionality. This makes it easy to track and visualize the sequence of a user’s actions, from the first interactions on the website through to conversion. GA4 offers new advanced analysis functionalities such as predictive analysis, attribution funnel analysis, customer lifecycle analysis and more. These features offer a deeper insight into user behavior, enabling more informed decision-making.

With the exploration tab, you can create the report you want. At Novatize, we use this option, among others, to create user journeys, to gain insights over a given period. It’s also the ideal tool for troubleshooting. 

6. Troubleshooting with a custom report

To check that GA4 is capturing your online store’s transactions, get the transaction list from Google Analytics.

In GA4, the way to do this is to create a new drill-down report with transaction IDs and purchase revenues:

  • You can create an explorer report by going to Explorer > Choose a blank template;
  • To find the transaction number list, click on the plus icon (+) next to the “Dimensions” option. This will open the complete list of measurements you can use in GA4 reports. Find the transaction number and import it into the table;
  • Another dimension to add to the report is total revenue. Go to the icon closer to the “Metrics” option, search for “Total Income” and import it into the table;
  • Now drag the transaction number to the “Lines” section and the “Total Income” option to the area inside the “Values” section;
  • You’ll see a list of transactions captured by Google Analytics. Select a date range of interest (to increase the sample size). If you plan to check 500 transactions, select to display 500;
  • You can now compare these transactions with those of your website.

In conclusion, the use of Google Analytics 4 offers numerous optimization opportunities for e-commerce sites. With its innovative, event-driven data collection model, GA4 addresses growing concerns about user privacy and the disappearance of cookies. By following best practices, eCommerce merchants can ensure that their data is collected accurately and reliably.

Thanks to GA4’s flexibility and advanced functionality, eCommerce merchants can gain a better understanding of the user journey, enabling them to make informed decisions on conversion, marketing strategy and site optimization. Customized report building and the use of data mining provide in-depth insight into user behavior, making it easier to troubleshoot and identify opportunities for improvement.

Learn more about eCommerce trends to watch in 2023

It’s important to note that GA4 stores historical data for a maximum of 14 months, which limits long-term comparisons. However, it is possible to export and store historical data beyond this period using external data warehousing solutions.

In order to optimize your eCommerce performance, our team offers you 5 ways to improve for the high season.

Google Analytics 4 introduces a powerful set of tools for optimizing eCommerce sites. By implementing best practices and exploring GA4’s advanced features, site owners can improve their performance, understand user journeys and adapt their strategies to stay competitive in an ever-changing environment.

Do you have any questions, or would you like support in ensuring the success of your eCommerce business? Contact one of our eCommerce specialists today!

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