Earlier this spring, Google announced that its flagship analytics platform, Google Analytics, will be transitioning from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Beginning July of 2023, UA properties will no longer process new data.
If you have an ecommerce site, you need to prepare for this change — and fast. More specifically, if you want access to year-over-year data on GA4, you’ll need to migrate your accounts by July 1, 2023.
In this guide, I’ll help you get started by explaining:
- How Google Analytics 4 is different from Universal Analytics
- What this change means for your ecommerce site
- And which three migration mistakes you need to avoid
Since its launch, GA4 has been undergoing modifications and updates, which will likely continue until the UA deadline next summer.
Because there are a few learning curves with GA4, now is the time to migrate and audit your accounts. This will give your business enough time to set things in motion and ensure you’re tracking correctly before UA closes down.
Watch the video: Intro to Google Analytics 4: What Your Business Needs to Know
As Inflow has been prepping our clients for this migration, we’ve focused on a few of the biggest changes to expect:
1. Measures Users More Accurately
Whereas UA largely measures by sessions and page views, GA4 focuses more on measuring users across devices and channels.
This means your tracking will be more accurate; you’ll be able to view how users interact with your site not just in one sitting but also over time and via different devices. This update is particularly helpful for ecommerce brands, which often want to observe how users interact with their website(s) during different seasons and special events.
By seeing user data instead of sessions, you can home in on what’s working for you and what’s not — in turn better informing your business strategy.
2. Increased Access to Insights
In GA4, you’ll have more data and features at your disposal to make informed decisions about your ecommerce site, including:
- Unsampled data: According to Google, GA4 allows website owners to request unsampled data for creating explorations. These include up to 15 billion events and can reveal insights not readily available in standard explorations.
- Custom reporting: With GA4, you can easily create custom reports with the help of its report builder. This permits you to track and visualize specific data most important to your ecommerce site.
- Machine learning: A core feature of GA4, machine learning facilitates the automatic surfacing of insights you can act upon.
- Attribution: GA4 provides enhanced attribution capabilities, including a new Conversion paths report and property-level attribution modeling that offer more insight and actionability to ecommerce sites.
3. Predicts Customer Behavior with New Metrics
GA4 also allows you to access predictive metrics based on machine learning.
These insights (listed below) can help you anticipate customer behavior and make changes to your ecommerce site accordingly:
- Purchase probability: Predicts which users are most likely to convert in-app or online within the next seven days
- Churn probability: Analyzes which users are most likely to churn after disengaging from your website and/or app
- Revenue prediction: Assesses ecommerce conversion rates or the income that will be generated from all conversion purchases among active users over the next 28 days
4. Limited Reporting Capabilities
Unlike UA, GA4 doesn’t have “out of the box” reporting templates and options quite yet. Everything still needs to be customized and created through a multi-step process.
The platform also limits data retention to 14 months, so you’ll need to connect with BigQuery data warehousing and data stream for long-term reporting analysis.
The good news? Once you get used to the interface and set up your account, you’ll appreciate that GA4’s SEO analytics and reporting capabilities are much more powerful than UA.
It’s highly recommended that your ecommerce brand migrate your accounts as quickly as possible to retain year-over-year data and confirm proper account setup. But don’t let your rush to transition introduce errors into your process.
To ensure your data is accurate and actionable, avoid these common mistakes ecommerce businesses make when using Google Analytics 4:
1. Turning Off UA Tracking
Just because your brand is transitioning to Google Analytics 4 doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on Universal Analytics quite yet. For posterity’s sake, we recommend continuing to track your data through UA until its end next summer.
Given the current limitations in GA4, parallel tracking with both platforms will allow you the fullest data possible within the next year. It also serves as a backup in case your initial migration doesn’t go well.
Continue collecting your data through UA as you evaluate your GA4 setup, and then migrate the rest of your stack when you’re ready.
2. Not Linking BigQuery
BigQuery’s data warehousing capabilities used to only be available to GA360 customers, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. But with the data retention limitations in GA4, that has now changed.
Today, you can start your own data warehouse to get around GA4’s data retention limitations practically for free.
Again, the earlier you set up this capability, the more data you’ll have at your disposal in the future. Forget to set it up, and you’ll be severely limited when looking back on your historical data.
3. Not Using “Recommended” Event Names and Parameters
As mentioned above, GA4 still has a long way to go in terms of reporting. However, by using recommended event names and parameters, you can “unlock” expanded reports and features in the platform.
For example, by labeling your ecommerce transaction events as “purchases,” you’ll enable the monetization and ecommerce reporting in GA4 — crucial to tracking your online business’s growth.
Create Your GA4 Plan Now
If you haven’t started migrating your ecommerce site to GA4 yet, you’re working on a pretty tight timeline — but it’s imperative that you be ready when UA takes a bow in July 2023.
To migrate your GA4 accounts on your own, check out the following helpful resources on reviewing and setting up your GA4 account:
We also recommend reaching out to your ecommerce digital marketing agency or web development team for assistance. They may be able to help you start or complete your migration process by this summer’s upcoming deadline.
Entrepreneur and digital marketer Mike Belasco has been the founder and CEO of eCommerce digital marketing agency Inflow since 2007. His background as a web developer and SEO expert built an agency that has worked with major brands like Amazon, Overstock.com, Dish Network and many more. Today he leads a team of more than 25 PPC, SEO and conversion optimization specialists as a boutique, fully remote ecommerce marketing agency.