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A Guide to GA4 (the New Google Analytics) for Online Sellers

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Google Analytics has changed several times throughout its lifespan, but perhaps never as starkly as the upcoming switch to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). The current iteration (Universal Analytics) will be retired on July 1, 2023. Here is everything online sellers need to know about GA4 and e-commerce. 

What is the Difference Between GA4 and UA for E-Commerce?

Across Google’s suite of tools, we frequently see minor updates that modestly change the platform’s features or functionality. However, this transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 is a top-to-bottom service change. These two platforms are fundamentally different—most notably in their data models. 

  • Universal Analytics: UA data is triggered by certain “hit types.” When a user “hits” your site (such as with a page view, social media click, or e-commerce transaction), Google Analytics collects the data from that interaction and categorizes it by the hit type. 
  • Google Analytics 4: GA4 data is event-based. When an event is triggered in GA4, the platform will collect, store, and process the data without consideration for labels, categories, or actions. 

The new GA4 data model also presents a shift away from the traditional data funnel. Universal Analytics was designed to track and measure e-commerce success by the number of new customers or conversions you acquire. However, up to 65% of a company’s revenue comes from previous customers, according to statistics from Review 42

With the new data collection model in Google Analytics 4, e-commerce businesses can better understand a customer’s journey with data streams. In addition to your work in attracting new customers, this platform will help measure your success in attracting repeat customers and building your overall revenue. 

Pros of GA4 for E-Commerce

Data Privacy + Accurate Tracking

New laws, social media regulations, and tech manufacturers are moving to protect data privacy. With Universal Analytics, accurate tracking came at the expense of user privacy (and vice-versa). However, GA4 is the best of both worlds—providing more accurate, granular data with added privacy protection for users. 

Monetization vs. Conversions

Many creators dive into e-commerce with the goal of monetization in mind. Google Analytics 4 is here to help. In a win for e-commerce businesses, Google Analytics conversion reporting translates to monetization reporting in GA4. Rather than just tracking valuable actions, this feature can track and report your revenue, helping you understand and maximize your e-commerce income. 

Improved User Experience and Data Accuracy

Naturally, it might take some time to learn the ropes and warm up to GA4 (especially in this early development stage). However, GA4 is expected to be better than Universal Analytics long term. The new model is intended to be easier for businesses to use, better for customers (with added privacy control + protection), and more accurate & granular in the data it provides. 

Cons of GA4 for E-Commerce

Some Groundwork is Required

Because the fundamental data model is different in GA4, users must manually migrate their data collection to this new platform. For users who are just getting the hang of Universal Analytics or have already done the groundwork on their UA property—learning and implementing a new platform might feel like a chore. Thankfully, Google has tons of resources to help you along the way.

Currently, Google encourages e-commerce sites to have both UA and GA4 tracking in place. While building and implementing your Google Analytics 4 property, you should leave your Universal Analytics property and implementation in place (for now)

To get started, log into your account (analytics.google.com) and follow Google’s on-screen guidance to create a GA4 property. To track your sales in GA4, you will need to create and implement duplicate events using the new GA4 event names and parameters. You can find Google’s guide to migrating e-commerce data collection to GA4 here

The Unpredictable Future of E-Commerce Tracking Features

The e-commerce tracking features in Universal Analytics have been continuously improving over the last 10 years. The latest enhanced tracking collects more data than ever before and allows users to view this data through multiple lenses with multifaceted reporting options. 

Meanwhile, UA4 e-commerce tracking features and capabilities are still in the development stage. This leaves a lot of questions for e-commerce business owners, such as:

  • Which e-commerce features will be included in GA4?
  • When will GA4 e-commerce features be finalized?
  • How challenging will it be to learn and implement these new e-commerce tracking capabilities?

Most likely, Google will either have features comparable to those of UA fully implemented by the July 2023 cut-off date or extend the cut-off date. However, there is no way to predict with certainty how this will play out. The professionals at SamCart will continue monitoring Google’s roll-out of GA4 e-commerce features and keep our community posted. 

The E-Commerce Platform Built for Creators: SamCart

SamCart helps creators, influencers, and online sellers succeed in the world of e-commerce. Our platform makes it easy to track your success with Google Analytics. You can use SamCart to sell almost anything, including digital products, physical products, online courses, memberships, subscriptions, and services. We invite you to watch our demo for more insight or try SamCart for free to get started today.

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