GA4 offers several enhancements over Universal Analytics (UA), its predecessor. From a more comprehensive view of customer interactions to improved predictive analytics, GA4 is setting the standard for data analytics in the e-commerce landscape. However, making the transition to GA4 can be a daunting prospect for many businesses. This guide provides a practical step-by-step approach to implementing GA4 in your e-commerce business.
Google Analytics 4, also known as GA4, is the latest version of Google's popular web analytics service, released in October 2020. As a significant update from the previous version, Universal Analytics, GA4 was built to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how users interact with your websites or apps.
GA4 is designed around an event-based measurement model, which marks a shift from the session page-view model of Universal Analytics. Essentially, every interaction that a user has with your site, whether it's viewing a page, clicking a button, or completing a transaction, is logged as an 'event'. This allows for more granular, detailed tracking of user behaviour.
Furthermore, GA4 provides the ability to track users across platforms, combining data from both your website and mobile app into a single, unified report. It also introduces improved predictive capabilities, machine learning-driven insights, and more flexible reporting—enabling businesses to better understand their customers' journey and optimise their marketing efforts accordingly.
Let’s get started
Step 1: create a GA4 property alongside your UA property
Before diving head-first into GA4, it's a good idea to set up your GA4 property - or check that it has already been set up by whoever manages your analytics. GA4 officially took over from Universal Analytics on July 1st, and Google has automatically transitioned most UA accounts through the GA4, but minimally.
Step 2: configure your data streams
GA4 collects data through data streams, which can be websites, apps, or connected TVs. For an e-commerce business, you'll want to set up a web data stream. You can do this by navigating to the 'Data Streams' tab in the property settings and clicking on 'Add Stream'.
Step 3: define your key events
GA4 focuses on event-based tracking, which is different from the page view-based tracking of UA. Events in GA4 can be anything from page views to button clicks to purchases. As an e-commerce business, you'll want to define events that are important to your business, like 'add_to_cart' and 'purchase'. You can do this by going to the 'Events' tab in your GA4 property.
Step 4: set up conversions
In GA4, any event can be marked as a conversion. This is a crucial step because conversions are what you'll likely be using to measure your business's success. For e-commerce businesses, typical conversions could be when a user completes a purchase, signs up for a newsletter, or submits a contact form.
Step 5: configure your e-commerce reporting
To make full use of GA4's e-commerce capabilities, you'll need to enable e-commerce reporting in your GA4 property. This involves adding a few extra pieces of code to your website to track e-commerce-specific events like 'view_item', 'add_to_cart', and 'purchase'.
Step 6: familiarise yourself with the new reports
GA4 offers a new set of reports, including the Life Cycle report, which offers insights into acquisition, engagement, monetisation, and retention. You can also use the explorations feature to create custom reports and comparisons, like a funnel analysis to look closer at your website’s user journeys. Spend some time familiarising yourself with these reports and how they can provide valuable insights into your business' performance.
Step 7: continue to review and refine
The world of analytics is constantly evolving, and GA4 is no exception. Keep exploring its features, refining your events and conversions, and adjusting your strategies based on the insights you gain.
Transitioning to GA4 is an exciting step forward for any e-commerce business. With its powerful capabilities and advanced features, GA4 provides a wealth of data that can help e-commerce businesses better understand their customers and drive business growth. By following this step-by-step guide, you can smoothly transition to GA4 and start leveraging its potential for your e-commerce business.