Google Analytics is the most widely used analytics platform in the world, comprising more than 85% market share among sites using web analytics. That’s no surprise, as it offers a free, robust set of tools for analyzing a website’s performance.
Google has recently released an updated version of its popular tool – Google Analytics 4 (or GA4 for short) – that offers more comprehensive reports than its predecessor, Universal Analytics (UA). Google recommends that all sites upgrade to the new GA4 system as soon as possible, which will fully replace the older UA model on July 23, 2023.
In this post, we’ll cover the changes to expect with GA4 and how to prepare your e-commerce store for the upgrade.
What is Google Analytics 4, and What’s Changed from Universal Analytics?
Key changes and features of Google Analytics 4 are as follows:
- Prioritizes event-based data to better understand the full customer journey
- Collects and analyzes cross-platform data (website and apps) simultaneously
- More focused on user privacy with less reliance on cookies
- More predictive metrics that offer guidance without complex models
- Integrates directly into media platforms to help drive actions
A notable change in the new GA4 setup is a focus on event-based tracking. GA4 takes things a step beyond the old system by taking data from multiple platforms, including a store’s app and website, and combining them into a single property for a more comprehensive look at user behavior.
In the old version of analytics, users would need to create two separate properties for their store’s website and app. This combined integration helps online stores track user engagement over time, see the context of conversions, and better understand which channels impact one another.
You can also create multiple conversion goals with GA4, rather than the single conversion goal supported by UA Universal Analytics. For example, you may want to track conversions on two different pages—maybe one page leads shoppers to an email signup and another page leads them to an item purchase. With UA, you would need to create separate tracking codes for each page and then use them together in the same report. With GA4, however, you can create one tracking code that will measure both conversions (email signups and purchases) simultaneously.
Why Upgrade to GA4 Now?
Current users of Universal Analytics must take action no later than July 1, 2023, when Google will officially sunset its legacy version of Universal Analytics. While UA reports will still be available for an undefined period after July 1, 2023, users are encouraged to upgrade as soon as possible so they have enough time to understand the new functionality and preserve any comparable website data (e.g., month-over-month or year-over-year).
The predictive metrics of GA4 also work based on machine learning, so the earlier you can start tracking data on the new system, the greater the dataset to predict the future behavior of your customers.
Both old and new systems can run simultaneously, so you can keep Universal Analytics in place while you build out your Google Analytics 4 implementation. Once the grace period lapses, you’ll no longer be able to access past Universal Analytics data or reports in the Analytics interface.
How to Upgrade to GA4 on BigCommerce
Since Google Analytics 4 is not natively supported in BigCommerce yet, store owners will need to take additional steps to begin using the new system. Once the new GA4 property is created, you’ll need to create tags to send data from your website or apps to your Google Analytics account to benefit from all the event-tracking features.
Shop owners comfortable taking on the updates themselves can use this BigCommerce guide to get started. Google also offers this DIY guide, which includes instructions for those setting up an analytics account for the first time and those adding to a site with the classic UA system.
For those who prefer a do-it-for-me approach, reach out to our team to get set up with a professional installation.
Takeaways for E-Commerce Sellers
GA4 offers more comprehensive features than UA, which will be helpful for e-commerce sellers looking for greater insights into their website’s engagement. While it does take some time to learn how to use the new system, it will be worth the effort for those looking for a deeper understanding of their website traffic and customer activity.
Questions about the GA4 update, or how to integrate the new system in your BigCommerce store? Contact our team here or give us a call at 866-901-4650.
BigCommerce Help Center. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2022, from https://support.bigcommerce.com/s/article/Setting-Up-Google-Analytics?language=en_US#manual
Google. (n.d.). Ecommerce – analytics help. Google. Retrieved August 31, 2022, from https://support.google.com/analytics/topic/12270146?hl=en
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Google. (n.d.). [UA→GA4] send events to both your UA and GA4 properties – analytics help. Google. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/11091026?hl=en#zippy=%2Cin-this-article
Stewart, R. (n.d.). Why Upgrade to GA4 eCommerce Tracking BEFORE 2023. Exclusive Concepts. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://www.exclusiveconcepts.com/resources/why-upgrade-to-ga4-ecommerce-tracking-before-2023/
Usage statistics of traffic analysis tools for websites. W3Techs. (n.d.). Retrieved August 15, 2022, from https://w3techs.com/technologies/overview/traffic_analysis