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The history of web analytics

GA4 Explained For E-commerce Business Owners

GA4 Explained For E-commerce Business Owners

The history of web analytics shows the rapidly evolving nature of the field. The first analytics solutions appeared just three years after the birth of the internet. This included hit counters, a simple code used to display the number of page views and log analysis, and early software that helped interpret server logs. Hit counters were simple to use without expertise, and advanced options allowed businesses to distinguish humans from bots. Log analysis was more complex than simple hit counters and could help identify more traffic sources

The history of web analytics

Google Analytics is a powerful marketing tool for insights that will help you market better to your target audience. Approximately 28 million active websites use Google Analytics. Google Analytics emerged in 2005 when it acquired Urchin, a top analytics provider working with major web hosts and 1 in 5 Fortune 500 companies. Google Analytics is a hosted analytics solution heavily focused on quantitative data. Their analytics ties directly with Google’s web marketing offerings, providing in-depth tag-based data. Universal Analytics was introduced by Google in 2012, changing the web analytics landscape. Universal Analytics offered offline behavior monitoring, demographics, and richer customer data.

However, from 1st July 2023, Universal Analytics (the standard Google Analytics platform) will stop processing hits. So, you’ll be able to see your Universal Analytics reports for a while after 1st July 2023. From then on, Google Analytics 4 will be your web analytics platform of choice if you wish to stay within the Google ecosystem.

Google Analytics 4

Although it’s still a work in progress, Google Analytics 4 brings many changes from the Universal Analytics platform. As a result, your e-commerce business can benefit from some new key features.

  1. You Can Measure Users More Accurately

    • Alongside not losing data when people refuse cookies, GA4’s event-based model enables it to combine data from across devices, giving you much more complete oversight of your typical user journey. 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 beneficial for e-commerce businesses as you’ll better understand how users discover your brand, how they experience your site, and where they convert so that you can decide your marketing budget accordingly 

  2. You Can Gain Increased Access To Insights

  3. In GA4, you’ll have more data and features at your disposal to make informed decisions about your e-commerce 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. It lets you track and visualize specific data most important to your e-commerce site

    • Attribution: GA4 provides enhanced attribution capabilities, including a new Conversion paths report and property-level attribution modeling that offer more insight and actionability to e-commerce sites

  4. You Can Predict Customer Behavior with New Metrics

    • With GA4, you can access predictive metrics that combine machine learning ability with structured event data to predict your consumers’ behavior and give you insights. The insights (listed below) can help you anticipate customer behavior and make changes to your e-commerce site accordingly:

    • Purchase probability: Predicts which users are most likely to convert in-app or online within the next seven days

    • Churn probability: Analyze which users are most likely to churn after disengaging from your website and/or app

    • Revenue prediction: Assesses e-commerce conversion rates or the income that generates from all conversion purchases among active users over the next 28 days

  5. You Can Export Raw Collection Data to BigQuery

  6. If you want to perform more detailed research and analysis on your data outside Google Analytics, GA4 allows everyone to export their data to BigQuery. All users can now:

    • Combine your GA data with data from other sources to provide a much richer view of your audience

    • Easily visualize your data in tools such as Tableau and PowerBI – making telling the story behind your data a much simpler process

    • Leverage your GA data as input for machine learning models

    Alongside this, exporting to BigQuery enables much more advanced analysis of your data. If you have the capabilities, this functionality could be a game-changer for understanding your website users and taking your data-driven campaigns to the next level


Implement eCommerce Tracking in Google Analytics 4

Implement eCommerce Tracking

Implementing eCommerce tracking is a must if you’re selling products online. This will provide you with much more detailed insights into your performance. Not to mention playing a key role in your decision-making process.

The names of some eCommerce event parameters have changed as a part of the change. When you migrate from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, Google recommends you

  • Leave your UA eCommerce implementation unchanged

  • Create duplicate events for your GA4 property, using the correct event names and parameters

These steps will ensure everything is in the best place to run well for a long time. You’ll have two independent implementations operating side-by-side, doing slightly different things. Beware! Copying your UA implementation over to GA4 will leave your reports incomplete and cause issues later.

To migrate your GA4 accounts on your own, check out the following helpful resources on reviewing and setting up your GA4 account:

Introduction to Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) Setup with Google Tag Manager


Will Google Analytics 4 Still Be Free?

Yes. Google says, “Google Analytics has always offered a free version to help businesses of all sizes and stages better analyze and improve their websites and apps. This mission hasn’t changed.”

According to W3Techs, GA is installed on over half of all internet websites. This is primarily due to the price; Google Analytics has an amazingly robust free version. There is also a paid version available, but the core functionality of the paid vs. free version is essentially the same (the paid version allows for more pageview processing). Good news. Still can’t beat the price! 

Google Analytics 4 is on track to be more powerful than Universal Analytics and provide more relevant data about why users are on your site and/or app. It allows you to combine the data from multiple data streams into one property and more accurately attribute actions to users across devices. While GA4 won’t give you all this data immediately, early implementation will help you take advantage of the enhanced experience and data sooner rather than later. We encourage all site owners to implement GA4 on their sites and apps as soon as possible.

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