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Making the Move from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 on Shopify

Following Google’s announcement that it will be sunsetting Universal Analytics in 2023, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about the new go-to solution, Google Analytics 4. Find out when you need to transition by, how you can do it whilst minimising risk, and how Swanky can help.

Written By
Hannah Smiddy

It’s official – Google will be sunsetting Universal Analytics (UA) in the summer of 2023. This is going to have a significant impact on all ecommerce businesses which are currently using a UA property (which is likely the case if you created your property before 14th October 2020), and for Shopify stores in particular.

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will become the go-to analytics solution, leveraging a completely revamped data model to “address evolving measurement standards and help businesses succeed”.

In this article we’ve rounded up:

  1. The key deadlines to be aware of and what the sunsetting of UA means for brands;
  2. Why Google is making these changes;
  3. How you can mitigate against the risks involved; and
  4. How Swanky can help you implement and get the most out of GA4.

Deadlines and what you need to know

Current tracking of standard UA properties will stop on 1st July 2023. Note that processing of UA 360 properties will end three months later, in October 2023.

All new tracking will then be done under GA4 properties, although users will have access to previously processed UA data for at least six months.

Google is yet to announce exactly when, but at some point beyond this, UA data will no longer be available to report on.

We are recommending that all ecommerce retailers make the switch to GA4 as soon as possible, in order to build the necessary historical data before UA stops processing new hits.

For Shopify store owners, it’s worth noting that almost all Shopify stores utilise a solution provided by Shopify to ensure that tracking is implemented – a solution that only supports tracking under UA properties and isn’t currently compatible with GA4.

Until Shopify rolls out a native solution, store owners will need to decide on and develop their own tracking implementation. There are a range of solutions available, which we discuss below, but in the meantime there are various risks which require careful consideration.

Why is this happening?

According to Google, time is up for UA and the model it was built on:

“Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions and more easily observable data from cookies. This measurement methodology is quickly becoming obsolete.”

The event-based measurement model of GA4, on the other hand, is built for the future. It can operate across multiple platforms, doesn’t exclusively rely on cookies, and prioritises user privacy – ultimately delivering a modern analytics experience to help businesses navigate new challenges.

“Google Analytics 4 has the flexibility to measure many different kinds of data, delivering a strong analytics experience that’s designed for the future. It allows businesses to see unified user journeys across their websites and apps, use Google’s machine learning technology to surface and predict new insights, and most importantly, it’s built to keep up with a changing ecosystem.”

Here are a few highlights of GA4 and how it can support in the delivery of your key objectives:

  • Visibility and understanding across touchpoints, with a complete view of the customer journey that isn’t fragmented by platform or organised into independent sessions.
  • Understanding of how your marketing activities collectively influence your conversions (no more last-click-attribution!).
  • Sophisticated predictive insights thanks to advanced machine learning.
  • Manage and minimise the collection of user-level data, in line with business and compliance requirements, and all whilst preserving key measurement functionality.
  • Expanded integrations with other Google products.

What are the risks and how can they be mitigated?

Inability to migrate data

There is no method for migrating data between UA and GA4 with Google Analytics, which presents the risk of losing years’ worth of data.

This can only be mitigated by using external analytics tools, like the Swanky Dashboard, available as part of our Data & Analytics service offering.

Not having enough data recorded by July 2023

Waiting until closer to the UA sunset date to make the switch to GA4 is another risk you should be aware of. It will mean there’s no historical data available within the new GA4 property, which poses problems when it comes to conducting year-on-year analysis and creating audiences, for example.

You can avoid this problem by moving to GA4 as soon as possible.

Lack of knowledge and community knowledge

GA4 has a fundamentally different data model to UA that will take time to get used to. We’d recommend making the switch as soon as you can, in order to gain experience with GA4 and develop an understanding of how event tracking works and what the benefits of this new solution are.

Swanky has a dedicated analytics team that can provide advice and consultancy – find out more about how we can help below.

How we can help your Shopify site

So, we know what Google’s plan is, why it’s happening and how you can mitigate against the risks involved. But what next?

We’ve designed three different solutions to help Shopify merchants prepare for a future on GA4:

#1 Basic implementation (from £500 + VAT)

  • Adds the minimum level of tracking on-site through a site tag and conversion snippet on your order confirmation page.
  • Gives visibility of traffic acquisition and basic user behaviour.
  • Purchase events are tracked, allowing for basic conversion rate visibility.
  • Swanky will set up and configure the GA4 property.

#2 Advanced implementation (from £1,500 + VAT)

  • A comprehensive setup that tracks relevant recommended events suggested by Google.
  • This would give a complete picture of on-site behaviour, including collection page tracking, product clicks, product views, add to carts, checkout flow (only for Shopify Plus stores with access to checkout.liquid), transactions etc.
  • In addition, improved user tracking of “logged in” users, which allows clients to attribute an on-site interaction with a customer record in Shopify.
  • This mirrors the current level of tracking available on the old GA3 properties.

#3 Full GA4 consultancy (from £5,000 + VAT)

  • Includes everything detailed in #1 and #2 above.
  • Our experts will provide training and guidance on how to transition and best utilise the new tools/reports offered in GA4.
  • Guidance on how to create Audiences and Advanced Customer Segments which are automatically synced to other Google products (Google Optimise, Google Ads).
  • Advice on the additional benefits of linked products (Google Merchant Centre, Google Optimise, Google Ads).

Future-proof your analytics data with Swanky

To find out more about the solutions we can offer as you move from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, reach out to our team of Shopify Plus Experts today.

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