In our rapidly changing world, it can be difficult to keep across the evolving ecommerce landscape, but more than ever with data breaches and consumer privacy concerns on the rise, brand custodians need to ensure they are on top of the latest developments. I hope to help in some way towards this knowledge building.

Universal Analytics (often referred to as UA or GA) is Google’s free analytics platform that enables businesses to learn about who is visiting their website, from the channels they are visiting from, the pages they are visiting, the efficiency of their media spend and the devices they’re using.

With the lion’s share of the web analytics market, ecommerce leaders are already using Universal Analytics in their day-to-day and should already be preparing for Google’s next-generation measurement solution, GA4, to replace UA as the source of truth.

GA4 is here… what now?

According to Google, GA4 is a new measurement platform designed for today’s internet – collecting both website and app data to better understand the customer journey, using event-based data instead of session-based, and includes behavioural modelling and privacy controls such as cookieless measurement.

From July 1, 2023, all standard UA properties will no longer process new data. This means if you haven’t implemented GA4 by now, you will not have comparison data available until 12 months after your implementation.

Unfortunately, there is no way to migrate UA data into GA4. You’re starting from scratch, and for most brands, this means an agency or 3rd party must be involved.

For brands on prominent ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce, native integrations for GA4 have been established and cover the standard ecommerce events they are accustomed to. However, in addition to losing out on comparison data, you’re leaving a lot of measurement on the table by not deploying a digital analytics infrastructure focused on conversion, that is bespoke to your business. I touch more on this below under “Measurement you’re missing.”

*Shopify & BigCommerce native event comparison

Why did Google do this to me?

To quote Google, “Google Analytics 4 is designed with privacy at its core to provide a better experience for both our customers and their users. It helps businesses meet evolving needs and user expectations, with more comprehensive and granular controls for data collection and usage. Importantly, Google Analytics 4 will also no longer store IP addresses. These solutions and controls are especially necessary in today’s international data privacy landscape, where users are increasingly expecting more privacy protections and control over their data.”

UA measurement was focused on independent sessions and more easily observable data from cookies. GA4 now allows us to measure across platforms and does not solely rely on cookies by using event-based data. GA4 also enables you to be compliant with upcoming (and stringent) privacy legislation in 2023.

If ecommerce teams are not proactive in leading the privacy policy conversation, legal teams will drive the conversation with ecommerce & marketing requirements secondary. Digital analytics need to be deployed in a compliant way while ensuring the required data is still available.

The measurement you’re missing.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Enhancing analytics measurement has previously meant outsourcing to agencies, and analytics maintenance is often not in the budget. Simply put, this has led to ecommerce businesses not utilising the suite of capabilities that exists in UA.

Moving forward, businesses will now be forced to implement additional data collection processes on their websites. This, however, enables more advanced measurement for your brand through GA4.

  • Can you currently measure homepage content effectiveness and relevance?
  • What menu and navigation options are users clicking?
  • What filters and sort options are your customers using?
  • Do your users read your product descriptions?
  • Based on the above, what paths are most likely to convert a customer?

GA4 also offers data-driven attribution to measure the impact of marketing across the customer journey, and machine learning to generate predictive insight about user behaviour to surface audiences likely to purchase or churn.

Previously only available to GA360 users (paying customers), GA4 integrates with BigQuery, a data warehouse that enables SQL-like queries to be run on large datasets. You can combine other datasets, such as your email marketing platform performance to create a full customer view.

What should I do next?

Brands and retailers should look to prioritise their digital health and measurement approach to ensure they:

  • Have a robust and custom digital analytics stack that focuses on improving attribution and measurement post IOS14 and 3rd party cookie depreciation.
  • Look for efficiencies to improve ROAS, reduce customer acquisition costs, and harden digital measurement stacks to prevent data leaks and ensure privacy compliance.

The Havas team recommends speaking to your agency partners now to future proof your measurement. In this rapidly changing landscape, enhanced analytics measurement is no longer a nice-to-have, but critical to success.

Brendon Peters is head of ecommerce for Havas Media.