Google Analytics 4 (GA4) For BigCommerce Advanced Setup Tips & Tricks
This is an updated version of our original March 2022 blog ‘How Google Analytics 4 Will Impact Your eCommerce Website’. Our previous blog contains more detailed information about GA4 that you may find helpful as a companion to this article.
Why The Switch From Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
We've all had it happen in the past. You speak with a friend about an obscure product they saw online. The next thing you know, your Instagram feed is filled with ads for that exact product.
Whether in this exact format or a variety of others, savvy tech users have come to understand that our electronic devices are tracking our behaviors in ways that we are often not aware of. These revelations have been met with rising privacy concerns in the United States and abroad. Platforms have had to reconfigure their services to meet the requirements of this newly well-informed populace.
Google's answer to concerned citizens in regards to their privacy is their latest website tracking and Analytics methodology; Google Analytics 4.
How is Google Analytics 4 Different from Universal Analytics?
To understand how Google Analytics better respects user privacy, it's critical to understand the data that it collects as well as how it manages the representation of that data.
Instead of using traditional cookies, which we all have experienced for years, Google Analytics 4 references IP address data that links a specific person and computer to their actions on a specific website. This means that in the near future, many websites will no longer ask for cookie consent when a visitor first visits a website. GA4 can fill in gaps where businesses currently aren’t able to understand their complete customer base because of users that opt out of cookie usage and data collection.
Universal Analytics was a sessions-based model where Google Analytics 4 is an events-based model. In simple terms, Universal Analytics would start recording with a session and associate actions to that session. Now, GA4 records each action a user takes as its own event. These events include visiting, scrolling, clicking, purchasing, and other actions that a user may take. Each of these actions is linked to the user’s IP. In many ways these data collection models produce similar results, but it is important to fully understand these differences for both reporting and troubleshooting.
What Are The Benefits of Google Analytics 4 for BigCommerce Merchants?
GA4 is designed to give marketers a better understanding of the customer journey across devices, channels, and pages. Marketers will be better equipped with the necessary data to understand the shoppers journey, end-to-end.
As a result of this new data collection method, the attribution models that Google Analytics 4 builds are different from that of Universal Analytics. UA used a last-click attribution model, whereas GA4 uses a cross-channel data-driven model by default. This means Google Analytics 4 will attribute events to across channels as they are touched throughout the customer's journey. Previously, Universal Analytics attributed a session to a single channel individually.
Setting Up Google Analytics 4 (GA4) on BigCommerce Using The Native Integration
The great news is that BigCommerce offers native functionality to integrate Google Analytics 4 with the eCommerce platform.
Merchants will do this by simply dropping their GA4 measurement ID into the dedicated space inside of Bigcommerce. This process is extremely similar to that of linking Universal Analytics with BigCommerce previously. There are seven default events from Google's recommended ecommerce events which will be automatically added to your Google analytics for account.
These events are:
- view_item list
To learn more about the native integration between BigCommerce and Google Analytics 4, please read BigCommerce’s official documentation on the subject.
This setup is enough to get your account off the ground and running smoothly. However, as eCommerce professionals our team is always looking for ways to improve upon existing processes.
Google Analytics 4 for BigCommerce Advanced Setup Tips & Tricks
The default setup and documentation by both BigCommerce and Google leave some questions unanswered, and some elements not set up for success. Below are some of the steps our team has determined are valuable for merchants to set up early in the GA4 process. Remember, every merchant site is different, and it will be important to understand the changes you are making to ensure they are the correct course of action for your business.
Starting on the Right Foot - Setup Assistant with BigCommerce
We recommend that merchants simultaneously open the Google Analytics 4 Setup Assistant in one tab while having the BigCommerce integration setup page open in a separate tab. While going through the setup process you will need to do the following:
- Connect your data stream which entails entering your measurement ID within the correct area inside of BigCommerce
- Ensure that you have enhanced measurement turned on
- In the tag settings you will need to list unwanted referrals by entering various payment gateways and other domains you don’t want to attribute event data to in GA4
- You will want to change the default setting for data retention from 2 months to 14 months to ensure user-level and event-level data is available for a longer period
Making these changes will ensure that tracking is as accurate as possible between BigCommerce and GA4 (Google Analytics 4).
Google Ads & GA4 for BigCommerce
There are additional steps that must be taken to get your new Google Analytics 4 property working correctly with your Google Ads account. To properly set up conversion tracking between your Google Ads account and your BigCommerce connected Google Analytics 4 account you will need to first do the following.
- Ensure that the GA4 purchase event is set as a conversion
- Mark any other events you want tracked as a conversion such as adding to cart. *This will allow you to bid for ads based on actions such as customers willing to add products to their cart
- Ensure that your GA4 account is properly connected
- Mark the newly imported GA4 conversion actions in Google Ads as primary and the UA conversion actions as secondary
- Wait for the conversion actions to process. This could take up to 30 days to get the most accurate picture of performance, but typically you will see data in less than a week
Capturing & Leveraging eCommerce Purchase Data Using Events Within The Data Layer
Leveraging purchase data in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) can be achieved by capturing ecommerce events through the data layer. This can aid in collecting information about user shopping behavior, quantifying popular products, and assessing the impact of promotions and product placement on revenue.
These events, on top of the default 7 provided by BigCommerce, revolve around the products and services sold. This can be represented as an array of items that can be added to ecommerce events. These items can include up to 27 custom parameters, along with the prescribed parameters, and up to 200 elements in the items array.
It's crucial to ensure that the currency is set when sending value (revenue) data for correct calculation of revenue metrics. Also, every ecommerce parameter that data is available for should be set, whether the parameter is optional or not. Debug mode is recommended for real-time event viewing and easier troubleshooting.
Leveraging more purchase data in GA4 involves capturing ecommerce events using the data layer, ensuring proper setup and parameter configuration. The goal is to gain a deeper understanding of user shopping behavior and make more informed decisions for product promotion and placement.
You can learn more on this subject from Google’s documentation.
And there you go, your Google Analytics 4 and Google Ads accounts are properly synced with your BigCommerce online store. We will work to continuously update this article as our team finds new and exciting ways to better leverage the features offered by Google Analytics 4.
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