Setting up a Shopify e-commerce store and promoting it online is a piece of cake with social media and the right tools at hand. However, taking your store sales to the next level requires data analytics to derive valuable and actionable insights from your data. Using this intelligence can help you become incredibly profitable and increase margins with the smallest of changes to your campaigns and websites. And Google Analytics is the most integral part of your marketing strategy. Once you integrate Google Analytics with your Shopify store, you will be able to make sense of your customer’s journey and experience with your brand.

Most importantly, you will be able to craft the narrative keeping your individual customer’s needs at the core, which will most likely have a lasting effect on your sales. In order to do that, you need to set up google analytics to track the right kind of data, make sense of the google analytics data and use the reports make the necessary amendments on the fly.

So, let’s get right into what we’ll be discussing today:

  1. What is Google Analytics?
  2. Integrating and using Google Analytics with Shopify
  3. Understanding the Basics of Google Analytics for Shopify
  4. Google Analytics for E-commerce – Best Practices
  5. Advanced Analytics for E-commerce


What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is free tool that helps you understand the performance of your e-commerce shop. Once set up, it gives you data about where you are receiving all your traffic from, what is the demographic of the people landing on your sites, what is their behavior, even until the point of sales and revenue generated from each customer, in a variety of bars, graphs and charts. While this data is great for all e-commerce stores, it is even better for drop-shippers because they get a lot of valuable insights about their customers from Google Analytics, especially when it is used in conjunction with Shopify Analytics. Both together provide a very holistic view of your e-commerce customers, enabling you to create a more personalized (for your customers) and profitable (for you) experience.

The various categories of reports are divided into the following and can be seen on the left side menu of Google Analytics:

  • Real-Time – As the name suggests, it’s a show of what’s happening on the website in that moment.
  • Audience – It’s that section that gives basic details of who the people on the site are.
  • Acquisition – This talks about how your visitors were acquired, which channels drove traffic to your website.
  • Behavior – This is what describes the different actions taken by the users on your website.
  • Conversions – This is a showcase of the ultimate action of conversion, which is setup and defined by you.

Google Analytics is the perfect tool for taking signals from the market and tweaking your e-commerce store based on the customer’s response. The conversion funnels help establish the impact of any such tweaks in real-time. And well, the best part is that Google Analytics is absolutely free to integrate.

Integrating and using Google Analytics with Shopify

In order to start collecting data as a Shopify store owner, you will need to create a Google account, sign up for Google Analytics tracking and decide what data you would like to collect.

The Google Analytics setup can either be done on your own or by hiring a Shopify expert.

Nevertheless, here’s what you need to do to set up Google Analytics tracking:

  1. Ensure that you are not installing Google Analytics for your store again. This is important to not receive incorrect data of your store. This can be done by going into Preferences (as part of Online Store) in Shopify. You need to check if the Google Analytics box has a code or not. If it’s empty you’re good to go forth. However, if there is a code beginning with UA-, then you just need to enable E-commerce tracking on your existing Google Analytics. Additionally, you will need to check under Themes. Here’s where you’ll check under {/} theme.liquid in the Layout section, to look for the following Google Analytics tracking tags: ga.js, dc.js, gtag.js, or analytics.js. Having these again means that your tracking code is enabled already and does not need to be done again. Only e-commerce tracking needs to be enabled in that case.
  2. Assuming that is not the case, you will need to set up Google Analytics. You could use any existing Google account or create a new one. Once you have the account, you will have to enable Google Analytics. Assuming you have never used Google Analytics before, here’s the steps to follow:
  3. Go to the browser to open the website - Google Analytics
  4. Sign in to the google account to be used for the purpose of setting up the GA or sign up for a new account.
  5. Add the primary domain of your website and enter the information requested to get the tracking ID.
  6. At this stage you will need to select a country in the drop-down and accept the terms of service.
  7. This is the important step where you need the Global Site Tag. You must copy this piece of code.
  8. Open Shopify Admin in a new window and go to Online Store > Preferences
  9. Paste the Global Site Tag in the Google Analytics account section.

This process has enabled Google Analytics on your e-commerce store.

Now it’s time to set up E-commerce Tracking. Here’s what you have to do for that:

  1. Go to your Admin panel within Google Analytics.
  2. You will see Ecommerce Settings under the View menu.
  3. Within that, turn on the Enable Ecommerce toggle for basic ecommerce tracking.

NOTE: In order to enable enhanced or more feature-rich ecommerce tracking, check the box for Use Enhanced Ecommerce in GA and turn on the Enable Enhanced Ecommerce Reporting toggle.

Now your Google Analytics is up and running.

Additionally, even though you have set up Google Analytics directly with Shopify, it helps to implement Google Tag Manager to make it easier to add any third-party pixels and tags.

The process is simple. You need to copy the Google Tag Manager (GTM) snippet from your GTM Admin and paste it into your Shopify account under Google Analytics > Additional Google Analytics Javascript. Voila, you’re done!


Here’s what’s next. You need to configure your property settings. You want to turn on all the tracking info features and analytics within this.

Understanding the basics of Google Analytics for Shopify

Let’s understand some basics about google analytics to begin with. GA can get slightly technical for beginners with it’s terminology. Here are a few important terms to know:

No. of Sessions

This refers to the times a person comes and visits your e-commerce store within a give time frame. By default, this time frame is set at 30 mins by GA. In essence, if a visitor comes to your page and stays within your site for 30 minutes, he is counted as one session.

Bounce Rate

It is a metric used to measure the percentage of visitors who come to an e-commerce store and leave without visiting any other page. A high bounce rate for a page could mean that the page requires some tweaks as people are not finding what they are looking for on that page.

Exit Rate

The metric helps you identify which page people are leaving your website from. It makes sense to have a Post Purchase Thank You page have a high exit rate, however if any other page has a high rate of exit, it could be a cause of concern and a call to modify elements of that page.

Average Session Duration

This metric is the total time period from all the sessions as a ratio of the number of sessions measured in seconds.

Percentage of New Sessions

This metric is the number of first-time visits over total visits. This helps identify is a new marketing campaign or product has generated any new customers.

It is important to get comfortable with four parameters of data analysis in Google Analytics which are the primary dimensions, the secondary dimensions, the segments and the custom reports. These will help you with all the data you need from Google Analytics.

When you’ve integrated Google Analytics, wait for a day or two to see the data populating. When this time has passed, you must check for the accuracy of two very important reports. This is the Channels report (showing everything from Acquisitions to Behaviours and Conversions data) and the Shopping Behaviour report (showing all the sessions, product views, sessions with check-out and sessions with transactions). You can check on the accuracy of these by matching revenue numbers and number of transactions.

Moreover, the conversion rate optimisation metrics are some of the most important that Google Analytics has to offer. This includes metrics such as the average order value (AOV), return on investment etc.

They can be calculated once you setup your business goals. One such business goal is defined when the Thank You page fires a pixel to ensure the ultimate measure of goal completion of Product Purchase. The various steps before that – of filling contact information, adding to cart, choosing a payment method, reaching Shopify checkout etc. are the various steps of the marketing funnel in the goal completion process.

If you’re just starting out and your immediate objective is not sales, but, for instance, getting sign ups, you could create a goal according to the event that the sign-up button is clicked after filling one’s details.

So really, you can create goals based on any kind of objective:

  • Response of the customers to your banner promotions
  • Effectiveness of the product descriptions on the product page
  • CTA testing
  • Ease of navigation of the site

Literally anything on your website can be tested by this method.

Additionally, Google Analytics’ Workflow dashboard are intuitive customer data, informing you about High-Risk Orders, VP Customers etc. based on certain triggers such as a change in inventory quantity, order payment etc. This can help you optimize the orders and avoid chargebacks by sending relevant messages to the customers.

Google Analytics for E-commerce – Best Practices

  1. Track your campaign performance with UTM parameter

While GA will automatically tell you about your traffic sources, you will need to set up additional tracking parameters to measure the performance of your campaigns, ad sets and individual ads across the various media such as Google Adwords, Facebook/Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and more.

If you do not implement UTM parameters you will lose out on the opportunity to understand which exact Instagram post, Google Search Ad or more led to somebody buying your product. This traffic will then be pushed into the realm of what is called Direct Traffic in your Google Analytics Acquisition report. The Direct Traffic report shows traffic from unknown sources where someone has clicked on a URL that has not been tagged with a UTM parameter. These could include traffic from apps. Additionally, if your website does not have an SSL, a lot of the traffic coming from a secure site will lodge as part of Direct Traffic.

A lot of channels such as Google Ads, Facebook etc let you auto-tag or have in-built sections to add UTM parameters. If you’re using a channel other than these, you could use Google Online UTM link builder.

A typical UTM link looks like this –

https://yourstore.com/collections/my-product?utm_source=customer-promotion&utm_medium=Instagram&utm_campaign=launchAB&utm_content=AB1

Note that everything after the ‘?’ constitutes the UTM parameters.

Remember, the objective is to reduce the direct traffic to your e-commerce store as much as possible. It is imperative to do so in order to understand the impact of your campaigns. This can even be done for offline campaigns, by creating a short and easily recognizable URL which redirects to a page with a UTM parameter.

Also, consider maintaining a document that stores all the UTM URLs with their descriptions. It will help as a ready reckoner when you take a look at your GA report under Acquisition > Campaign > All Campaigns. Google has outlined a lot of best practices such as using lower case in the parameters, having the date in a certain format and more. Refer to this guide for more information.

2.   Keep Annotating Any Major Changes

An Annotation is a comment inserted in Google Analytics. This is important to keep track of the changes that have happened to the data over time. You’ll save on a lot of time trying to justify why there were certain fluctuations in time spent on the site, drop in traffic etc. It helps to mark big marketing events – online and offline, for instance a print ad – that could have led to this change.

3.   Block IPs to remove invalid traffic sources

Your colleagues and employees are bound to add to the traffic of your e-commerce store. This can be worse in the case the store’s traffic is less since there will be a higher percentage of employee data which will be disguised as customer actions on the site. Also, in case the organisation is large, it is even more important for company IPs to be blocked from Google Analytics. It’s worth to at least remove the static IPs addresses from the office locations to reduce the bias in the Google Analytics data.

This referral exclusion list can be created through selection of Custom > Exclude under a new Filter which blocks company IP addresses.

Your referral exclusion list can be expanded to include other factors. For instance, consider a scenario where a person makes a payment via paypal.com and is redirected back to the Thank You page on your website. This means that in the loop, Paypal will be sending traffic to the site on every transaction. This traffic is irrelevant for analytics and needs to be excluded. Also, a bigger challenge is that the last click attribution model will consider Paypal as the source of referral instead of your actual marketing campaign or SEO that could have led to this success.

Thus, your referral exclusion list should at least include your payment methods, your website, checkout.shopify.com among others.

4.   Set up Custom Alerts for Specific Events

You can easily create custom alerts in Google Analytics by going to Customization > Custom Alerts > Manage Custom Alerts > + New Alert

Consider creating alerts for a few basic scenarios. The most basic is to get alerted when site is down. This can be monitored by tracking daily traffic. On a day, if you do not receive any session on the site, that could indicate that the site is down. There could be another similar alert which tracks the daily traffic going down by 50%. This could indicate issues with some form of marketing campaigns.

Another important alert could help you track a drop in product performance. Setting up an alert for the bounce rate of all product pages being greater than say 50%, in comparison to the previous week, can help indicate that the product performance has fallen and maybe it’s time to introduce an offer or check parameters such as product size availability etc.

Advanced Analytics for E-commerce

There is a plugin within your Shopify store that helps you understand exactly who your customers are and let’s you track and optimize the user journey with great details. It keeps an account of all the site search tracking including the actions on the homepage banners, clicks on the product page, refunds, payments etc. and is meant for e-commerce platforms.

All you need is to click on the Enhanced Ecommerce section within Preferences of your Shopify Admin Dashboard. Additionally, you need to toggle on the Enhanced Ecommerce checkbox in Google Analytics section. This let’s you keep track of exactly what the customers are purchasing from your store.

Shopify itself has a variety of premium reports that based on the plan you are on. With the Shopify Plus plan, you basically have insight into everything your customers are doing. It gives you a host of analytics reports for your e-commerce data including financial reports giving a layout of taxes and payment. The three major reports as part of this plan include the Shopify Sales reports, the Shopify Customer reports and Shopify Custom reports. Each of these are very useful in making business decisions based on step-by-step website data from acquisition to the checkout process.

Conclusion

The fact that Google Analytics is completely free and a fairly sophisticated tool for data analysis should be enough to establish it’s relevance for any e-commerce store. If implementing, one tracking id can help you gain such incredible insights into your page views, referrer, demographic and other relevant information, why not make the most of it? For without Google Analytics, you risk losing sight of your sales growth and end up missing out on a number of sales growth opportunities.

It is by far the most effective tool to eradicate useless traffic coming to your website url and requires little technical knowledge once integrated with Shopify.