How to Transition Your Shopify Store from UA to GA4

Alice Tavernese
By Alice Tavernese
By Alice Tavernese,
Mar 30, 2023
hands typing on laptop

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Google will be eclipsing their Universal Analytics (UA) and replacing it with their new Google Analytics 4 (GA4). So what does this mean for your online business and how can you ensure that your Shopify store makes the transition over smoothly? We’re here to help walk you through everything you need to know about your migration from UA to GA4. 

Introduced back in 2012, UA was Google's solution to collecting and organizing website data, which also allowed you to install tracking codes and more accurately measure user behavior on your website. UA was the standard for many years, and many marketers are not ready (nor happy) for this change. GA4 was launched almost 2 years ago, and has made some big changes to how data is collected on your website. Which is why many have chosen to hold off on making the switch. 

Change can be difficult sometimes, and in this case marketers will have no choice but to adapt. GA4 is happening with certainty and we have to accept it despite the fact that many are concerned it’s not on par with UA. Not to mention, on July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics properties will no longer process data at all, so you need to make the switch. You will be able to see your UA reports for a period of time after July 1, 2023, however, all new data will only flow into Google Analytics 4 properties. 

Making the switch now is something you need to bump up in your to-do list!

What is the difference between UA and GA4?

“UA offers more advanced segmentation capabilities, allowing marketers to create complex segments based on a variety of user attributes and behaviors. While GA4 also has segmentation capabilities, they are currently more limited in scope.” Adheip, Paid Search Lead at Shoelace

Since you’ll be forced to switch over in July, it's a good idea to understand the differences between UA and GA4, and what to expect from the new analytics. Some of the most notable differences are:  

  • Data Model: One of the most significant differences between UA and GA4 is the data model. UA uses a session-based model, which groups user interactions into sessions based on when they occurred. GA4, on the other hand, uses an event-based model, which tracks each individual user interaction as a separate event under their new “Property” tabs. 
  • Tracking Capabilities: GA4 does provide more advanced tracking capabilities than UA, including cross-device tracking, which allows you to track user behavior across multiple devices and channels, and enhanced measurement, which provides more accurate data on user interactions, such as scroll depth and video engagement. This means that installing Google Tag Manager (GTM) and understanding how it works is vital to using GA4 and we recommend you ensure GTM is installed correctly on your site. In comparison, UA was created with desktop interactions in mind and relied heavily on cookies to be able to track users. 
  • Reporting: GA4 offers a new set of reports that provide insights into user behavior, including the ability to track individual user journeys and behavior across sessions. All GA4 reports are in real-time and can even give you an overview of data within the last 30min and up to the last 5min. This will allow you to see the real time impact of your marketing campaigns instantly. You also have the ability to create custom reports (a function that was not available in UA) which allows you to build your own report with any data you are looking to track. 
  • Bounce Rate: Yes, bounce rate exists in GA4, but its calculation differs slightly from that in UA. In GA4, the bounce rate is calculated as the percentage of sessions that were not engaged. This means that the bounce rate is essentially the opposite of the engagement rate, which is calculated by dividing the number of engaged sessions by the total number of sessions during a specified time period. On the other hand, in UA, the bounce rate was calculated as the percentage of website users who left the website after viewing only one page. Therefore, while the definition of bounce rate remains consistent, its calculation method has changed in GA4, which can be very confusing to change your perspective to.  
  • Data Privacy: GA4 is designed with privacy in mind, offering more granular control over data collection and processing. Probably the biggest change, GA4 will no longer store IP addresses.

While GA4 does offer some more advanced tracking capabilities and detailed insights, it may not be as user-friendly or flexible as its predecessor. Additionally, some users have reported issues with data accuracy and consistency when using GA4, which could potentially impact the reliability and usefulness of the insights gained from this change. Hopefully we’ll see these concerns continue to be improved upon over the next several months.

How to Migrate data from UA to GA4

It is recommended that you switch over as soon as possible to GA4, prior to the switch over in July 2023, so here’s how:

Step 1: From your current Google Analytics account, navigate to Admin on the left hand sidebar.

Step 2: Select the proper Account in the Account Column and click on Universal Analytics in the Property column.

Google Analytics Admin Panel

Step 3: In the Property column, click GA4 Setup Assistant and select Get Started.

Step 4: Now you can either:

- Create and continue - which will initiate setting up a new Google Tag (if you do not already have one) or

- Create Property - which means GA4 will reuse your existing UA tagging and create a connected site between your UA & G4A properties.

Google Analytics admin create property panel

Step 5: In most cases you’ll be reusing your existing UA, so select “Use the Google tag found on your website (Recommended)” and click confirm. 

Step 6: After selecting this you should see a notification pop up that says “You have successfully connected your properties” From here, make note of your new property name. This new property will look like this “Shoelace - GA4 (0000000)”

Step 7: Click See your GA4 property and open the “Setup Assistant”. This setup will guide you through some new properties and recommended features. 

Step 8: To verify that data is being collected, go to browse your website, and in GA4 select Realtime from the report navigation. You should see activity in the Realtime report. Please note, it can take up to 30 minutes for data to begin appearing, so you may need to wait before beginning this last step.

How to Set Up GA4 in your Shopify Store

Thankfully Shopify already has GA4 integration so as long as you’ve set up GA4 correctly from the above steps, this next part will be a piece of cake!

Step 1: Login to your Shopify Admin and from the left sidebar, select “Sales Channels” and click Google when the pop up extends from the search bar.

Shopify Admin Panel

Step 2: Scroll down the Overview page and select the set up for Google Analytics 4. It should read “Optimize your business with Google Analytics” and click “Get Started”

Shopify Google Analytics

Step 3: Make sure your Google Analytics account is connected to Shopify Account and Connect your Google Analytics Property (note the new GA4 number we mentioned in the previous steps “Shoelace - GA4 (0000000)”) by selecting it from the drop down menu.

Connect a Google Analytics Property

Step 4: Click connect and you’re all done and ready to start collecting data!

Successful set up of GA4

The Wrap Up

New things can be scary, especially when it concerns your business and livelihood. Even though the introduction of GA4 may be cause for concern for some businesses, particularly when it comes to the collection and analysis of their data. While it is true that UA had some limitations in terms of cross-platform data, it remains to be seen whether GA4 is a step in the right direction for addressing these issues. Take your time with the setup process and do not wait for the last second to switch over as you may lose important data! 

“The platform will continue to evolve and with that the way marketers use data and segmentation will evolve too. As marketers we stay agile enough to use the tools that are available to gain the most relevant insights to help guide the best business decisions.” Adheip, Paid Search Lead at Shoelace

Just remember to follow all the steps above and if you have any questions our expert team of Growth Partners is here to help and happy to answer any questions you may have about transitioning over to GA4. Connect with us today to learn more about how we can help your online store navigate the constantly changing digital landscape.

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