The Power and Limitations of Google Analytics (GA4): A Perspective from an eCommerce Veteran

Home / The Power and Limitations of Google Analytics (GA4): A Perspective from an eCommerce Veteran

In the rapidly evolving world of ecommerce, data-driven decision-making is the key to success. In my 20 years of experience in ecommerce retail, a few years on the agency side of that relationship and about a decade troubleshooting for various Venture Capital companies, I’ve seen the industry transform dramatically. But one thing has remained a constant: the need for reliable, actionable data.

GA4

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has revolutionised the ecommerce landscape, providing invaluable insights into customer behaviour and online shopping performance. This tool is instrumental in identifying popular products and optimising marketing strategies. However, it’s vital to understand that relying solely on GA4 for attribution can lead to a skewed understanding of your sales journey.

Paid Social

Paid social media campaigns, for example, often appear less effective within GA4 due to their position at the top of the sales funnel. Google typically attributes the sale to another channel, giving the impression that paid social media may not be as impactful. However, a more accurate picture emerges when you delve into platforms like Facebook or Meta and calculate the Return On Ad Spend (ROAS).

Multiple Touchpoints

The importance of multiple touchpoints in the customer journey cannot be understated. Disregarding investment in paid social media channels may inadvertently overlook the crucial role they play in warming up the customer for a sale.

Affiliate Marketing

On the flip side, affiliate marketing often represents the last touchpoint but may not be attributed within GA4 if AdWords or Google Shopping forms part of the customer’s journey. For instance, if an affiliate uses an email channel, the activity might be wrongly attributed to your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

CRM

For CRM, we would always recommend going directly to the source, especially when using a powerful platform like Klaviyo. Basically, GA4 was never designed to be the one version of the truth; it’s more of a tool to optimize websites and monitor the performance of key pages.

Better Together

Each channel plays a unique role in the process of winning the sale. It’s very akin to offline marketing. If you’re running an outdoor campaign, at the same time as a radio campaign, at the same time as a press campaign; while you may be able to get some insights into what drove the eventual sale – all channels played a part.

Go to the Source

The benefit of online marketing however, we can see which channels played a part – but only if you go to source; rather than Google’s summary of its best guess (which will always prioritise Google).

Channel sales or selling through partners (whether affiliates or direct partners), which represent 75% of global commerce according to Forrester, are often invisible to a casual GA4 user. Recognising these multiple touchpoints and treating them as independent overlapping channels is crucial for optimising your sales strategy.

This is where Hot Dog Solutions comes in. We understand the role each touchpoint plays in the customer journey. Our approach is simple: treat others as you wish to be treated. We don’t charge commission on media spend, and our Affiliate Marketing programs operate on a pay-on-results model. We’re here to help you to get the most of all of your channels.

Reporting Channel Performance.

We’d recommend you take the reporting of channels out of the GA4 environment.

Start with the final destination of your online sales – your website.
Total Revenues – taken ideally from source, out of Shopify.

And then have dedicated reporting and targets for each of your channels to help you to get the most out of your online sales.

These numbers will add up to be a higher figure than your total online number. But, it’s an honest approach which allows you to drive each channel individually; and will give you the ability to spot at a glance, when you encounter a channel that is underperforming.

In conclusion, while Google Shopping GA4 is a powerful tool, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Use it how it was intended – to optimise your website, not to make financial decisions.

For a comprehensive understanding of your sales journey, you need to integrate GA4 insights with other data sources, understand your customers’ journey, and have a trusted partner like Hot Dog Solutions to guide you through the process.

Footnotes

  1. Campaign Tracking: The Limitations of Google Analytics 4
  1. Google Analytics 4 Limitations And Solving Them
  1. Limitations of Google Analytics 4 and how to solve them
  1. GA4 Limitations Every Analyst Must Know: Solutions and Strategies
  1. The Ultimate Guide to Channel Sales
  1. Sales Channels | Types of Sales Channels
  1. Benefits and Limitations of Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  1. Hot Dog Solutions – Affiliate Marketing
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