What Does the End of Universal Analytics Mean for Shopify Merchants?

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Google has announced that it will deprecate Universal Analytics in July of 2023. Marketers are upset. Mark Zuckerberg is probably upset. And many Shopify store owners are scratching their heads as to what the big fuss is about. 

Don’t worry. Let’s explain.


The difference between Universal Analytics and GA4

Universal Analytics

Universal Analytics (commonly shortened to UA) has been around since 2005. It was first created in the time of desktop traffic and cookies before privacy concerns became a huge focus for platforms like Google. Since then, Google has been trying to kill third-party cookies for years.


As a Quick Aside: What are cookies?

Cookies are small pieces of text with information about your visit to a site that a browser stores. Cookies, for example, are what remembers your login details when you move about a site you have an account on or what you’ve added to cart as you browse products on a Shopify store. Cookies are named after fortune cookies — famous for also containing a little message inside.


Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics 4 (or GA4 for short), on the other hand, is Google’s youngest analytics system released two and a half years ago. It was created not to depend on cookies and to focus more on mobile traffic.

Google has been urging marketers and ecommerce sites to adapt to GA4 for some time but most have been slow to change, due to the superior attribution offered by UA. 

Take this comparison by Google, for example:

Table displaying Universal Analytics hits vs GA4 hits.

As you can probably tell, Universal Analytics is a whole lot more specific in the data it can offer. This is way more useful for digital marketers who need to know which campaigns and projects are driving the most traffic to a client’s website. With GA4, it’s much harder to tell where customers are coming from. 

Like a fed-up parent, Google has put its foot down and officially announced the end of our beloved Universal Analytics. The internet giant will deprecate UA on July 1, 2023, meaning anyone still relying on this technology should start adapting to GA4, fast.

Who depends on UA the most? Probably Shopify. 


Shopify and Google Analytics

Universal Analytics is the Google Analytics property that you put into your Shopify Online Store Preferences with Enhanced Ecommerce turned on. Shopify tells Universal Analytics everything via this integration, including events in the checkout. In this analogy, Shopify and UA are best friends that tell each other everything while GA4 is their weird little tag along friend that occasionally gets bits and pieces of their secrets through overheard gossip.

In fairness, it’s not quite that simple. GA4 does work with Shopify however it doesn’t track Enhanced Ecommerce data via most Shopify plans, because Shopify checkouts are technically separate parts of the site that don’t inherit your theme’s code.

If you’ve got Shopify Plus your checkout does inherit your code so you can track your events more easily. 

A comprehensive Google Tag Manager implementation is the best way to integrate GA4 into your Shopify store but this generally needs a developer to manually trigger your events through the Data Layer with Javascript.

Installing GA4 on your Shopify store is as easy as pasting your provided tracking code into your theme.liquid’s <head> however properly attributing sales and ecommerce events is much harder, as described above.


Shopify and GA4

So, what does Shopify have to say about the end of UA?

… Not a lot.

As we’re writing this, Shopify hasn’t announced anything just yet. We’re guessing, though, that it’ll be all hands on deck at Shopify HQ to create a native integration for GA4.

What merchants can do in the meantime is set up a GA4 analytics property on their site as soon as possible.


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