How to get started with Google Analytics for your eCommerce store

Google Analytics isn’t just useful for keeping track of things like website traffic and app performance—it’s also an incredibly powerful tool for eCommerce data and insights. The platform’s capabilities are extensive, ranging from tracking transactions and product sales performance to delivering insights on customer behavior and coupon effectiveness. Plus, the free version more than meets the needs of pretty much all small- and medium-sized businesses.

However, because Google Analytics can track and analyze so many different things and provides so much information, getting started often feels daunting. At first glance, it can be difficult to figure out how to set up the platform for eCommerce, to understand which reports are available, and to know how to delve deeper into the data to get actionable insights.

The good news is that the tool is (relatively) intuitive once you set up everything properly and familiarize yourself with the interface. Without expending too much time or effort, it’s possible to gain a robust view of your eCommerce performance—and with some additional work, you can access richer insights as well.

We put together this “Google Analytics for eCommerce stores 101” guide to take you through the basics of getting started, setting everything up properly, and generating insightful, actionable reports.

1. How do I set up eCommerce tracking in Google Analytics?

An important thing to note when getting started is that Google Analytics doesn’t display eCommerce reports by default—they have to be turned on. That’s because eCommerce tracking delivers additional data points and views which are unnecessary (and potentially confusing) for other types of websites and apps.

It’s easy to enable eCommerce reports, though: Simply sign in to Google Analytics, navigate to the Admin panel, find “eCommerce Settings,” and toggle the “Enable eCommerce” option “on.”

How to enable Enhanced eCommerce in Google Analytics.

The second step of the setup process is allowing Google Analytics to gain access to your platforms so it can track eCommerce-related behavior. That can get a bit more complex, depending on things like whether you want to track data on a website or app (or both), whether you use Google Tag Manager, and whether you need cross-domain tracking. (For more on how to determine if these types of eCommerce tracking meets your specific needs, check out this guide from Google.)

However, in most beginner cases for Shopify and WooCommerce merchants, the process will be much more straightforward.

For Shopify, you’ll just follow these instructions to add your Google Analytics account ID—from there, Shopify will feed all of the necessary data to Google. For WooCommerce, you’ll need to get a free plugin to set up a basic Google Analytics integration. (For more complex metrics, which we’ll cover later in this article, you’ll need a more advanced extension. SkyVerge, the parent company of Jilt, is also the development team behind the Google Analytics Pro extension.) 

Google Analytics with eCommerce enabled provides data related to your store’s performance in everything from product sales to inventory trends. The standard eCommerce data in Google Analytics tends to be structured around two key pillars: transactions and items.

With transactions, the platform presents data like revenue, shipping cost, and taxes. You can see reports on things like total transactions, average order values, conversion rates, time to purchase, and more.

With items, the platform presents data like a product’s category, price, and SKU. You can see reports on things like each product’s performance, the performance of different product categories, average purchase quantities and revenue, and more.

You can learn more about the different types of available data and reports here.

3. What’s so great about all this eCommerce data?

While the types of eCommerce data available in Google Analytics may not seem groundbreaking, the platform provides uniquely valuable insights for online stores. That’s because Google is able to combine the rich site and app data it already has (such as visits, engagement, user flow, etc.) with eCommerce-specific information around areas like transactions and products.

This delivers a wealth of useful information, such as:

  • Product and sales trends: See which products/services are selling well, what your customer base is gravitating towards, and how your marketing efforts are driving action.
  • Transaction and revenue trends: See the average value of your transactions and view shopping cart trends such as average order size and average number of items.
  • Customer behavior trends: See how long it takes customers to make the decision to purchase and what the typical flow is through your site/app before a transaction is completed.

The insights you get from the data can then help guide your future decisions about things like how to market products, who to target, which products are worth spending money to advertise, and even what types of products you should develop to sell going forward.

4. So how do I access these insights? What are the standard eCommerce reports available in Google Analytics?

Another major benefit of Google Analytics is that once you’ve gotten used to the interface, accessing insights is fairly easy. Once you enable eCommerce and set up tracking, an “eCommerce” link will appear in the sidebar of your main panel view with a number of reports under it.

eCommerce reports in Google Analytics.

These insights are a great starting point, and often provide enough detail to satisfy the analytics needs of online stores. Some of the most useful standard reports include:

  • Overview: A summary of key metrics such as your revenue, eCommerce conversion rate, transactions, and average order volume.
  • Product performance: A deeper dive into product-specific metrics such as purchases, quantity and average price.
  • Sales performance: A look at revenue metrics, which are filterable by date range and other criteria. 
  • Time to purchase: Insights into customer behavior before taking action, such as the average number of days to transaction and average number of sessions to transaction.

It’s also very valuable to check your reports over different time periods, like one month, three months, six months, and a year—that will help you spot both short- and long-term trends which can further help you make analytics-driven business decisions.

5. What if I want more insights? What are the enhanced eCommerce reports available in Google Analytics?

If standard reports aren’t delivering the types of insights you need, or they don’t have enough depth, you can enable “Enhanced eCommerce”. 

This setting can be found below the option to turn on eCommerce in the Admin panel. One thing to note: Enabling “Enhanced eCommerce” overrides the display of standard eCommerce reports (though you can take the steps outlined here to customize your view).

How to enable Enhanced eCommerce.

As the name implies, enhanced reports tend to provide richer insights compared with standard reports. Some of the additional detail includes:

  • Shopping analysis: A deeper look into shopping activity, such as which products visitors are adding and removing from shopping carts.
  • Checkout behavior analysis: Investigate how customers are moving through your checkout process and where they’re most likely to abandon their cart.
  • eCommerce event tracking: Data on when customers do things like adding a product to a cart, adding or removing a coupon, or changing the quantity of items in their cart.
  • Affiliate code: Insights into how affiliate sites are driving revenue and transactions for your online store.
  • Product coupon: A look at how product/service-specific coupons are impacting areas like revenue and purchases.

Shopify stores should be able to use Enhanced eCommerce with no additional steps; WooCommerce stores will need an advanced extension, such as Google Analytics Pro. (Here’s a comparison between what you can do with the standard Google Analytics plugin versus the pro version.)

6. How do I learn more? How can I become a Google Analytics rock star?

What we’ve outlined here is just the tip of the iceberg: While this post (hopefully) provided a broad overview of Google Analytics for eCommerce, there are many nuances that weren’t covered, such as additional reports, tagging options for tracking, and view customizations.

If you want to dive deeper, these official resources from Google are a good starting point:

We would recommend getting comfortable with the platform first—set up the basics, get to know the interface, and learn how reports work. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to grow your knowledge and start doing even more with Google Analytics.

Key takeaways

Google Analytics is the industry standard for web analytics tools, and it can provide eCommerce stores with tons of extremely useful data and reports. However, because of the power and immensity of the platform, it can feel intimidating to get started. Fortunately, you can “wade in” slowly and grow your comfort level with Google Analytics as you begin to measure some of the key data for your site.

  • You have to take action to gain access to eCommerce insights. Google Analytics is a powerful tool for online stores, but eCommerce views aren’t set to display by default. In order to access insights, you have to enable eCommerce and ensure the system can properly track your visitors’ behaviors.
  • You’ll need to connect Google Analytics to your eCommerce platform. It’s pretty simple to connect Google Analytics to Shopify—you’ll just need to enter your ID. WooCommerce will require a free plugin for basic data, or a paid plugin for more advanced eCommerce analytics.
  • Items and transactions are two pillars of Google Analytics for eCommerce. Data related to eCommerce tends to be structured around two key areas in Google Analytics: items (what you’re selling) and transactions (what you’ve sold). By connecting these to traffic insights, Google Analytics is able to provide a rich view of your business and your audiences.
  • Standard reports are just the beginning. While standard Google Analytics for eCommerce reports are a great starting point, don’t overlook additional enhanced reports that can provide valuable insights into areas such as shopping behavior and coupon effectiveness. 
Ayaz Nanji
Ayaz Nanji is the founder of ICW Media, a firm specializing in content and social media services for tech startups and established tech firms. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

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