Understanding Ecommerce Revenue Attribution in Google Analytics 4
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) brought significant changes to data attribution, moving away from last-click attribution to data-driven attribution. This shift provides a more holistic view of channel performance, but it can also be confusing when interpreting the reports.
In Universal Analytics (UA), all purchase revenue was attributed to the last non-direct click channel. In GA4, the revenue attribution data varies across different reports, such as the User Acquisition, Traffic Acquisition, and Conversion Path reports. In this article, we'll explore these web analytics reports and use practical examples to understand revenue attribution in GA4.
The Three Main Reports for Channel Ecommerce Performance
User Acquisition Report:
This report focuses on the touchpoints that drove users to your site for the first time. It uses first-click attribution, wherein the revenue generated by a user, regardless of whether it occurs during their first visit or a returning visit, is credited to the touchpoint responsible for their initial visit. For instance, if a user's first visit to the site was from an organic search click, all revenue from subsequent purchases by that user would be attributed to the Organic Search channel in this report.
GA4 uses AI and machine learning to attribute conversion credit to the different channels that are part of the path to conversion
Traffic Acquisition Report:
This report focuses on the channels that drove sessions to your site, considering both new and returning visits for the selected time period. If you need a little reminder of what a session is; a session starts when a user visits the site and ends after 30 minutes of inactivity. In this report, the revenue is attributed to the channel that initiated the session.
All Channels Report:
The All Channels report, located in the Advertising section, uses data-driven attribution to credit conversion revenue to various touchpoints in the path to conversion. It considers all the touchpoints that led to conversions and attributes conversion credits based on the role each touchpoint played in the customer's journey. For example, if a user started with organic search, then visited the site by clicking on a link from an external website, and finally made a purchase through an email click, the revenue would be distributed among the Organic Search, Referral and Email channels in this report.
Let's view some online shopping scenarios to better understand how revenue is attributed in different GA4 reports.
Multiple touchpoints user journey within the same session: Organic Search (first visit) -> Direct (return visit) -> Email (conversion) In this scenario, the user starts by searching for "red beanie" on Google and clicks on an organic search result, which brings them to Website A. After some browsing, they leave the site and 20 minutes later decide to return directly by typing "https://www.websiteA.com" in the search bar. During this session, a pop-up offering a 10% discount appears, and the user signs up through an email. After validating the email address, they click on the email's button and are redirected to the website, where they eventually make a purchase 25 minutes after the start of their session.
User Acquisition Report: The revenue from this transaction would be attributed to Organic Search, as the user's first visit to the site was from a click on the site's organic search result on Google.
Understanding revenue attribution in GA4 is crucial for marketers to make data-driven decisions and optimise their marketing strategies effectively
Traffic Acquisition Report: The revenue would also be attributed to Organic Search. This is because the session started from a click on the organic search result. A session ends after 30 minutes of inactivity, and from the start of the user's session on Website A to the moment they purchased the product, less than 30 minutes elapsed.
All Channels Report: The revenue would be attributed to Organic Search (part of the conversion path) and Email (part of the conversion path).
However, the Direct channel, despite being a touchpoint in the path to conversion, won't receive conversion credit. Google's attribution models typically exclude direct visits from receiving conversion credit unless the conversion path consists entirely of direct visits.
Multiple touchpoints user journey across days: Paid Shopping (first visit) -> Organic Search (second visit) -> Purchase (conversion) In this scenario, the user searches for a "blue scarf" on Google and clicks on a Paid Shopping ad that leads them to Website 1. They explore other websites but decide the next day that they want to purchase the product from Website 1. They search for "Website 1" on Google and click on the site's organic search result. They proceed to make the purchase on the site.
User Acquisition Report: The revenue from this transaction would be attributed to Paid Shopping, as the user's first touchpoint with the site was through a Google Shopping ad.
Traffic Acquisition Report: The revenue would be attributed to Organic Search. This is because the purchase occurred during the user's second session, which started from a click on an organic search result.
All Channels Report: The revenue would be split between the Paid Shopping and Organic Search channels.
Data-Driven Attribution and Machine Learning in GA4
GA4 uses AI and machine learning to attribute conversion credit to the different channels that are part of the path to conversion. The platform’s algorithm studies both successful and unsuccessful paths users take before making a purchase. It also learns from different user actions, like clicking on ads or using specific devices, to understand how they impact purchasing decisions. It considers factors such as the time it took for someone to make a purchase, the type of device they used, how many times they interacted with ads or organic search results, the order in which they saw ads, and the type of ads they encountered.
Based on this learning, the algorithm identifies the actions that are most likely to lead to purchases and gives them credit for contributing to sales. The amount of revenue attributed to each channel in the conversion path is determined by this model.
Data Reporting Processes
In GA4, the data attribution for revenue can differ significantly depending on which report is being analysed. It is essential to establish clear data access processes within your team to ensure everyone knows where to find and analyse channel performance data in GA4. Familiarity with the different reports and their specific attribution models will help your team interpret the data accurately and make informed decisions based on the insights derived from each report.
In short, the User Acquisition Report focuses on first-click attribution, while the Traffic Acquisition Report attributes revenue to the channel that initiated the session. On the other hand, the All Channels Report utilises data-driven attribution, which distributes revenue credits to multiple touchpoints based on their contributions to the conversion journey.
By understanding the strengths and limitations of each report, your team can gain a more comprehensive view of the customer journey and identify the channels that have the most significant impact on revenue generation.
Rethink Channel Performance Analysis
The shift from last-click attribution in Universal Analytics to data-driven attribution in GA4 allows marketers to obtain a more holistic view of the channels that support conversions. With data-driven attribution, each touchpoint's contribution to the conversion path is analysed, leading to a more accurate assessment of a channel's effectiveness in driving revenue.
It's essential for marketers to rethink their approach to channel performance analysis and move away from solely relying on the last-click model. Instead, focus on understanding the customer journey and the role each channel plays in influencing conversions. By doing so, marketers can identify underperforming channels, optimise marketing efforts, and allocate budgets more effectively to maximise overall conversion rates and revenue generation.
For instance, if the data-driven attribution model reveals that a particular channel contributes significantly to the conversion path, even if it is not the last touchpoint, marketers can invest more resources in that channel to capitalise on its impact on driving conversions.
Additionally, analysing the reports in the Advertising section of GA4 (which use data-driven attribution) can uncover valuable insights into the customer decision-making process. By identifying touchpoints that often appear in successful conversion paths, marketers can create more targeted and personalised marketing campaigns to nurture leads and guide them towards making a purchase.
Understanding revenue attribution in GA4 is crucial for marketers to make data-driven decisions and optimise their marketing strategies effectively. The transition from last-click attribution to data-driven attribution in GA4 provides a more comprehensive view of the customer journey and the channels that contribute to revenue generation. By leveraging machine learning and data-driven insights, marketers can gain a deeper understanding of their audience's behaviour, identify valuable touchpoints, and allocate resources more efficiently to boost conversions and overall revenue.
Remember that each report in GA4 offers unique insights into channel performance, and it is essential to combine information from different reports to obtain a complete picture. By embracing data-driven attribution and rethinking traditional channel analysis, marketers can stay ahead in the competitive landscape and drive better business outcomes. For more information, our ThoughtShift GA4 Training is designed to be confident in navigating the GA4 interface to find the data that you need.