May 9, 2018

How to effectively use Google Tag Manager for ecommerce

By Supermetrics

Ecommerce AnalyticsWeb Analytics

[ Updated May 9, 2018 ]

10-MINUTE READ · By Misty Faucheux

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is the perfect way to add and update your tracking tags without ever having to edit code. While most of us use it every day for adding Google Analytics (GA), AdWords or third-party codes, many of us forget that we can use GTM for e-commerce tracking, which means that we’re missing important reporting data.

What can be tracked?

GA has two different implementation methods for tracking e-commerce:

  • Standard e-commerce: This report allows you to review purchase activity on your app or site. It will pull product and transaction information, average order value, time to purchase, conversion rate and more.
  • Enhanced e-commerce: This report builds on the standard e-commerce report and adds additional features. You can see information like when customers added items to their shopping carts, when they started the checkout process and when they finally completed the purchase. The importance of this information is that you can really dive into when people are abandoning their cart or identify other issues as to why customers are not completing their purchase. This is especially helpful when you want to optimize the conversion funnel or identify complications that could be inhibiting cart completion.

Both of these codes can be added to your site with GTM, but you do need to do some preliminary work before you can launch them.

Implementing e-commerce tracking

Before you can begin tracking e-commerce in GTM, you must have the Universal Analytics in place on your website. If you have the older analytics code, you will have to upgrade to the Universal tracking code.

Once you do that, ensure that the older version of the code is not hard-coded on your website. In fact, you should remove any hard-coded tracking codes on your site if you’re using GTM. If you launch both GTM and hard-coded GA codes, then your code will fire twice and mess up your results.

If you’re unsure whether your GTM tags are using the latest Universal tracking code, you can go to the overview screen or click on one of the tags to see. The “tag type” will say Universal Analytics.

After your GA code is updated, you must now enable ecommerce tracking within GA, which can be done within the Admin panel. Simply navigate to the view that you want to track e-commerce in, and go to View. Then, click on E-commerce Settings, and set Enable E-commerce to “on”. Finish by clicking Next Step, and Submit.

Most shopping carts are e-commerce-enabled and have built-in tracking. So, once you have e-commerce enabled in GA, you should immediately start seeing shopping cart data. One thing to remember, however, is that not all shopping carts are compatible with GA. So, this might be a consideration if you’re in the process of looking for a new or a replacement for your current shopping cart. Review their compatibilities. Some may only need an additional extension to work with GA, but these extensions usually cost money.

Setting up your tag in GTM

To set up Standard e-commerce tags, follow the below steps:

  1. Create a Universal Analytics tag with the Track Type set to “Transaction”.
  2. Configure your tag with the right fields for e-commerce:
    1. Tracking ID: property ID
    2. Tag Name: i.e. cart completion, thank you page, etc.
    3. Trigger Name: i.e. Completed Cart, Thank You Page Confirmation, etc.
    4. Trigger Type: typically, this is a pageview.
    5. This Trigger fires on: Select Some Page Views, which is the page on which it should fire, i.e. confirmation page.

You can add exceptions to any triggers, but you should stick to the standards until you’ve done some testing.

The transaction data will be passed through with the following types of variable names:

To implement the Enhanced E-commerce tag, you will need to use either a data layer or custom JavaScript implementation. This will require the assistance of a developer.

Testing your tags

Once all your tags are implemented, you need to test them to ensure that they are firing like they should be. Luckily, you don’t need a separate third-party tool (even though you could do a backup test with one of these) to do this. GTM has a Preview mode that allows you to click through a website on which your code has been implemented. Within the Preview mode, you will see a debugger pane underneath the website content. In this pane, you can see which tags and in what order they fired. If your tag didn’t fire, you can try re-implementing the code in GTM.

Before you can use Preview mode, you must enable it. To do this, follow the below steps:

    • Find the Publish button, and select Preview.

  • Or, you can preview a version of a container. To do this, go to the Versions tab and then to your preferred version. Then, select Action, and then Preview.

To end your session, click Leave Preview Mode.

Why e-commerce tracking is important for you

As marketers, the more information that we have, the better we can optimize our campaigns. If you only have standard tracking set up, then you can’t see where or why people are potentially abandoning your cart or the sales funnel. For example, if you see that over 50% of your potential customers are dropping out of the funnel during a particular section of the cart, you can then go into this section and see if there is anything that could be causing the issues. Are we asking the customer to do too many steps? Is the cart timing out? Or, is the page too confusing, i.e. the submit button is too far down the page or being masked by an image?

Without the sales funnel information, then you can’t follow the customer journey to find the issue that is causing them to not complete a sale. Once your tags are implemented, let them run for a few weeks. While you might be able to get data immediately, more than likely, you’ll get better insights if you let the tags collect data over six weeks or so. Then, use this information to determine, for example, which products are performing better than others, and review everything from pricing to copy to the checkout process.

Use the data to create a better experience for the customer and improve your sales. Create separate reports strictly for e-commerce activity to provide more transparency for stakeholders.

About Misty Faucheux


Misty Faucheux is an Integrated Online Marketing Specialist at Faucheux Enterprises and a guest writer for Supermetrics. She is a digital marketer, specializing in SEO, SEM, content marketing/writing and social ads. Misty helps companies develop a cohesive online marketing strategy that directly addresses their overall business goals and objectives. You can find her on TwitterLinkedInInstagram and Flickr.

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