The landscape of e-commerce has evolved significantly, with a growing number of businesses use subscription models to get a consistent stream of revenue. For these businesses, the real challenge lies in maximizing user lifetime value. Effectively tracking transactions, recurring payments, and account cancellations is essential for sustainable growth. In this blog post, we'll explore a crucial aspect of this challenge and provide insights into using server-side tracking with Google Analytics to enhance control and visibility over subscription transactions.

Tracking Online Transactions:

Many subscription businesses start with an initial online payment, which can be easily tracked using client-side methods: dataLayer and web Google Tag Manager (GTM) container. This initial step provides a foundation for understanding user behavior during the early stages of their subscription journey.

Understanding the Challenge:

The initial payment for subscription services often takes place online, a straightforward process that can be tracked using tools like dataLayer and web GTM containers. However, the real challenge arises when subsequent payments occur offline, without any user interactions on the website. One common scenario is when users provide their credit card information, start a trial, and get automatically charged if they don't cancel before the trial period ends.

The Limitation of Web GTM Containers:

For transactions without user interactions, such as automatic subscription renewals, web GTM containers and other JavaScript tracking codes cannot be used. These tools rely on user-triggered events, making it impossible to capture transactions that happen seamlessly in the background.

Introducing the Google Analytics Measurement Protocol:

To overcome the limitations of traditional tracking methods, subscription businesses can turn to the Google Analytics Measurement Protocol. This protocol allows businesses to send data server-side. The transaction data can be sent directly to Google Analytics but to gain more control over offline transactions and the ability to send data to multiple platforms, a server-side GTM container becomes essential. Here are the steps to make this work effectively:

Create a Server-Side GTM:

  • Set up a server-side GTM container and choose a hosting plan, whether on Google Cloud,, or any other suitable platform.

Store Google Analytics Client_ID on CRM:

  • The Google Analytics client_ID is a crucial parameter for identifying users. It is a unique identifier for users that Google Analytics use. Technically, for web users it is a cookie that is generated automatically when GA4 script is running in the client’s browser. For the mobile app users this is the app_instance_id. 
  • If you need to send any data using GA4 Measurement protocol you need to store it somewhere on your CRM because it is a required parameter in GA4 measurement protocol. 

Create API secret on Google Analytics for each of the streams you use. 

It is very important for the proper processing of data that you send the offline transactions to the same stream that you use for all other data. In case you use just web stream everything is pretty straight-forward: navigate to the Web stream details and generate the API secret. 

In case you have also Android and IOS application it is necessary to generate API secret for each of them as well.

Configure Transaction Data with Measurement Protocol:

  • Utilize the Google Analytics Measurement Protocol to configure and send transaction data to the server-side GTM. This ensures that essential information about offline transactions is accurately recorded and reported to Google Analytics. (
  • The data on recurring purchases should always be sent to the same stream where all other events for the user are tracked. This is important to provide consistent reports with the correct attribution.

For subscription businesses seeking to enhance their understanding of user behavior and maximize the user lifetime value, tracking offline payments is a critical step. By leveraging the Google Analytics Measurement Protocol and implementing a server-side GTM container, businesses can bridge the gap between online and offline transactions, gaining valuable insights and control over their subscription services. Stay ahead of the curve in the e-commerce landscape by embracing innovative tracking solutions tailored to the evolving needs of subscription-based models.

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