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Looking at the Google Analytics user identification docs I found that localStorage could be used instead of cookies if a website was ran only on http or https strictly.

I was looking in those docs because I run an ecommerce website and have a lot of repeat customers. Those customers end up in the direct channel because they just type my web address into their bar (or bookmark me). Would tracking via localStorage be a more permanent tracking method over cookies to get a better measure of previous customers over new customers?

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Switching to localstorage wont solve the problem. Those will still be termed as direct traffic.

What you should look into is the multi-channel attribution reports (it's under Conversion > Multi-Channel Funnels). The Top Conversion Path report might help in giving more insights, I would also look at tweaking the attribution models to see how you can allocate value to different channels.

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Cookies vs local storage is not likely the reason here.

Google Analytics starts a new session for a user after 30 minutes of inactivity. You would expect that repeat visitors would come in "direct" for most sessions after their initial session. See Google Analytics document on how sessions work: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2731565?hl=en

  • I'm aware they will come into direct even if this worked -- what I'm more focused on (and what I should have mentioned) was Analytic's User Explorer. Analytics seems to be able to tell the difference between a new & returned visitor, but the User Explorer doesn't show previous sessions unless within the past day or so. – Leroy Sep 26 '16 at 14:31

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