The Future And Challenges Of Tag Management
Contributor Hollis Thomases brings us part five of a multi-part series diving deep into tag management -- what it is, how it works, how to find a partner and how you can benefit.
Right off the bat, here’s the big reveal: the future of tag management is… well, not tag management.
Have a few conversations with tag management insiders and it becomes evident pretty quickly that most want us to move our thinking beyond mere “tags” and into everyone’s current most favorite topic: data.
Just look at the landscape of providers – those that have been around a while have undergone recent name changes that migrate away from even using the word “tag” to something that connotes a bigger picture.
BrightTag has become Signal; TagMan has been folded into Ensighten. Players with names like Tealium, Dstillery, and mediaglu also don’t make reference to “tags.” The only holdout seems to be Google Tag Manager… but then again, Google doesn’t have to position itself as something bigger than tag management, because everyone already knows that it is.
Beyond Mere Features
“In a nutshell, pure TMS (tag management software/solution) has become ubiquitous,” Joseph Stanhope, SVP of Marketing at Signal told me in a phone interview. “There’s no reason every company wouldn’t want one. But it’s a feature not a product segment.”
Instead, most TMS providers now tout themselves as a type of unification platform, a means by which all the data collected from various channels and devices can interplay, connect dots and be utilized in ways that help marketers glean more insights, reduce wasteful spending, and streamline marketing efficiencies.
The tougher part is to execute all of this in real time, an ability the higher-end solutions claim to have mastered.
Talking to the folks involved in this bright shiny future of “data-surfacing” and “true marketing agility,” one can’t deny their passion. When I spoke to them on the phone, they practically waxed poetic about what’s in store for marketers:
“A gateway for seamlessly managing and integrating your previously siloed marketing applications and data; that “Holy Grail” of marketing – personalized, real-time communications across any customer touch point.” (Erik Bratt, VP Content, Tealium)
“Data has a higher calling. It should be a direct plug into systems that drive actions and customers. The future of tag management is a comfortable, safe, panoramic horizon of exposed data, insights, and information.” (Blane Sims, SVP Products, Signal)
“The future of tag management – which is the future of digital marketing – not only gives the marketer agility but also ownership of their data. In all the Luma Landscape depictions, data is owned by the vendor and is third-partied to the brand, which makes it significantly more difficult to act upon and locks the marketer with that particular vendor. In the future, the marketer will have the control and one dashboard that allows him to pick and choose their vendors to the best effect of their marketing.” (Josh Manion, CEO, Ensighten)
“The future is a consolidated view of the user across all their devices, which will yield true attribution and insights.” (Steve Williams, COO/Co-Founder, mediaglu)
Considering a future which easily renders and makes available all this data, I’m reminded of a line Russell Crowe utters in the movie Gladiator: “At my signal…unleash hell!”
With such powerful solutions, organizations face a lot of challenges and deeper responsibility.
What To Do With All This Data?
The first, and by no means simplest, challenge may be knowing what benefit to derive from the potential of all these connected data points. Just because the marketer can gain access to all this data doesn’t mean she specifically knows what to do with it.
Is it being more predictive about who’s interacting with your brand and your products and serving them more personalized experiences? Is it optimizing each journey your customer or prospect experiences with you so you can continue to elevate their perception of your brand?
There’s also increased potential to avoid what I call stupid marketing. An example of stupid marketing is the company that continues to send weekly email offers to a recipient who hasn’t had any interaction of any kind in over 11 years, likely because he made a one-time purchase, perhaps not even for himself but as a gift.
De-siloing data sources like web, email, in-store, mobile, call center, and social would help reveal this inactivity and would appropriately lead to purging that recipient from the weekly campaign.
Your goal instead might be to minimize waste in advertising campaigns. In this case, perhaps you’d like to create suppression lists of recent product purchasers to pass along to media suppliers so you don’t show these purchasers ads for products they’ve already bought. (More stupid marketing)
The Technology Makes Things Easier, But Not Easy
It’s also important to have reasonable expectations. Once the marketer decides how she wants to use this data, a full roll-out can take a significant amount of time and resources.
Ideally, all members of a brand team get involved – marketing, IT, analytics and creative should all understand their respective roles and how utilizing these data pipelines will help the overall company.
Another challenge will be sourcing talent. “As soon as there’s critical mass adopting this kind of technology, there will be constraint in taking advantage of it because of the talent pool. This is only 18-24 months away,” cautions Ensighten’s Manion. “The pressure is on the industry to figure out how to avoid the talent bottleneck.”
And all the TSM companies will have to cope with an ever-evolving technological landscape, one that doesn’t solely rely on cookies, that integrates retail beacons, that accommodates many mobile SDKs and addressable TV, and that takes into account things like wearables, wired appliances, digital billboards and “non-things” like projected visuals and physiological identity verifiers.
Connecting more dots to traditional offline experiences would also help marketers do a better job at closing all their loops. And don’t forget that all the while these companies and the brands that use them need to protect the consumer’s personally identifying information (PII) and right to privacy.
None of this is easy, but the players in this space all seem to be driven by the challenge. It will continue to be an interesting space to continue to watch and help develop as a marketer.
For more on Tag Management, see other posts in this series:
- Part 1: The Complexity & Confusion Of Tracking Without Tag Management
- Part 2: What Is Tag Management And Why Should You Care?
- Part 3: Why Tag Management Isn’t Really About Web Site Analytics Anymore
- Part 4: 8 Questions To Ask Before Choosing A Tag Management System