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Tag management is a hot topic for marketers, with good reason. Tags send data about a web page and page visitors to third-party vendors who provide digital marketers with essential marketing data and services.

But what are the key factors in a choosing a good tag management vendor? A new report from Forrester tries to answer that question.

Tag Management Systems

The report, appropriately titled “Understanding Tag Management Tools and Technology,” provides an overview of tag management vendors and offers some factors for picking the right one. This study seems to come at the right time because half of survey respondents have used their tag management solutions for a year or less, and another 29 percent for less than two years.

Digital marketing tags are a few lines of code on a webpage, which can be managed through an on-premises or hosted tag management system. Tags are used to track and guide things such as affiliate marketing, personalization, SEO, shopping comparison engines, display or paid search advertising and site analytics. Key selling points include the ability for marketers to administer a tag management system without waiting for IT, as well as the ability to quickly implement campaigns, test alternatives or respond to new conditions.

According to this report, 88 percent of respondents use tag management systems (TMS) for web analytics, 64 percent for search marketing, 62 percent for ad serving, 59 percent for affiliate marketing and 50 percent for behavioral targeting. Other uses include testing, audience measurement, social media, surveys and feedback, and recommendations.

As needs change, tags are added or edited because of such conditions as the addition of new sites or pages, or the need to track new campaigns. Seventy-three percent of respondents in this report edit existing tags, and nearly 60 percent add new ones, anywhere from several times a week to monthly.

Dramatic Time Reduction

Maintenance of tags is usually assigned to internal marketing and web analytic teams, which need management systems to save time and avoid employing technical workers. Sixty-six percent manage tags entirely in-house. Thirteen percent assign it to the IT department, 11 percent to e-commerce and 11 percent to business intelligence, corporate analytics or other.

Time and performance are the greatest reasons to use tag management systems, according to Forrester’s research. Eighty-seven percent cite the time required to implement new/revised tags or develop websites as the key challenge they’re looking to resolve, while 36 percent point to page-load performance and another 32 percent specify technical skills required without a TMS.

Time reduction with a TMS is dramatic. Fifty-three percent said they can implement a new or revised tag in an hour or less with a tag management system, while only 8 percent said it could be done in that time before they had a system.

Categories, Dimensions

Such a clear need for a system in a rapidly awakening market has led to a variety of vendors. Forrester focuses on 15 of them, which it divides into several categories.

There are digital intelligence vendors, such as Adobe and IBM, which see TMS as expanding the capabilities of their own services, while marketing platform vendors, such as DC Storm, Krux Digital and TagMan, view tag management as aiding their conversion tracking and data management platforms. “Pure plays,” which represent most of the startups, include BrightTag, Ensighten, Search Discovery and Tealium.

With so many new offerings and so little in the way of customers’ experience in shopping for TMS vendors, the report recommends focusing on the dimensions of technical foundation, application features and extensibility.

Technical foundation includes such factors as disaster recovery, on-promises or cloud-based options, client-side or server-side tag implementations, and technical support. Consideration of application features beyond standard functions include the range and depth of integration with marketing companies and other partners, the capabilities and ease-of-use of administrative controls, and the kinds of reporting and analysis. And extensibility means the degree to which the solution supports such environments as mobile websites and apps, extends to outside solutions for analytics, or offers APIs.

The exploding need for tag management solutions is well-served by this overview. Subsequent reports on vendors’ specific strengths and weaknesses could also help users assess particular offerings, but the biggest factor affecting tag management decisions is that customers are still in the process of deciding what parts of this new technology fit their needs.

Image courtesy of Yuri Samsonov (Shutterstock)