When Sir Tim Berners-Lee sat down nearly 24 years ago to tackle a problem that his fellow scientists were facing, it’s unlikely he thought the problem would still exist today: the absence of a unified means of exchanging data. He proposed a specified set of technologies that would make the world wide web fully accessible to everyone.
The challenge that faced Berners-Lee is the biggest problem facing digital marketers today. The inability to get a unified view of cross-channel data from search, website, mobile, email and offline customer interactions has kept most of us from taking advantage of the data leveraging opportunity that the web promised.
We have a plethora of tools and systems that enable us to collect and utilise marketing data. Systems such as ad servers, web analytics tools, sales force automation tools, accounting programs, CRM and social graphing tools, are all data specialists in their own right, but they are designed to be self-referential. Unfortunately for advertisers using multiple systems, trying to get them to talk to each other is like being at a UN conference without the live interpretation service.
Most of these systems collect their data via tags (or pixels) on the advertiser’s site. Tags are ubiquitous. They’re like the electrical wires of the online marketing world helping transport data across the web. However, most tags contain a large amount of logic (conditional, execution, generation of output text, application flow management and the list goes on) and live on every page of the site, which makes them labour-intensive to manage and an enormous barrier to switching to an alternative supplier.
It’s the reason TagMan was founded back in 2007, when we realised there was a gap in the market for a single solution to house and manage all the tags used by website owners. As the world’s first Tag Management System (TMS), we’re in a strong position to realise the inherent advantage such systems have in providing a looking glass into the world of disparate data sets.
The TMS has the advantage of managing all communications from the tags to the services and back, putting it in a unique position of being the junction box through which all visitor attribute values flow — the very data advertiser’s use to target their audience. As we all know too well, the more signals (i.e. data elements) collected across multiple channels and devices, the more comprehensive the digital profile of each individual and the better targeted the advertising offers and messaging will be.
In a recent paper, Jim Sterne, Chairman of the Digital Analytics Association, called tag management a ‘data unification agent’. “Rather than trying to extract pertinent data from disparate data stores, they can be collected and used as they are being written to those stores.” This means that targeting decisions can be made on the fly, while preserving the unique capabilities of each ancillary service and with no additional effort on the part of the advertiser. The use of a TMS as the data conduit delivers on the promise of driving highly targeted marketing campaigns in real-time.
Advertisers can now also address the challenge of measuring the cross-channel and cross-device effect of their campaigns by using their TMS to join up first-party data in advertising and onsite cookies to CRM IDs at purchase. Doing so will mean huge data sets can be linked together at scale and allow for further refinement of ad campaign targeting.
Joe Stanhope of Forrester Research in his paper Understanding Tag Management Tools &Technology noted that, “Tag management systems occupy a unique position on websites as the focal point for co-ordinating the delivery and collection of data and content. Vendors are starting to explore various extensions that build upon foundational tag management capabilities. We’re entering an exciting phase in the development of the tag management solutions market.”
As Tim Berners-Lee reputedly said, “Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves.” With the right TMS in place, however, advertisers can now unlock their data and make it work for them to provide a far better customer experience.