The Perks of Tag Management

There aren't many ways to simultaneously improve the efficiency and performance of your marketing, analytics and tracking systems. That is, unless you're one of the growing number of Web companies adopting a tag management system (TMS) to implement and maintain the data collection instrumentation of modern analytics and marketing execution.

The pace and volume of tag management requirements have increased considerably and often threaten to stretch a businesses time and resources past its limits. Fortunately, a TMS can consolidate tag execution and maintenance into a single management application with added efficiency, flexibility and page-load performance benefits.

A recent study by Forrester, "Understanding Tag Management Tools and Technology," highlights these advantages in a survey of 76 TMS users. What it found was that these systems are great for businesses with complex Web environments that are constantly changing, leverage tags for a variety of purposes, resist external support in favor of internal resources and/or lack rigorous processes, relying primarily on ad hoc tag additions and maintenance.

According to the report, 50 percent of the respondents are recent adopters, using their current TMS for under a year. (Another 29 percent have had theirs for less than two years.) And while tag management is usually associated with Web analytics, these companies have found creative ways to utilize it.

Nearly 88 percent use their TMS for Web analytics, but many also use it for search marketing (64 percent), ad serving (62 percent), affiliate marketing (59 percent), behavioral targeting (50 percent) and much more. Interestingly, 38 percent of the respondents said their marketing departments were responsible for tag management, while only 28 percent left it to their Web analytics group.

Forrester found that many TMS users "have high expectations for tag management systems," such as condensed cycle times for adding or changing tags, faster page-load times and reduced technical skill requirements for managing tags. It seems to work, because after deploying a TMS, their ability to implement or revise tags jumps from 18 to 80 percent in a day.

This improved efficiency reduces the effort, resources and time required to add, edit and remove tags from sites. The majority of users (53 percent) said that it takes them less than an hour to implement revise a tag using a TMS, but just eight percent could do it that fast before they got one. In fact, most (52 percent) said it took them between several days and several weeks to add or edit tags until they got a TMS. Luckily, there has been an explosion of specialist and enterprise tag management vendors entering the market.

This includes major software names like Adobe and IBM, who use TMS capabilities to expand their product lines, manage data collection for their product suites and improve the manageability and cohesiveness of their solutions. As established vendors, they appeal to firms that are already deeply invested in their products, because for the most part, their tag management systems lack independence.

Some systems are considered "pure plays," meaning they focus solely on offering highly functional and easy-to-use tag management systems. These include names like BrightTag and Tealium and are ideal for younger, analytics-led organizations still developing their support and infrastructures - and credibility.

Finally, Forrester identifies TMS marketing platforms like DC Storm and TagMan that develop solutions that support marketing capabilities. A TMS marketing platform provides broad, marketing-oriented perspectives that are great for advertisers or publishers.

Forrester does want businesses to look beyond basic features to find the important differences between vendors. This means looking at capabilities on three different levels. The first is their technical foundation, which consists of the underlying design, operation and delivery of the system, such as its infrastructure, deployment method, implementation method and support and services. Next is the application feature set, or the key components beyond functionality that drive efficiency, such as its partner ecosystem, workflow and user administration capabilities, usability and native reporting features. Last, but not least, is extensibility, which lets users leverage TMS features in multiple environments, so companies should look at environment support, platform extensions and application programming interface.

Ultimately, Forrester's study seems to definitely point toward using a TMS to the benefit of various aspects of your Web business. Marketers continue to feel pressured to keep up as digital channels become central to customer experiences, and they'll (likely) find that a good TMS will deliver on its promise of efficiency, helping them save time and resources normally allotted to the exhausting task of adding, editing and removing site tags. However, it is important to look closely at the vendor options available. Businesses have a wide selection of prices, feature sets and technical options to choose from, so they must find the TMS that will best meet their unique requirements.