Editor’s Note: The following is an interview with Bill Gassman, research director at Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company. Bill directs the digital marketing programs, focusing on program management and analytics-driven optimization. With over 35 years of IT industry experience, Bill has seen the growing need for digital marketing velocity, and the ways tag management can help this process.
You’ve been around business intelligence and web analytics for a long time. What was your initial reaction to tag management, and how have your views changed since then?
Tag management or, more accurately, the universal tag concept, caught my interest several years ago. I’m a big fan of standardization and have long been disappointed that data collection for web analytics remains proprietary. Tag management systems (TMS) don’t solve the standards problem, but reduce the problem to one tag and in some cases, a single data model. It is great to see so many tag management providers and accelerating adoption. I run Ghostery on my browser, and review what tagged products each website is running. I see a lot of sites using tag managers, but we are still in the early days of tag management. It is a simple concept on the surface, but takes a while for many organizations to fully understand the different architectures that are available, and sort through the decision tree about which one to choose.
What has the volume of client inquiries about tag management been like over the past six months? What is the common thread?
Tag management comes up on at least half of my client inquiries. Most are looking for a way to reduce the complexity of tagging content. There are also discussions on whether to build their own system or buy an established tag management system, and quite a few ask about using a TMS to collect data for on-premises processing, bypassing the need to import it from a web analytics offering.
Do you think tag management is a feature or a category?
Today, tag management is both a category and a feature. IBM and Adobe offer tag management systems as a feature among their growing suite of digital marketing services. But there are also a dozen or so tag management providers, so it is also a product category for now. Eventually, I expect content management providers will include tag management as a feature, and tag management providers will expand into adjacent markets. With their tags placed as real estate on a customer’s web site, the positioning is ripe for an up-sell opportunity.
What do you see as the biggest benefit of tag management? What do you see as its biggest promise?
The biggest benefit is the efficiency of a single tag that controls other tags. This leads to so many other benefits, such as quality, flexibility, control and performance. The biggest promise is the evolution of a common data model, giving those who create applications and content a data standard to follow. There is no doubt that standards drive technology adoption to the next level and the lack of standards in tagging is inhibiting innovation.
Google Tag Manager has launched. How will Google deal with the issue of vendor neutrality, i.e., the ability to work seamlessly with any technology, including competitive solutions? According to a recent study by Econsultancy, in association with Tealium, vendor neutrality was the No. 1 vendor criteria among tag management users.
Google will attract an ecosystem of tag-based products and each will engineer their products to work with Google’s TMS by default. It may not be a completely neutral market, but it will be vibrant, and good enough for lots of organizations. Parallel to what Google did for the web analytics market with Google Analytics, its TMS forces providers to rapidly innovate for the high-end and niches of the market or struggle to grow.
In your opinion, what are some of the most important digital marketing innovations over the past five years?
Tag management is one of the most innovative technology inventions, built uniquely for digital marketers, because it solves a new problem in a new way. Real-time bidding, in the ad-tech world, is another candidate to consider. In fact, tag management systems are creating new opportunities for control of advertising, attribution and information exchange with affiliates, so the benefits go beyond basic control and performance. Most new technologies available for digital marketing are not new innovations, but existing techniques applied to the digital space.