Tag Management Buyer's GuideTo coincide with today’s release of Econsultancy’s first Tag Management Buyer’s Guide, we’ve been talking to some companies about this increasingly high-profile topic. For those looking for a tag management system (TMS) provider, we’ve included tips from client-side marketers at Belron, Waitrose and John Lewis Financial Services.

While market penetration for tag management systems is still limited, the business case for these solutions, measured in terms of increased marketing agility and improved website performance, is increasingly resonating. According to the ROI of Tag Management Report, published by Econsultancy in association with Tealium, 87% of respondents agreed that ‘effectively managing website tags is fundamental to digital marketing’. 

What is driving the uptake of tag management systems?

Craig Sullivan, Group eBusiness Manager, Belron

The most common reason that I hear is that tags have simply gone out of control on a website. What they mean here is that there are simply so many tags on their site, it looks like a Christmas tree on steroids. Although tag management systems can help here, it sometimes begs the question – why did you let it get in this mess?

Christophe Loyce, Online Analytics Manager, Waitrose

The ability to test new campaigns and affiliates by having control over the order confirmation page. That means that we never have to have another conversation with IT about releasing new affiliates / retargeting / PPC tags ever again, and that is where the true value lies – in opportunities that we have been able to test.

What are the most important trends occurring in this market?

Craig Sullivan

Mature and sophisticated products are on the market, that can take tag management and make it as simple as using a content management system (CMS). For people with tag frenzy on their sites, the reduction of errors, admin overheads and complexity is very welcome.

Christophe Loyce

The companies that benefit most from tag containers are big, cumbersome companies, whose IT department has a change board. Pureplay SMEs probably don’t really care that much, as they don’t mind pushing an order confirmation page update through a hotfix, and they haven’t got that much money to burn anyway. But, for bigger companies, it means freedom for the marketing department. That freedom, combined with a better understanding of attribution, can and should yield great results in marketing efficiency and effectiveness.  

What do you consider to be the most significant challenges or threats facing this sector today?

Christophe Loyce

They are expensive products as a standalone, and the complexity of the implementation is often misunderstood. They claim to have very simple implementations, but like in an analytics implementation, one needs to be quite thoughtful about the information that needs capturing.  

Craig Sullivan

Analytics products like Google Analytics continue to redefine what can be done without using tags. For our sites, I am Cerberus, the three-headed dog – nobody gets to put a tag on the site without getting past me. And my first question is: ‘what data is this collecting and why don’t we get it from existing analytics capability?’. In many cases, a challenge to the request often tells you it isn’t really needed – this is where tag hell begins.

As performance becomes ever more critical, particularly on mobile, the ability just to slap a tag on a site and walk away becomes limited. To drive sub two second response times on mobile, you can’t cover the site with heavy, slow, unresponsive desktop style tags. And I think that like us, if you can limit the indiscriminate tagging of your site, this is nipping the problem at the source, rather than further down the line. Mobile redefines everything.

Are there any tips you would give to companies who are thinking about investing in a TMS?

Eric Crossfield, Web Analytics Manager, John Lewis Financial Services

  • Be very clear about why your business needs a TMS. Is it for centralised tag control or for attribution modelling or are you being offered TMS for a cookie legislation solution?
  • If you are using a TMS for attribution modelling, ask yourself if you really need it. Also be aware of its limitations and consider if you can achieve this without a TMS.
  • Don’t accept generic promises about tag management – dig deep and find how it directly impacts your business and will ‘move the needle’.
  • Look at the various solutions and vendors out there – they have their differences and not all may suit your business.
  • Ask if the vendor has implemented TMS in your industry vertical. TMS needs for a financial services business are very different from retail needs.
  • Obtain references from your industry – find out how the implementation went – ask if promises were met.
  • Meet the technical people not just the sales team.
  • What’s the return on investment and on effort?

Craig Sullivan

Take a long hard look at all your tags and ask – ’Can we get this data elsewhere?’ If you can’t get an answer, and a good one, then you need to remove this stuff. Most agencies and third parties are more than happy to use Google Analytics or another analytics package to cut their reporting  –  don’t just default to slapping a tag on there. If you care about customer performance, this starts with policing what tags you’re placing on the site and why.

The one promise we didn’t find was an easy way to deploy these solutions. In our case, the complexity was more than the worth of the return. Make sure you’re solving a real problem with technology or the tag management solution becomes the master, not the servant.

After a trial period, we decided to use our own approach, which uses resource of a few hours a month. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at tag management products – just don’t be dazzled by the promises and always undergo a well-defined pilot where you get a dose of ‘hands on’ reality.

Christophe Loyce

Know what you are going to use it for (more control over analytics tags, attribution modelling, or an increased ability to test new marketing channels, or all three), and make sure that the way you implement it will allow you to do that – this is the 101 of all projects, but it is shocking to see how often we fail that essential step and listen to the sales speech instead…

We explore these trends and other market developments in more detail in our Tag Management Buyer’s Guide. The 135-page guide also contains profiles of 12 leading vendors and tips (and pitfalls to avoid) to help you find the right TMS.