The key to managing big data for marketers is the proper use of tag management

For marketers to take advantage of the power of data, they are increasingly turning to more seamless integration with vendor partners via advanced tag management argues James Sandoval (left), managing director EMEA at BrightTag.

If you’re looking for a buzzword for marketers right now, it’s big data. There is massive excitement about the ability of millions of little pieces of information, properly analysed, to provide both new consumer insight and business advantage.

Capitalising on big data requires not insubstantial investments in systems and talent that enable companies to access not just the data their business creates, but also the data that consumers create through interactions with their websites.

Such data, if properly harnessed, tells businesses more about their customers than they ever knew before, helping them to create targeted offers as well as manage media spend more effectively.

The potential of such data to deliver material improvements in business and operational performance are two reasons why the value of tag management is quickly finding strong proponents in both IT and marketing departments, and playing an increasingly critical role for many businesses today.

It won’t be a surprise, given the UK’s e-commerce leadership position in Europe, that the adoption of tag management solutions in Europe has been lead by the UK ecommerce category, which leverages a wealth of customer data to power innovation and growth.

Pikslme, the digital marketing vendor intelligence service, analysed comScore’s top 2,000 sites in the UK and identified that the retail category commands a 22 per cent market share in terms of sites adopting enterprise tag management solutions.

Tag management however has important advantages for every sector. For the uninitiated, tags are the little known but critically important snippets of code used for data collection on websites. Each tag also acts as a trigger for placing or reading one or more of its own cookies,

The trouble is that too many companies in the digital media and marketing sectors are simply slapping tags all over their clients’ sites. They rely on tags to power reporting tools, ad targeting, measurement facilities and more.

But with tags key to the creation and movement of data from one place to another, and that data is big, then the application of vendor partners’ tags becomes a big problem.

Part of the challenge for brands that want to take advantage of big data is that tags are proliferating to such an extent that a typical e-commerce website could have anywhere from 15-150 third-party tags on its site at any given time. This foreign, often error-prone, extraneous code not only creates site performance problems – which results in missed revenue opportunities – but also data control issues.

Our experience demonstrates four key gains from tag management:

Control and Ownership: When a site owner puts third-party code on its web site, control over the data collection process is ceded to the third-party provider. The more tags placed, the more third parties have control over important business data.

Implementation: The traditional process of managing tags requires site owners to place code on specific pages of their sites. For large sites, this typically requires the IT team to make the changes as part of a scheduled deployment process, which can delay campaigns and lead to lost revenue opportunities. Tag management systems can speed up the process and enable IT and marketing team members, or their agency partners, to ensure that they always know what data is being collected and how it is being shared. Fast.

Privacy: Multiple tags on a website put privacy at risk because site owners are not in control over the data collected on the site. Also, many brands must increasingly adapt their sites to comply with differing privacy regulation across markets and geographies, which becomes increasingly difficult when data collection is in the hands of third parties.

Performance: Every new tag added to a site can introduce additional latency and degrade the customer experience. It is the end user visiting the website who bears the brunt of this overhead when they load pages containing hundreds of lines of third-party code. Research shows that increasing download times of websites can reduce e-commerce revenues and site visits.

By being fully in control of data collection and distribution, brands are in a better position to manage the understanding and value of their customers. Brands also have a powerful opportunity to manage vendor partners more strategically as well by ensuring real-time, clean data is efficiently fed into analytics, media, marketing and other systems that are in place for one thing only – to help create competitive advantage.

Forget for a moment the fuzzy talk about ‘big data’. Marketers’ worlds are increasingly digital, which, as a by-product, means big data. But managing through it efficiently and creating competitive advantage through data are among the greatest challenges facing marketers today. Tools that enable the efficient centralisation of vendor partners, their tags and the data that those vendor partners need to create value, are helping marketers do great things.

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