Over a number of years we've helped large multi-national eCommerce companies to implement, fine tune and leverage different Tag Management Solutions (TMS).
This article attempts to consolidate key learnings for organisations who are considering adoption and also build upon recently published work by notable commentators like Stéphane Hamel.
What about external changes? Using a TMS can also impact relationships with existing Partners. Using attribution methods provided by some TMS vendors allows for a revised assessment of channel performance. Sit down with the third parties used for marketing acquisition as early as possible and explain that reward, recognition and commercials may change. Remember to be nice to those poor Affiliates!
3. ROI calculator rules, ok.
Calculate a true ROI and manage expectations within the business according. Ask the TMS vendor for a full declaration of service costs and build the business case for adoption. Start by estimating the financial impact from faster page load times and more efficient marketing budget allocation but, don't forget to establish all the associated TMS usage costs.
Pixel tracking, redirect services, 3rd Party Vendor support and (in some cases) data extraction and storage all have a knock-on impact in terms of cost. A popular TMS vendor called, Ensighten also provide a nice Excel ROI Calculator template to get you started.
4. Avoid the 'emperors new clothes' trap.
Its easy to be wooed by a technology that promises so much - resist that temptation. Don't scrimp on research during the discovery phase. Shortlist a maximum of three TMS vendors that can exceed internal requirements gather from a cross-section of business stakeholders. Decide whether a hosted solution is needed or, not and in those preliminary meetings, dig beneath the buzz words and rhetoric to establish if the vendor technology is platform compatible, robust, secure and scalable. Ask for a Proof of Concept (Poc) and put the vendors to the test. A popular TMS vendor called, BrightTag has a good introductory article on tagging for starters.
Also worth reading is an overview on TMS by Forrester.
5. Trust the sales people…only kidding.
During pitch time, don't be surprised if all the answers from across the table start with the word, “Yes”. Make sure the IT team are in the room to probe on Technical capabilities. This may be new technology to them too but, the underlying principles about how it works should be stress tested. Ask the vendor to set up a conversation with an existing happy customer and be cheeky by requesting to talk to an ex-customer who hasn't renewed.
6. Establish who ultimately owns third party tag testing.
Tag Management Solutions are working with established marketing campaign tracking companies to build relationships and partnerships. However, don't be surprised if some third party providers choose not to support testing activities if their tags are hosted inside a TMS container and not natively on the page. Get the I.T. department to help out or a knowledgeable third party.
7. Understand data accessibility.
The price of data storage has been slowing coming down over the years and some TMS vendors are moving service into the cloud. Besides cost, other benefits include scalability and reliability but, there are some important considerations. Is your business data easy to access, how long is data stored for and what is the cost of exporting it raw (if required). Be sure to ask about privacy and cookie laws too if within the EU. A popular TMS vendor called, TagMan provide a good summary of considerations that have been detailed in this ePrivacy info sheet.
8. Crash test, dummies!
Sadly, on more than one occasion a company has chose to ignore advice and released new code using a TMS vendor without prior testing on a Development environment to the detriment of Site performance and user experience. Using a LIVE environment to test new code is only ever going to end one way - it will hurt sales or, even the company's reputation… eventually. Resist the temptation or business pressure to deploy quickly and never push code out before the weekend, peak period or a national holiday.
9. Be prepared to re-implement site analytics...argh!
Hosting Site Analytics tracking code within a TMS is perhaps one of the greatest uses of this type of technology. It is important to understand if the TMS has in-house technical experts for your particular Site Analytics Tool(s). Often a complete re-implementation is required and support from the Analytics vendor may not be free. Make sure to ask up front about any charges resulting from additional consulting hours. If your company is data driven, highly focused on measurement and has a sophisticated Site Analytics implementation, look for a TMS vendor who has a proven track record in this field. Mistakes will impact data quality and confidence in the numbers otherwise.
10. Mitigate against 'chinese whispers' style deployment.
During implementation, a TMS vendor will request tracking tags that currently exists on Site to be added within their system. Make it a habit of requesting a copy of the exact code once it has been inserted. On a number of occasions, vendor engineers changed or removed key components the tracking code that rendered them useless. Check and check again to avoid disappointment.
11. Think 'russian dolls' when tagging.
The cornerstone to any successful TMS deployment is that the setup mirrors established organisational structures, taxonomies and marketing campaign naming conversions. For a global company, it might be easy to deploy one “tag” Site wide but, there could be limitations in terms of restricting views for the data collected. Be sure to ask how regional, country or, product data siloes can be achieved (if this is important to the business).
Similarly, when marketing campaign tracking is set up within a TMS vendor, ensure that it at least reflects current activity and naming conventions. If a format does not exist already, follow the Russian Doll rule - start big and end small. For example, the top of a tag hierarchy might start with the broadest element like Geographic Region (e.g. EMEA) and end at the lower hierarchy level with the most minuscule like Campaign Creative (e.g. Promo_Banner_160x600). Performing this exercise when setting up campaigns within a TMS will pay dividends later on as the business grows. For more information on campaign naming conventions, read this post over at E-Nor for a most informative and coherent explanation.
12. Marketing retribution
Tag Management Solutions are in a unique position to provide accurate measurement of marketing performance across disparate media to enable channel attribution evaluation. However, there is a bit of work required to get there. The methods used to detect various referral sources include a mix of; i) landing page detection rules, ii) pixel tracking and iii) click re-direct services. Therefore, in some cases it will be essential to re-deploy existing marketing campaigns with revised tracking links. Don't under estimate how resource intensive this process is and work with channel Partners or us to ease the burden.
13. Get in sync
About the Author
Alex Brown is a Digital Analytics and Site Optimisation expert who works as an independent freelance consultant. The opinions shared in this blog are based on personal experiences gathered over a decade of data crunching and technology evaluation. The author makes no attempt to be grammatically, politically (or otherwise) correct. Spelling was never a strong point and for practical reasons, not all vendors in the market are referenced in the article - no hard feelings.
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|Resources||(In Alphabetical Order)|
|BrightTag||101 Guide to Tagging|
|E-Nor ||Campaign Naming Conventions|
|Ensighten||ROI Excel Calculator for TMS|
|Forrester||Tag Management Overview|
|Pikslme||Site Cookie Auditing|
|Stéphane Hemal ||Selecting a Tag Management Solutions |
|TagMan||ePrivacy Info sheet|
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