Why Marketers Need a Tag Management System

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role in supporting marketing analytics solutions, integrating digital data, and serving as the foundational element in an organization's data layer."

A steady presence on most tag management shortlists, BrightTag (which has rebranded as Signal after completing its acquisition) is a notable vendor in the space, Jones and McCormick agree. Though it started out with just a basic tag management offering, the company has since augmented its enterprise solution with Fuse, a feature that collects and connects online and offline consumer information across devices and makes it actionable from a marketing perspective.

The tool can "sense when a visitor enters the Web site, apply a first-party cookie, and use pre-established rules to determine not only whether a visitor is a customer, but also who that customer is," Joe Stanhope, senior vice president of marketing at Signal, says. "Fuse can then use the predefined rules to initiate an action, such as sending that customer's data to the retargeting vendor, all in real time," he adds. This process is unlike the standard industry practice, which involves using a third-party cookie and resetting its value during the customer's next visit to the site, according to Stanhope.

Flash sale e-retailer Rue La La was an early adopter of the Fuse technology, and noticed a significant boost in conversion after implementing the solution. The company began working with Signal Fuse to re-engage dormant customers, and decided that the best approach would be to target those customers with relevant display ads. Executing the campaign, however, meant matching a customer's profile within Rue La La's CRM solution to that same customer's profile stored by the company's retargeting vendor—that's where Fuse came in. After the implementation was rolled out, Rue La La experienced a 10 percent increase in conversion among dormant customers, and saw its time-to-match drop from three weeks to a few seconds.

With Fuse, Signal is extending its capabilities beyond the scope of just tag management, and into the realm of marketing, providing not only a single point of intersection for the various types of data that individual vendor tags collect, but also serving as a link between that data and marketing initiatives. In June, Signal announced that it would be developing Fuse further to create an open data platform that would make it even easier for users to share consumer behavior signals with all the other marketing partners in real time. Though the details are still being ironed out as this issue is going to press, Stanhope says that Signal's overall direction represents a pivot point for the tag management space.

"We're seeing a definite shift in tag management. It's moving further away from being a strictly IT or technology implementation tool, and towards a foundational element of marketing. Making data cohesive and actionable is something that marketers have historically struggled with, and they're seeing now that tag management can eliminate that headache for them by making data that used to just sit somewhere really usable and valuable," Stanhope adds.

But Signal isn't the only one making strides. Another frontrunner in the space, Tealium was among the first to harness the marketing potential that tag management solutions have to offer. In September 2013, the company introduced AudienceStream, which uses gamification to help marketers segment their most actionable audiences. The tool allows marketers to assign badges based on customizable criteria—such as how long a customer spends on a brand's Web site—and gives them the capability to distribute those segments to digital marketing solutions that will trigger real-time marketing actions based on behavior.

Marketers can carry out all facets of their real-time segmentation and distribution strategies themselves by following a wizard that 

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