In part 6 of this multi-part series on tag management, contributor Josh Dreller discusses where advertising data is headed and and what we can do to get there.
Throughout this series on Tag Management Systems (TMS), you’ve read about tags, how to manage them, how to evaluate TMS vendors, and other tag related issues.
Tag management is certainly an important part of online marketing to date, but marketers are beginning to realize that better tag management only takes advertisers and the digital marketing ecosystem so far.
Your customers interact with your emails and your ads. They engage with you within tablet and smartphone apps. As well, some of your valuable, offline customer data can be translated into digital signals that cannot be collected with tags (such as what lives within your CRM, your point-of-sale systems, your kiosks, and even your call centers.)
Also an important aspect to consider is that much of the future of digital marketing data will live in wearables, Apple Pay, beacons, etc. which can’t all be collected by tags either.
Of course, a lot of your data lives where tags can reach, so comprehensive and easy-to-use tag management is still going to be a very important component to your future advertising data strategy, but for you to unlock the full power of your advertising data, you will to think beyond simple tags.
Tags = Data Collection
What are tags anyway? When a technology vendor or publisher sends you a tag to place on your site, what they’re looking for is access to data. These tags give them a small window of insight into the engagement you have with that customer and then each partner uses that intel to power their systems.
For example, just some of the marketing actions that can be powered via site tags…
- A Retargeter Or Ad Network can target media to specific customers based on the products they viewed or purchased
- An Email Platform can segment customers into the most ideal segments for future messaging
- A Dynamic Creative Or Content Personalization Engine can automatically begin to customize paid or owned media assets to be more relevant to each customer
- A Measurement Or Attribution Platform can track customer behavior to better assess and analyze how your media works together to impact and influence customers to take action
So, if the purpose of tags is to enable an advertiser to share data with its partners and platforms, and tags can only get you part of the way there…then the future of advertising data is for marketers to share their entire dataset with their partners, not just what can be collected with tags.
The concept that marketing will be highly data-driven is not a new one. In fact, most marketers would agree that it is inevitable. But how do we get there as an industry?
Making Data Easy To Use Is The Real Future Of Advertising Data
Long term, if working with data becomes as easy to marketers as any working on any other ad tech platform, it will eventually be distributed throughout the marketing ecosystem and finally impact marketing goals across every channel.
To realize this vision of ubiquitous ad data, the marketing ecosystem must make using data simple and approachable. To do this, four things must occur:
• Simplified Data Interfaces. For the most part, raw data is something only someone with coding and/or SQL skills can easily manipulate into useful streams. Third-party audience data has taken off because of its ease of use, allowing programmatic marketers to easily choose audience segments from drop down menus.
For years, media planners have subscribed to research firms such as comScore and Nielsen which provide very easy access to powerful market data. But your most valuable asset, your first-party data, is likely trapped in various technology silos. Imagine if all your data was easy to access, and you didn’t need to be a data scientist to use it.
• Easier Data Collection. Getting to their customer data has always been a problem for marketers. As more and more ad tech platforms emerge, the more disparate data there is. Tag management takes marketers pretty far with website data though the full dataset is still hard to reach for many marketers.
However, new tools are coming online that will help to ease this pain point. There are only a handful of methods that are actually needed for a marketers to be able to collect their entire ad data set (pixels, tag containers, SDKs, APIs, etc.) so we will certainly master data collection over time.
• Universal Data Standards. It’s still a bit of the wild west when it comes to data. Even if you can get your data easily out of your various customer engagement points, it’s hard to match up files from different systems.
For example, one of the most common data fields in digital advertising is impressions. In some systems, it’s called impressions, but in others, it is called imps, served impressions, display impressions, viewed impressions, purchased impressions, etc.
There’s literally a language problem between ad tech platforms that needs to get figured out before data can truly become as portable and flexible as it needs to be.
• Every System Handling Data In Real-Time. Marketers know that the value of data decreases rapidly over time. Many marketers haven’t yet studied the effects of data decay but most understand that data does have a “use by date.” Customer signals (such as which search terms brought them to your site, which email offers they just clicked, what actions they just performed within your app, etc.) must be acted upon quickly before the window of opportunity with each consumer closes.
To really be able to maximize the power of ad data, the speed between the collection of a customer signal to marketing action has to occur in near real-time.
If the previous four challenges can be overcome, more marketers will begin using advertising data more frequently and the data-driven approach will go mainstream.
The First Step Is Centralization
Data has been a bit of a bane for marketers. The marketer skill set has generally revolved around campaign planning, targeting consumers, and messaging, while data has been handed off to other teams (i.e., web analytics, IT, business intelligence, reporting, etc.) However, as data becomes more portable, easier to manage, and tangible, marketers are getting involved.
Even though the future of ad data is “data everywhere”, the first step is for each advertiser to finally get their customer dataset into a centralized hub so they can use it wherever and however it can help them or their partners to maximize the results of their marketing.
Remember, tag management is certainly an essential way for a marketer to gather and distribute their website customer data, but the future of ad data goes far beyond the browser. Mobile apps, wearables, connected TV, Apple Pay, beacons, all can provide valuable customer signals which marketers must wrangle to truly become data-driven.