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Use of Tag Management Systems (TMS) in retail

Cardinal Path just released its first bi-annual review of the state of digital marketing analytics tools among the top 500 online retailers. We looked at both the use of web analytics tools as well as tag management systems (TMS). While the results for the web analytics were somewhat predictable (with some nuances, Google Analytics essentially leads the space overall, and Adobe Analytics dominates the high-volume retailers), the TMS results were a bit of a shocker for me: fully 42% of the top 500 online retailers do not appear to be using a TMS. 

Tag Management System use in retail

So why is this a shocker? Simply put, I believe that use of a TMS is an essential tool for the effective management of an organization’s digital ecosystem. In fact, when we do digital maturity assessments, we see a direct correlation between a lack of a TMS and low levels of digital maturity. The top five characteristics of low digital maturity organizations, and particularly those without a TMS include (but aren’t necessarily limited to):

  • Brittleness: processes and systems that are custom-made, intricately built and delicately managed;
  • Complexity: a large number of systems, vendors, and non-integrated processes;
  • Governance issues: blurred lines of accountability, multiple layers of ownership with competing priorities and budgets;
  • Sluggish processes: due to the bespoke nature of the systems, complexity and governance issues, actioning insights and updating digital assets takes far more time than it should; and  
  • Over-reliance on vendors: vendors providing direct guidance and focusing on their products in a siloed approach, focusing only on their tags and not taking a holistic view.

There are many other characteristics, but these are the ones that really present roadblocks to an organizations’ ability to execute and compete effectively against its digital peers. While it is possible that some of these retailers have homegrown systems that we were not able to identify (we were looking for the current crop of commercially available vendors), our sense is that the results are basically accurate, so this is a remarkable outcome for this first survey. I’m really interested to see how things play out in our next report, but until then, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to manage the digital and tag ecosystem of a top online retailer without a TMS!  

More on this next week! Join me and my colleagues Dave Eckman and Nick Iyengar (the report’s author) on Wednesday, December 16th, to drill down into some of the findings from this report and to answer your questions about the state of digital analytics from the people who are on the front lines of this every day.

Sign up now to participate in the discussion follow-up to the State of Digital Marketing Analytics in the Top 500 Online Retailers.