Updated: 24th June 2017

Data and tag management: the DNA of marketing personalization

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Personalization is the gold standard for today’s enterprise marketing, but the challenges are now more formidable with the convergence of digital and physical channels in a connected ecosystem. It’s the consistent quality of the fluid, cross-channel experience that counts for consumers.

For that reason, it’s not surprising that digital experience technology decision-makers surveyed in a May 2016 Forrester report named their top three priorities for the year as personalization, people and platforms.

Forrester engaged technology, marketing and business professionals in customer-facing web and mobile experience delivery, seeking information about their 2016 strategies. What’s of particular importance is the extent to which these decision-makers are seeking to align technology to meet rising expectations of consumers, recognizing that almost three-quarters of US adults now use smartphones.

Here are some of the findings from this Forrester report, Digital Experience Technology and Delivery Priorities, 2016”:

  • Respondents surveyed cited “redesigning the user experience” (69 percent) and “delivering personalized experiences” (68 percent) as the top two priorities.
  • Major barriers to meeting these priorities included people and resources (76 percent); technology (54 percent) and agility and time to market (52 percent).
  • Survey respondents named the top software investments they need to make in enabling personalization: web content management solutions (60 percent); email marketing (53 percent); and tag management (51 percent).

The customer data platform

Do you find it surprising that tag management gets ranked among the top three personalization investments? You shouldn’t. Business and marketing leaders increasingly understand that timely data about individual consumers is not just a nice-to-have, but a must-have to market to people, not cookies or anonymous demographic segments.

That, after all, is what personalized content is all about. It ensures that the marketer isn’t, for example, sending irrelevant promotions for family sedans to a driver who just visited a website to customize and price a high-performance sports car.

Tag management makes data a kind of DNA of marketing personalization. Think of it this way: Of the massive volumes of undifferentiated data, tagging collects and organizes information from sources as diverse as websites, media buys, mobile apps, social media, customer analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Advanced tag management combines and integrates that data with offline sources such as CRM, POS, call centers, loyalty programs and more.

All of this information from on-site, online and offline data sources must be integrated into a customer data layer to make it possible to deliver consistent, personalized experiences across touch points. Collecting, transforming and activating this rich first-party data in real time is becoming the domain of a new type of application, the customer data platform, with tag management as an anchor. Gartner Research recently introduced the customer data platform into its yearly “Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing and Advertising, 2016.”

Personalizing content based on data

Significantly, the Forrester report revealed that content-driven personalization is the priority for these leaders, with three-quarters saying they are personalizing content on websites, followed by just over half (55 percent) reporting they are personalizing for promotions and product offers. In third place were product recommendations, followed by reminders and alerts.

Marketers historically focused on differentiating products and services from competitors. Personalization adds another lens to the marketing mission with the challenge of differentiating content and offerings to a unique user or like-minded group of customers.

Those insights begin with first-party data — the information generated by a brand’s websites, media buys, social platforms, mobile web and native apps, and any other owned source. Such data is typically the highest-quality information about customers, and monetizing the value of that data is critical to marketing ROI.

In contrast, third-party data is information gathered without the benefit of a direct customer relationship. The marketer has a good deal less control over the quality of that data.

Using first-party data, personalization can range from simply adding a name to an email to the sophisticated recommendation engines built by companies like Amazon to use customer purchases, browsing history and other profile information to personalize communications.

Marketing in the moment

Delivering “in-the-moment” marketing experiences depends on what Google calls “intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped.”  Fortunately, we can now tag, collect and integrate data from all channels and devices to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time, no matter where they are.

New sources generated by proximity marketing (in-store beacons, for example, that can activate personalized communications on mobile devices) are among the reasons that personalization can and must now span the digital and physical experience. In fact, increasingly, the two overlap with location-based digital marketing intended to influence the shopper in-store or in proximity to a location.

Google tells us how important this is: Just over three-quarters of people (76 percent) who search on smartphones for products and services nearby visit a business within a day.

Because tag management is integrated with the digital marketing ecosystem, it serves as a pragmatic tool to make all of this customer intelligence actionable. Marketers should not underestimate its relationship to the power of a broader customer data platform.

This combination allows the marketer to extract value from data across the entire marketing technology stack, while also bridging the gap between the digital and physical worlds. It provides the intelligence required to build continuously enriched profiles of unique people to guide content delivery and offers.

In fact, tag management, as an anchor of the customer data platform, is likely to be the future of managing data to improve the customer experience across all touch points.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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