The market for tag management systems is gaining momentum at an impressive rate. On the surface, tag management is a rather pedestrian topic, focusing on the occasionally arcane and frequently ugly mechanics underlying our websites. Indeed, tag management seems to be worlds apart from the current marketing zeitgeist, which often directs our attention to sexy topics such as social media, tablet computers, and gamification. But if we take a deeper view of current marketing trends, it is clear that the two are actually very closely connected. Digital marketing execution and analysis are heavily dependent on website instrumentation, which by extension benefits from enabling technologies such as tag management.
Ultimately, I think the enthusiasm for tag management systems stems from the simple fact that these solutions address very real and tangible pain points felt by nearly all companies doing business on the Web. I believe that the effective use of tag management technology and governance practices can deliver significant efficiency, performance, and financial gains. And I'm not alone. Since publishing How Tag Management Improves Web Intelligence, I've seen steady and growing interest from Forrester clients on the topic.
For a relatively young technology segment, tag management is evolving quickly. In a matter of a just a few weeks, we've seen the tag management market take several significant steps forward:
I’m pleased to announce that we’ve published "The Forrester Wave™: Web Analytics, Q4 2011." The Wave methodology is Forrester’s time-tested, exhaustive, and transparent approach to vendor evaluations. This research is based on data gathered through extensive vendor briefings, product demonstrations, customer reference calls, and online user surveys. We evaluated seven leading vendors against 80 criteria and gathered reference feedback from more than 160 user companies.
This Wave focused on established vendors that offer web analytics products targeted at enterprise clients. We evaluated the following companies: Adobe, AT Internet, comScore, Google, IBM, Webtrends, and Yahoo. Forrester clients can read the full report and access the underlying scorecard details for each vendor. And don’t forget that the Forrester Wave scorecard also includes an interactive tool allowing users to customize the Wave model with personalized criteria weightings.
I’ve been asked several times why this Wave focuses on web analytics as opposed to a broader digital analytics or online marketing suite approach. I’m not ruling those options out for the future, but today the answer is simple: because web analytics is still challenging. My research agenda is heavily influenced by the questions and projects we address for our customers. As of this writing, more than half of my client inquiries are still about the technology, processes, staffing, and best practices of web analytics. That tells me that web analytics is a topic that still deserves our attention.
Google changed the web analytics market forever with the introduction of Google Analytics in 2005 (for a dose of nostalgia check out Brett Crosby’s original blog post). It was easy to use, delivered as a service, integrated with Google AdWords, and most of all it was FREE! This was revolutionary, and in the beginning it was an exciting way to democratize analytics, giving companies of all sizes access to tools that had traditionally been the domain of large, well funded corporations. It’s no surprise that in terms of sheer adoption, Google Analytics became – and still is – the most popular web analytics tool on Earth, serving hundreds of thousands of businesses.
But then something interesting happened: Google Analytics took on a life of its own. Strictly speaking, Google Analytics was not the leading offering in terms of features and functionality, and Google didn’t even offer direct services or support. So what accounts for its success?
Community. Google cultivated a large, active, and cooperative community of users, bolstered by strong online resources and their base of certified partners.
Ease of use. Google innovated in usability, making analytics accessible – even appealing – for non-analysts and marketers.
Enterprise penetration. Google Analytics gradually found its way into the enterprise as a secondary tool – sometimes by design, sometimes not! – for marketing applications and audit or backup purposes.
In the past 18 months I've spent a lot of time working with Forrester clients on many facets of online testing (that’s a/b and multivariate testing for those of you scoring at home) spanning vendor selection, organizing and developing skills for testing, and building processes to support testing.
One of the general trends in online testing has been the democratization of access to marketing users. I think this is a positive development because successful online testing is a team sport that requires collaboration across multiple departments and skillsets. However, pulling testing outside of the exclusive domain of analysts puts a lot of pressure on vendors to supply tools that are suitable for non-technical audiences. This means providing easy-to-use, guided functionality, collaboration features, campaign preview facilities, extensive object reuse, and modern interface designs. And, to varying degrees, vendors are making progress in the area of user experience to meet these needs.
I have noticed that one of the features that often gets short shrift is test planning tools. In my experience, planning functionality has come forward as a crucial – and underrated – feature in situations where marketers or non-technical users will be involved in the development and deployment of online testing campaigns. To explore this idea further, I just published a new piece of research titled "How CI Professionals Can Plan For Site Optimization Success."
In my part of the country — as in many others — it was a very hot and stormy summer. And beyond the weather, I haven't seen the traditional late July and August slow period. Much of my summer has been spent working on the upcoming Web Analytics Wave report. While I've been focused on research, the analytics community apparently has had too much to do and has continued moving along at full speed.
I’m pleased to announce that Customer Intelligence is returning to the Forrester #IMChat tweet jam next week with a session on mobile application measurement – at 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, July 12th. Just in case you’re new to our tweet jam sessions, these are weekly interactive discussions held via Twitter on a variety of marketing topics, using the #IMChat hashtag. Everyone is welcome to join in.
Mobile is top of mind for many marketers due to growing market penetration, improved mobile network capacity, and the availability of compelling devices such as smartphones. Engaging with consumers via mobile is no longer optional; the traffic numbers for mobile web browsing and application usage are too big to ignore. I am fascinated by mobile because it is very much related to other interactive channels, and as a platform, mobile is a tremendous enabler of other channels such as social, yet it is a very unique, specialized, and personal experience.
Mobile applications are an exciting frontier for digital marketing, with huge potential for engaging customers and driving revenue and loyalty. But as an emerging channel, mobile applications are challenging due to new and evolving technical requirements, uncertain consumer expectations, and a paucity of benchmarks. Clearly, this is an environment where measurement is critical: to optimize customer experiences, maximize ROI, make the case for investment, and to meet customer needs. But sophisticated mobile application measurement remains the exception rather than the rule.
Change is the only constant. This truism is one of the reasons why web intelligence is so much fun to cover at Forrester Research. Web analytics, site optimization, mobile measurement, and the online marketing suite are constantly evolving, which is not only fascinating but will - one would hope - lead to increasingly productive and relevant marketing.
The market moved again yesterday, as Hubspot announced the acquisition of Performable. You can read the official Hubspot announcement here and the matching Performable announcement here. I had the opportunity this morning to speak with Hubspot's Kirsten Knipp to learn more about the transaction. The terms of the transaction are undisclosed, but clearly Hubspot is feeling empowered in the wake of their recent funding round. The entire Performable team is staying on board, and it appears to be a very collegial meeting of the minds; Performable CEO David Cancel and Hubspot CTO Dharmesh Shah have known one another for several years.
In the wake of these reports, we found that the online marketing suite resonates strongly with Forrester's clients. Organizations definitely have an appetite for a framework to coordinate the content, execution, and analytics that comprise interactive marketing. But time and time again in client meetings, inquiry calls, and at events I've heard the same set of questions: What technologies, skills, and processes does my company need? Which approach should my company take to the online marketing suite? Where should my company start on its online marketing suite journey?
These are topics we will continue to explore, and to get started we published How To Identify Online Marketing Suite Requirements this week. This research provides a needs assessment framework designed to help organizations craft their strategy for implementing the online marketing suite.
Do you remember your first digital video recorder? Most of us probably started with Tivo, or perhaps a box provided by our cable company. The DVR forever altered how we watch television and introduced the concept of "time shifting" to the media world, much to the consternation of TV networks and advertisers.
The DVR arrived in my home in 2003, and things haven't been the same since. I'm a busy guy - I have a young family, I travel a lot, all the normal stuff - so the freedom afforded by the DVR from the tyranny of network schedules immediately transformed my TV viewing experience. At first it was enough to record my favorite shows and then watch them at my convenience. But it became so much more: I could easily search for and discover new shows and films, I could record and store my favorite shows and films for a rainy day, and I no longer had to watch commercials! I learned to curate video content, much as I manage my music in iTunes; it's just another stream of media to consume.
(Side note: anyone out there have younger kids who have grown up with a DVR? It's fascinating to take note of their conditioning; my children have never known a world without DVRs and are completely used to watching whatever they want when they want it, and are utterly mystified by the concept of commercials during a program.)
Perhaps the biggest impact for me was the change in how I watch sports. I enjoy sports, particularly NCAA basketball and football (go Illini!), NFL (go Bears!), Formula 1, tennis, golf, and I'm occasionally drawn to obscure sports in the middle of the night such as the Scottish Caber Toss or Australian Rules Football. With the DVR I could watch NCAA basketball games in . . . just 40 minutes, not two hours! I was now immune to insufferably long NFL games, chock full of TV time-outs, halftime show pageantry, and constant holding penalties.
Last week we published a new report titled Mobile Measurement Is A Customer Intelligence Imperative. I’ve been getting more questions recently from Forrester clients about measuring mobile browsing and applications, so it was definitely time to look seriously into the topic. As an added bonus, this report also gave me the opportunity to work with two of Forrester’s mobile consumer strategy rock stars: Julie Ask and Thomas Husson; if you are interested in mobile, I strongly recommend that you follow their work.
The topic of mobile measurement has become increasingly frequent in digital analytics circles, and it’s not hard to see why:
Consumer adoption of mobile is on the rise globally.
Smartphones and other devices such as tablets are improving user experiences with advances in usability and functionality to become hubs for productivity, communications, and entertainment.
Improved infrastructure — carrier networks and widespread WiFi availability — supports data-intensive mobile browsing and application interactions.