The Evolving Tag Management Marketplace
Today started with a flurry of communication about Adobe’s intent to start giving their Tagmanager product away to all SiteCatalyst customers at no charge. I see this change as having significant impact on the larger tag management and digital analytics marketplace, so I figured it was worth writing about.
Adobe’s news, confirmed but still not official, follows the launch of Google’s free Google Tag Manager by just over a month. This timing may be a coincidence — stranger things have happened — but it is just as easy to imagine that someone in Adobe decided that it was better to shake up the tag management market than to try and compete head-to-head on more robust, less expensive, and more widely adopted solutions. Additionally it is worth noting that IBM/Coremetrics made a similar decision months ago, essentially to provide access to their Digital Data Exchange product at no charge to customers.
For those of you keeping score at home, from the perspective of the traditional web and digital measurement vendors, here is broadly how things look today:
|Vendor||TMS Strategy||TMS Cost||TMS Maturity|
|Adobe||In-house Product||Free||Emerging Platform|
|IBM||In-house Product||Free||Emerging Platform|
|Webtrends||Third-Party Solutions||$ to $$$$$||Varies by Vendor|
|In-house Product||Free||Emerging Platform|
|comScore||Third-Party Solutions||$ to $$$$$||Varies by Vendor|
As you can see, three out of five of the market leaders as listed by Forrester Research in their Q4 2011 Web Analytics Wave report are currently providing their own in-house tag management product to customers at no charge. Only Webtrends and comScore at this point are left relying on third-parties, essentially forcing customers to either allocate budget, negotiate contracts, and manage another vendor or leverage Google’s tag management platform, a frightening prospect these days given Google’s continued push into Enterprise-class analytics.
What’s more, the real impact will likely be felt less in the halls at Webtrends, IBM, Google, and comScore and more at stand-alone tag management vendors like Ensighten, BrightTag, Tealium, TagMan, and others. This group, well summarized by Joe Stanhope in his recent report “Understanding Tag Management Tools and Technology”, breaks along two lines of maturity: Emerging and Mature.
By “Emerging” I mean simply platforms that are earlier-stage start-ups, built on open source code bases, or otherwise not a full-bore efforts on the part of leadership teams and investors. In this group I count Search Discovery’s Satellite product, UberTags, Tag Commander, and until recently SiteTagger (who were acquired by BrightTag this past August.) I also count the offerings from Adobe, IBM, and Google in this list — each are a great first-effort from their respective owners, but each have functional gaps relative to the mature platforms listed below.
The “Mature” platforms, at least in my mind, are BrightTag, Ensighten, Tealium, and TagMan. Each of these companies are growing, well funded, stable, and reasonably focused in their efforts to create value for the tag management market and their shareholders alike. And, while I admittedly don’t know the TagMan guys very well, the other three are all known to Web Analytics Demystified to have happy and satisfied Enterprise-class customers who are increasingly dependent on their platforms for their analytics and optimization strategies.
The challenge all of these companies now face is this: without regard to relative maturity or technical sophistication, the two biggest companies in the digital measurement space (Adobe and Google) are now giving away tag management. What’s more, Adobe’s solution is essentially already deployed as part of most SiteCatalyst customer’s existing deployments, giving Adobe PR the license to declare that “Tagmanager is the world’s most widely deployed tag management solution” if they wanted.
Touche, Adobe. Touche.
While without a doubt the usual platitudes about “rising tides” and “market education” will be brought up, as will the typical FUD about “fox in the henhouse” and “vendor lock-in”, I wanted to drill down a little and provide my personal perspective on who Adobe’s announcement helps and who it hurts. Feel free to disagree with me here in comments … I know not everyone will like what I’m about to say.
Who Adobe Giving Away Tag Management Helps …
In the short-term, Adobe’s announcement helps more or less every SiteCatalyst customer who has been wondering if tag management is right for their company. The pricing barrier is gone, the deployment barrier is gone (assuming you have the right code base deployed), and for the most part the decision barrier is gone. You don’t have to decide whether it’s right to send even more data to Google … you’re already in bed with Adobe so pull those covers up a little more and snuggle in for a long Winter’s, umm, adventure learning how to actually leverage tag management.
Okay, that analogy stunk. Sorry.
Once Adobe flips the switch, every company leveraging SiteCatalyst has the immediate green light to start to explore tag management. Keep in mind, as with everything else, it’s not the tool you use, it’s how you use it … and if you’d like help getting started with the actual process of tag management please let me know. Web Analytics Demystified is very experienced with the process of bringing TMS up within the Enterprise …
Adobe’s announcement (again, when they officially make it) will also have that “rising tide” effect I alluded to above, without a doubt. Especially considering the money that Adobe is spending on advertising and marketing lately, if Tagmanager is rolled into that it is likely that an even greater number of CEO/CIO/CTO types will be asking their analytics teams about tag management, thusly generating substantially more interest in the topic at vendors across the board.
Longer-term, Adobe and Google’s announcement will help all companies. Trust me here, tag management is the future of digital measurement, analysis, and optimization. Based on work with our clients in the past two years, tag management is Pandora’s box — once it’s opened you can never, ever return to the way things were. And while I certainly don’t want anyone reading this to think that “tag management is easy” — it’s not — with the right people, process, and technology in place, tag management is enabling a whole new type of digital analytics. Again, contact me directly if you’d like to learn more about how tag management might be able to transform your company.
Who Adobe Giving Away Tag Management Hurts …
Much the same as I opined in my Good Guy/Scumbag Google blog post on the same subject, the Adobe announcement is not all good news. While Adobe customers can certainly bask in the altruism of their vendor — regardless of the reason they decided to make Tagmanager free … free is free — not everyone can be happy about this. Here are a few companies who I think are going to be hurt by Adobe’s decision:
- Adobe’s competitors in the digital measurement space. Within the Enterprise market I certainly consider Adobe the market leader. While they are certainly not perfect, post-acquisition I have seen a steady increase in the focus and commitment the company exhibits towards the analytics market and, while I can never be entirely sure if they are actually leading the way or just following very quickly, the result is the same and Adobe continues to log impressive wins in the market. Giving away tag management — even if they have been doing it all along as a practical matter — only makes them a stronger competitor in the RFP process up against the likes of IBM, Google, Webtrends, and comScore. Seemingly overnight, free tag management has become “table stakes” in the digital measurement arena.
- The Emerging tag management vendors. Here the pain is equally inflicted by Google and Adobe. To me it is not clear that companies will continue to pay for a solution that has, in the blink of an eye, moved from the hottest technology out there to a commodity market. Yes, Adobe and Google’s solutions are emerging themselves, and yes, each has as many limitations as they do advantages, but the one thing that Google buying Urchin years ago has taught us is that “free” is very compelling, especially when the final value proposition from the change being considered is not 100% clear.
- The Mature tag management vendors. I suspect that today was one of those “ugh, f*ck” days at Ensighten, TagMan, Tealium, and BrightTag … a day that is sadly increasingly common. The competition among these four is fierce, and I suspect the last thing that any of the executives and investors at any of these firms wanted to see on the heels of a free Google entry was a widespread and automatic deployment of a no-cost tag management from the platform (Adobe) that, honestly, benefits the most from tag management in the first place. To be fair, each of these vendors has a technological and methodological advantage over both Adobe and Google — each in their own way — but again, I consider it likely that at a minimum sales cycles will lengthen, prices will be forced down, and future rounds of investment will be somewhat harder to come by.
- Tag management investors. Tag management vendors of all types have seen substantial investment from venture capitalists around the globe. Given my writing about tag management I have spent countless hours on the phone with investors considering getting into the sector and, on every call, I was inevitably asked “do you think Google or Adobe or IBM will get into the space?” Now we have our answer, and what’s more, each of these three companies see a greater advantage in having their code deployed than they do trying to use TMS to drive revenue. Unfortunately revenue and adoption is the name of the game for investors, and that game just changed.
I suspect that there is some argument to be made for “this decision by Adobe (and Google) hurts everyone” given that if I am right about points #1 through #4 above it is likely that innovation in the tag management space will slow. Here I am not so convinced — knowing the leaders at most of the Mature TMS vendors moderately well I rather expect them to respond to Adobe and Google by making even better, even more sophisticated, and even more compelling offerings for as long as the market will let them. These guys are a smart bunch, and not a one of them to my knowledge is a quitter, so I expect them all to put up a good fight … driving innovation.
Again, for at least as long as the market will let them.
What do you think? Are you using SiteCatalyst and ready to give Tagmanager a try? Are you more likely to consider SiteCatalyst because they’re giving tag management away? Or does Adobe’s decision not really change your approach towards TMS … and if not, why not?
As always I welcome your comments and thoughts.