Last week was an awesome week for digital measurement, especially if you were in San Francisco. The week started with a resurgent Webtrends, kicking off their Streams product at their annual Engage user conference, and ended with what is undoubtedly the largest gathering of tag management users and wonks in the industry at Ensighten Agility. Both were great events, exceptionally well run throughout, and my team and I were honored to be invited to present and participate in both.
While both conferences had great speakers, and I certainly learned a ton throughout the week, one of the most interesting presentations I saw was from Charlene Li of the Altimeter Group. I have never met Charlene but knowing a few of her analysts and her reputation I have a profound respect for both her knowledge and her business acumen. Demystified and Altimeter are alike in many ways — we even collaborated on a measurement piece a few years back — and so I find myself watching Mrs. Li and the growth of her firm for clues about what Demystified should do next.
One thing that Charlene said last week really stuck with me for a few days after her talk — the idea that “Social is like air”. I won’t do Charlene justice but you can read her thoughts in the Washington Times and the relevant piece is this (emphasis mine):
“I believe that in the future, social media will be like air – it will be anywhere and everywhere we want and need it to be. We’ve already seen the progression of this over the past five years, with Facebook Platform and APIs enabling social media features and content to be embedded in any application, in any mobile device application.”
Now I certainly don’t disagree that social media has and will continue to explode, becoming near ubiquitous from a platform perspective. Based on the past five years growth in social networks, and especially if you live in or near the Silicon Valley, one gets the sense that if you’re not investing like crazy in social that, well, something is simply wrong with you. So yes, I can definitely see how Mrs. Li would think that “social media will be like air” sometime in the coming future …
But for today, social media is like coffee.
Coffee? But that’s crazy, right? Not everyone likes coffee … some people drink tea, some prefer soda, some folks don’t drink anything but water. What’s more, coffee is an acquired taste, one that more often than not simply does not work for your palette, preference, or state of mind.
Social media is like coffee, which is to say that it’s great if you love it, but that social media is simply not for everyone. Nor every business.
Here I should point out that I do not disagree with Charlene or any other analyst, pundit, or business leader who believes that social media is A) transformational for business and B) tremendously important to our digital futures. At Web Analytics Demystified I have certainly seen (and more importantly, measured) amazing successes driven in large part by social media marketing and social campaigns; that said, I have also seen (and measured) an amazing amount of churn, thrash, and outright waste associated with “trying to leverage social media.”
- What if you are a marketer leading a Fortune 100 company whose primary focus is B2B … how should you leverage Twitter to drive leads?
- What if you are a billion dollar hardware manufacturer whose name is virtually unknown to the public … do you need a Facebook page?
- How about if you are a slow moving governmental organization … do you need a presence on YouTube?
The list goes on and on … and note that it will probably never include “retail, direct to consumer” anything as social has clearly (and measurably) transformed marketing in this sector, likely forever. But at the same time there is an awful lot of money being spent in the B2B and CPG space on “marketing” that is eying social media as if it is the only possible hope for the future …
… but it’s not, because companies can live without social media, just like you and I can live without coffee*.
The good news is this: You don’t have to take my or anyone’s word for it — go ahead and invest as much money as you want into social media. Buy traffic and followers on Twitter, build elaborate Facebook pages, and post “why Acme is great” videos to your YouTube channel to your heart’s content — so long as you have a clear, concise, and pre-agreed plan to A) measure the impact of your investment and B) determine whether said investment is “air” or “coffee” for your firm.
Yeah, you knew I’d bring it back to measurement, didn’t you?
I am confident in saying “social media is like coffee” because I have seen the proof. Social media is not for every business. Social media is not for every business plan. Social media is not the end-all-be-all that will save your company … neither is analytics for that matter. In much the same way that I eschew the silly notion of “data driven decision making” I encourage my clients to balance the things they hear with the things they know on the fulcrum of objective, trustworthy business analysis.
What do you think? Am I crazy? Am I missing something profoundly important or obvious? Am I just some redneck heretic from Oregon who doesn’t understand how Silicon Valley (or the Internet for that matter) works and thusly am doomed to failure? Or, like you, am I a business person and marketer who enjoys coffee profoundly …
… just not as much as air.
* Footnote: I cannot live without coffee, nor would I try … but I know some people who can.
This morning we are very excited to announce that Web Analytics Demystified has partnered with Webtrends as a consulting and development partner on their recently announced Webtrends Streams platform. You can read all the details in the official Webtrends press release, and I contributed a lengthy post to the Webtrends blog that details why I am so excited about Streams and what we are able to do with it.
In a nutshell:
- At Web Analytics Demystified we are increasingly seeing clients integrating disparate data as a rule, not an exception, in their reporting and analysis;
- Because of the disparate and rapidly evolving nature of the connected world, this integration at times becomes complex to the point of being absurd;
- Experience has shown that “traditional” analytics platforms do a reasonably poor job handling new data (e.g., mobile app data, social data, etc.);
- I personally do not believe that this pace of change will abate — we will only have “more data” coming from “more devices” from this point forward.
Given all of this, for the past few years I have been on the lookout for a truly robust “generic” data collector — a device that would allow us to tag anything and that would deliver that data to us in a reasonably fast and programatic way. Essentially a log file for, well, everything digital … web sites, mobile apps, social interactions, geographic locations, in-game actions … even turning up the heat in your house or shutting off your lights when you’re not home.
I have seen many solutions that were close … some very close … but I think that Webtrends has solved the problem with Streams.
When you first see Webtrends Streams you’ll think “oh, yeah, real-time data … I have seen that before … it’s useless.” It turns out that the most interesting thing about the platform is not the real-time nature of Streams; that is really more of a “nice to have” than the core value proposition. Also, Webtrends Streams is not for everyone. If you’re not using the analytics you already have with any level of proficiency to create tangible business value … well, you’re probably better off focusing on that first.
But if you’re like an increasing number of Web Analytics Demystified clients, and if you’re ready to start really pushing the envelope with what you’re able to do with the multiple, disparate data your business is inevitably generating, we’d love to discuss Webtrends Streams.
(I will be in San Francisco later this month and if you’d like a live demonstration of the product email me directly and we can set up a time to meet.)
On behalf of the rapidly growing team at Web Analytics Demystified I wanted to wish all of my clients, readers, and friends a Happy New Year! I say rapidly growing because 2012 saw unprecedented growth for the Demystified team:
- In February we added Brian Hawkins to the team to build out our Testing, Optimization, and Personalization practice. Testing has long been a fundamental component of our strategic client engagements, and adding Brian to the team has allowed us to take our support for optimization to entirely new levels. With nearly a year with Demystified under his belt, the one thing that strikes me as most impressive about Brian (and client’s clearly agree) is how he never runs out of great ideas for testing! Check out Brian’s blog to see what he is up to …
- In September we added Kevin Willeitner to the team to build out our Implementation and Systems Integration practice. One of the most common requests we had from clients following our strategic work has been “can you help us implement your recommendations?” While we have worked in the past with a variety of third-parties and partners, at the end of the day what clients were saying was “can YOU help us …” — it turned out more than anything clients were looking for the seniority and stability that Web Analytics Demystified has long stood for in the analytics industry. When I realized this, I immediately went and hired the best systems integrator I knew, Kevin Willeitner, and not to brag, but Kevin recently helped one of our clients deploy Google Analytics Premium via Ensighten across nearly 50 brand, mobile, and social sites … all in less than 45 days. See what Kevin is thinking about these days …
- In December, again responding to key strategic clients telling us they were tired of working with junior, unskilled, and inexperienced consultants who ended up creating as many problems as they solved, we added Michele Kiss to the Demystified team to build out our Analysis and Analyst Support practice. Michele is a certified analytics industry rock-star, often referred to as “the voice of analytics,” and has an amazing breadth of experience as an end-user client and consultant. Check out Michele’s blog and learn more about our newest Partner …
Adding Brian, Kevin, and Michele to the team, augmenting the amazing work that John, Adam, and I have long been doing for clients, really amounts to a shift in what Web Analytics Demystified is able to do for our clients. Whereas in the past we have had to rely on other firms, partners, and vendor resources … now clients are able to form a strategic partnership with Web Analytics Demystified and work with the most experienced consultants in the industry, exclusively. In the short span of 12 months we have gone from a largely strategic firm, providing oversight over dozens of moving parts, to a single-source provider of the deepest body of analytics expertise available in the industry today.
Pretty cool, at least for our clients.
I sincerely hope that your 2012 was as amazing, productive, and exciting as mine was, and that you are similarly excited about what 2013 will bring. If you have any questions about Brian, Kevin, or Michele, or how the entire Web Analytics Demystified team might be able to help you expand your use of analytics, don’t hesitate to reach out and we can set up a time to talk.
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:
||$ to $$$$$
||Varies by Vendor
||$ to $$$$$
||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.
The good guys at Google announced today that they are giving away their own Tag Management System, Google Tag Manager. Since I’m not at Emetrics (where the announcement was made) I have been watching the news and responses over Twitter and I have to say it has been quite interesting. Responses seem to fall into two broad camps — “Good Guy Google” and “Scumbag Google” (with respect to /r …) — and since we have been covering and supporting TMS deployments for the past few years I figured I would offer some thoughts on both.
Good Guy Google
In one camp we have, well, most of the companies around the globe who have been considering an investment in tag management. In one fell swoop, Google has made their lives easier by far, at least when it comes to cost-justifying an additional investment in analytics … by simply eliminating the cost all-together. Whereas Google could have brought Tag Manager to market as a revenue generating service similar to Google Analytics Enterprise, Good Guy Google (“GGG”) opted instead for rapid adoption via their tried and true “trade you for data” model which has served the analytics offering so well.
What’s more, Google made the “trade you for data” very transparent in the sign-up process, giving users an easy to identify checkbox that allows them to deny Google the ability to use their data as part of the exchange. How cool is that?
GGG is truly being good in this regard, and although they do indicate under their Terms of Service that they will be using Tag Manager data to improve the tag management service, they explicitly state they will not share collected data without the user’s consent.
Good Guy Google for thinking about our privacy!
While I am still exploring the service it is clear that A) this is a pretty good first effort and B) that Google Tag Manager is lacking much of the functionality and sophistication of the established market leaders in the space, Ensighten, Tealium, and BrightTag. Des Cahill, Vice President of Marketing at Ensighten, posted a nice welcome to Google and a brief summary of some of the limitations the Google product has relative to Ensighten and others that is worth a read if you have five minutes …
That said, given Google’s demonstrated history of rapid application evolution and their long-standing commitment to Google Analytics, I suspect that Google’s TMS will quickly evolve beyond a good “entry point” into tag management to the same type of business-viable solution that Google Analytics itself has become. If I’m right, and hell, even if I’m not, Good Guy Google has changed the adoption curve for tag management forever by putting TMS into everyone’s hands, not just those companies with enough pain or enough money to make the leap.
Inevitably not everyone is happy to see Google come into the Tag Management space. As Cahill points out in his post, the handful of tag management options out there that are targeting the lower-end of the market likely just got the wind taken completely out of their sails (or sales, FTW!) And while these very few companies will point to more mature products, better user interfaces, more well defined SLAs, and whatever other FUD they are able to think up, it is far more likely that these companies are about to undergo a “forced pivot” … which is never that much fun.
And that sucks. Scumbag Google.
What’s more, this potential pain isn’t limited to vendors targeting the lower-end of the market. The “big dogs” have taken in over $50,000,000 in venture funding in the past twelve months, and I suspect that most of that was predicated on an assumption of the continuation of the same type of hockey-stick like growth in adoption and revenue acquisition we have been reading about. Now, even if Google’s service doesn’t meet the requirements of an Enterprise-class offering, it is likely that the TMS buying process for a great number of companies just became as complicated as … well … paying for web analytics when their is a widely adopted, powerful, free solution provided by Good Guy Google.
Scumbag Google, indeed.
Good Guy or Scumbag … it Depends!
Whether you consider Google a Good Guy or a Scumbag really depends on where you work and what your vested interest are, and honestly it’s probably too soon to say for sure exactly what impact Google Tag Manager will have on the TMS space overall. Still, I have long commented that the evolution of the TMS sector is much like the web analytics sector, only much compressed, and Google’s announcement will only accelerate that compression.
Now, instead of having five to seven years to build a great company and work towards the kind of million (or billion) dollar exit appreciated by Omniture, Coremetrics, Unica, and Urchin, executives and investors at the marketing leading tag management firms need to be thinking about twelve to twenty-four month exit plans. And, instead of having the luxury of time and a natural growth and adoption curve, the smaller, lower-end firms need to quickly evaluate their commitment to a sector that is about to be overwhelmed by Good Guy/Scumbag Google.
What do you think?
Do you think Google is a Good Guy for making TMS free? Or are you skeptical, thinking that this is the ultimate Scumbag move on their part? I welcome your comments, and to make weighing in even easier I have posted to comments below that you can up-vote or down-vote based on your own, anonymous feelings.