The Future Of Marketing Data

How many high-profile acquisitions have made it into the headlines over the past two years? It’s interesting to think that the average person on the street could point out that Facebook have acquired a virtual reality company, thanks to the likes of the Gadget Show and even the BBC promoting the capabilities of the VR headset through an imaginative marketing tie-up with Game of Thrones.

So when did M&A get cool? If 2013-14 has been the year of the strategic, future-facing acquisition, there have definitely been more than just the Oculus Rift acquisition to paint this type of picture. Facebook gazed into its crystal ball to predict the future of social by buying up WhatsApp for what seemed an eye-watering $19bn. And Google acquired DeepMind to hopefully cover the world in robots in a few years’ time.

This trend is not just limited to the tech giants, although Simply Business have done a great job of creating a great graphic to illustrate the acceleration of acquisitions by the likes of Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Yahoo. Within the marketing data world, consolidation is taking hold both to grow the industry, consolidate product offerings and provide value for clients. A variety of businesses realise the benefits of acquiring to gain extra market share, take on their competitors and grow in an increasingly competitive marketplace. 

History illustrates that during a recession, one of the first things companies do is cut research and development and marketing budgets. Consequentially, this move hinders companies moving forward when the economy begins to repair itself. Fast-forward to present day 2014 and technology businesses are playing ‘catch up’ through both innovating their product offerings, along with investing time in reinventing and perfecting their brand.

So what’s the rush to consolidate market share now, and what do these types of consolidation mean for the digital marketers out there? Oracle’s acquisition of BlueKai showed the amount of store and influence that data experts now have on marketing as a whole, and how much the job function of the CMO has changed to incorporate data analysis. CMO, CIO, where is there a clear-cut line?

For marketers working with web analytics, the process of deploying tags used to be eminently simple – the first tag was consistently deployed across the entire site and was used to track activity. All of the sudden, companies had a web analytics tag on every page to track activity and site usage, which allowed them to see across the whole site. Without sounding too much like I’m harking back to simpler days, because the amount of innovation in the area of marketing data has been astounding, it was a simpler job for marketers to get a handle on.

Then arrived the ad servers who served up millions of ads – and hundreds of thousands of people went and clicked on those ads. In order to track the percentage of users that that clicked through and how many converted – to prove the ad server’s value to the business – they added a tag on the product page, landing page, confirmation page.

The next set of companies to come and demand to clog up sites with tags were various multivariate testing companies such as Adobe Test & Target and Monetate, who wanted to use tags to test placements and messaging. Affiliates were almost the last arrivals to the party, adding a tag on the confirmation page and all claiming the successes for conversions, even though some only generated the last click in the customer journey – others came in the middle and so forth.

Before they were aware of what was happening to their site, a marketer had to deal with anything from 5 to 50 technologies, each wanting their own tag to sit on a website, each sending a report back to base camp on how well the vendor supports the client. Even worse – at the end of every month, you have affiliates warring over who gets credit for the sale.

It could be said that for the average marketer the process of sifting and managing the tags and understanding the real value of the various marketing channels had become like wading through mud. Having a group of companies shouting all at once, claiming superiority where perhaps there wasn’t any right to is a hard thing to manage, and that’s where a fully supportive tag management system comes in to help the marketer management and understand the real value. 

In terms of market consolidation, we could see one or two more standalone tag management businesses get acquired to grow this sector; others will go down the IPO route and follow the same path as Omniture, for example.

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