I published Understanding Tag Management Tools And Technology about six weeks ago. The research has been a valuable resource for documentating the vendor landscape and – most importantly – identifying how buyers deploy and benefit from tag management solutions. But as we've regularly noted, tag management is an early-stage market undergoing rapid expansion and evolution. Strictly speaking, "Understanding Tag Management Tools and Technology" was fully accurate for about a week. Since we published the research in mid-August, the TMS vendor landscape has continued to exhibit highly dynamic (and exciting!) behavior:

  • August: BrightTag acquires SiteTagger. US-based BrightTag sets its sights on establishing a strong foothold in the EU by acquiring UK-based SiteTagger. You can read about it here.
  • September: Mediaplex launches a TMS offering. Digital media powerhouse Mediaplex jumps into the TMS market with its own offering – named Master TMS – to further enhance their stack of advertising technology and services. You can check it out here.
  • October: Google launches a TMS offering. This is the big one. Web and tech giant Google launches its own TMS offering – named Google Tag Manager – to make digital marketing easier to manage and to bridge their broad portfolio of analytics and media products. You can read the official announcement here, and check out Justin Cutroni's blog for a more technical overview.

Clearly Google Tag Manager is the most exciting recent event in the TMS market. New products from Google don't happen every day! There are several notable aspects to Google Tag Manager:

  • Google Tag Manager is a standalone product. Google has built its TMS as a completely independent system, rather than as a module of Google Analytics or any other Google product. Separation from other Google systems provides added assurance from the perspective of security and privacy (although Google Tag Manager uses no cookies nor collects any data), and ensures that the product retains the flexibility to span Google's products as well as third parties. 
  • Google Tag Manager is well conceived. This product is designed to handle Google and third-party tags, and offers most of the standard functionality we've come to expect from a full-featured TMS. Additionally, Google has done a nice job with features such as multi-account management (great for agencies!), debugging and preview functionality, and a clean, easy-to-use application interface.
  • Google Tag Manager does not offer an SLA. Google Tag Manager does not offer a service level agreement. Google certainly knows infrastructure and we anticipate a high degree of reliability, but lack of a formal SLA is a significant consideration for enterprise buyers. TMS offerings take on a lot of accountability for enabling digital analytics and marketing activities, and downtime without recourse can be costly.
  • Google Tag Manager is a work in progress. This is an initial release, and we expect Google to continue developing the product based on its road map and user feedback. Moving forward, I'll be looking for a number of enhancements that may already be on the punch list, such as deep UI and tag-level integrations with Google products, certified templates for third-party tags, reporting, expanded user permissions, and API access.
  • Google Tag Manager is free. Yes, that's right. FREE. As in "no cost." Just sign up. Adopting tag management just became a lot easier. Google Tag Manager is also ideal for firms looking for a low-pressure introduction to TMS before making the leap into an enterprise TMS investment; it's a great way to run a cost-effective POC to learn about TMS, support the internal business case, and fine-tune tag governance.

It's fascinating to consider all the implications of Google entering the TMS market. So who wins and who loses with Google Tag Manager?

  • The winners: users. Google's entry into the TMS market is a big win for users. Google Tag Manager won't be for every company, but it's always preferable to have more choice, and increased competetition between vendors will utlimately yield stronger TMS offerings. And, like the impact of Google Analytics on the web analytics market, Google Tag Manager will shift the concept of value for TMS in favor of users, ensuring that solution pricing remains aligned with business value. Additionally, Google Tag Manager's price point (or lack thereof) and market presence open up tag management to a massive universe of users who have never considered TMS but stand to reap significant benefits.
  • The losers: venture capitalists. VCs have invested tens of millions of dollars in TMS vendors to date, based predominantly on a "pre-Google" view of the market. I've heard some very optimistic TMS market projections from VCs in the past few months that will never hold true. Let's be clear, the leading TMS vendors are not going out of business; in fact, Google Tag Manager is an excellent validation of their efforts to date and the TMS market as a whole. I expect the market leaders to continue to thrive. But the nature of Google Tag Manager – free, competent, omnipresent – will affect the competitive landscape, and by extension, those who invest in TMS vendors. Google Tag Manager will accelerate the consolidation of the vendor landscape as weaker vendors stuck in between the leaders and Google struggle. And Google Tag Manager will reduce the overall macro market size for enterprise TMS vendors by dominating the low- to mid-end of the user market and driving moderation in pricing. VCs won't lose their investments but do need to reset their growth projections and exit timelines to accomodate new market conditions.

What does this ultimately mean to TMS buyers? First, it tells us that the TMS market is here to stay and there are suitable vendors for nearly every set of user needs; it's time to consider TMS adoption if you haven't already. Second, effective vendor selection is more important than ever; users must define their requirements and vet prospective vendors for suitability at the product, support, infrastructure, and corporate levels.

These are exciting times and it's great to see so much enthusiasm for tag management. Where do you see the market going in the next few months?