Shanti Shunn, director of online marketing at Harry and David, discusses why e-commerce sites need tag management, how tag management has evolved, and how to select a tag management vendor.
When and why did you decide you needed tag management?
At Harry and David we’re in all the multichannel markets, we have a lot of third-party tags on our site that relate to tracking and/or CPA payouts. I built my first tag management about 10 years ago, back when it was still called pixel wrapping. You had people who would touch multiple channels and check out, and you’d have multiple third-party tags firing. Based on them touching multiple channels, you’ve reported that order to multiple vendors. And of course you’re reporting 100% of the order, so you have three different vendors who show the order as one of theirs.
It came down to attribution and at the same time order tallies based on the last channel touch. You don’t always want to optimize to that, but you want to facilitate the visibility.
So if you have multiple CPA vendors you’re reporting a percent of that order out, so you report that same $100 order to three CPA vendors and one’s 5%, one’s 10%, one’s 15%, you’ve respectively paid out three times on that order. Your margin goes out the door because you’re paying everybody, and you’re not paying for their contribution in closing that order, you’re paying them for the full order. Affiliates play a big part of that piece because you can’t send them a partial amount.
Can you estimate how much money you’re saving through tag management?
I would easily say more than a quarter million dollars in excess payouts. At my previous company we probably saved the company in excess of half a million to more than three-quarters of a million in the first year.
It ends up paying for itself, especially if you have a very robust affiliate program or you’re doing any type of CPA-based ad purchasing or CPA partnerships. You really only want to attribute and optimize based on their role, first in or last in. There’s a whole world of corrections and cancellations and fraud. If none of that existed, it probably wouldn’t be as good a deal. You have to have the ability to give that order a one-to-one relationship with a channel.
Interesting that you’ve been in the field of tag management for 10 years. How have things evolved?
Back in the day when affiliate programs were really starting to emerge and there were gobs of different networks out there you had a massive pool of CPA orders and more people doing CPA partnerships as more of an exploratory way to pre-test an agreement. One thing I noticed was that every time my confirmation page was loading I was using source code and broadcasting pixels to all my third parties. So I asked, “What do I need to do to clean this up?”
So the first incarnation of pixel wrapping was developed to say: if our system develops this source code as the final source code of record with this transaction, then it becomes associated with a pixel. That’s why it became called pixel wrapping. You associated whatever your onsite tracking mechanisms were to the different third-party pixels.
Now there are new things bundled into tag management such as site speed, privacy, data collection. Do these features play an important role for Harry and David?
Site speed definitely is part of it. When I was doing the RFP for tag management one of the things I brought up was speed was not my main concern. There is a value to that, but it’s more of a side effect. Tag management has a lot more benefits than asynchronous loading. It’s going to save you money, give you a cleaner view of your business, give third party vendors and partners a clearer view of your business so they’ll be optimizing based more on real numbers.
Whereas if you have PPC advertising, there may be a lot of conversions, but those keywords might have been more of an influencer.
Speed is a benefit given the world we’re in, but I would never recommend somebody go to tag management simply to speed their site up another couple of seconds.
This is the first installment of a two-part interview. Come back next week for more!