Monday, June 22, 2015

Tealium Grows from Tag Manager to Customer Data Platform

It took me an embarrassingly long time to recognize why Tealium’s AudienceStream is just a bit odd. The oddity itself I saw immediately: while most marketing systems focus on sending messages to customers, AudienceStream is organized around overwriting data and sending it to other systems. The reason took longer to grasp: eventually I recalled that Tealium started as a tag management system and passing updated attributes to other systems is what tag managers do. So it’s perfectly natural for AudienceStream to offer precise control over which attributes are sent to which systems in which situations.

To some degree, the difference is just a matter of presentation. The data that Tealium sends to other systems can trigger customer messages from those systems.  So Tealium does support customer messaging.  But AudienceStream's heritage does give useful insights into what might otherwise seem a random set of strengths and weaknesses.

Let’s step back a bit. Like other tag management vendors, Tealium recognized several years ago that its core competency at capturing customer behavior could be applied to build unified customer profiles. This meant it could serve as a Customer Data Platform to support many other marketing applications. In fact, Tealium explicitly calls its product a CDP, using the tagline “build your own marketing cloud” to stress that it can connect systems from any vendor, not just components within a single vendor’s suite. That is indeed the essence of the CDP value proposition.

That doesn’t mean the Tealium is merely offering a relabeled tag manager. The company’s own diagram illustrates this clearly: the tag manager, Tealium iQ TMS (circled in red) is just one component of its CDP.  Here are key points to understand:

- scope is beyond Web channels. Conventional tags go on Web pages.  Tealium now offers connectors to gather data in other ways including APIs, batch file transfers, and system development kits (SDKs) for mobile apps.

- speed is real-time when possible. This is one benefit of the company’s tag management legacy, where real-time execution is required. It’s an important differentiator compared with other Customer Data Platforms, which often don’t support true real-time interactions.

- data storage is extensive. As the Tealium diagram implicitly indicates, a pure tag manager doesn’t need to permanently store much data. But Tealium incorporates several layers of persistent data, including semi-structured raw data in AudienceStore and EventStore (using Amazon Redshift), structured data in EventDB and AudienceDB, and an access layer in the AudienceStream iDMP (Data Management Platform).

- the system tracks individuals. The “i” in “iDMP” stands for individual, which pretty much says it all. Traditional DMPs are based on cookies, which are theoretically anonymous although they can often traced to specific individuals in practice. Tealium’s iDMP stores both cookies and personal identifiers such email addresses. It builds profiles by linking people to devices they have used for identity-revealing tasks such as opening an email or logging into an account. Devices used by the same person are then linked to each other. The system does not apply “probabilistic” or “fuzzy” matching to infer linkages using other data, such as simultaneous activities, shared locations, or similar names.  Users who want such links can import them from external services such as LiveRamp.  Tealium does link its cookies with major ad networks through other DMPs, although it won’t pass on individual identifiers.

- sophisticated rules support enhancement, segmentation, and triggers. This is another outgrowth of tag management, which sends different information to different partners. Derived attributes can be calculated with complex formulas including current data, time periods, ratios, rolling averages, random splits, and other functions. Similarly complex rules can assign people to audiences or segments and can set up triggers that change data values and send messages to external systems. Users can give higher priority to more important actions and can limit how many times an action is executed for the same person (for example, to avoid sending too many messages or repeating the same message). Again, this all happens in real time as data flows into the system.

- lots of connectors. Tealium cites integration with nearly 1,000 other systems. Most of these are for tag management but about 20 are to message delivery systems including ecommerce, email, marketing automation, CRM, and advertising vendors. Users can connect with additional systems through Webhooks, SDKs, or APIs. Reporting and analytical systems can query the underlying data directly, receive file extracts, or subscribe to a live stream from the collection server.

- it doesn’t do everything. Tealium offers a remarkably powerful data-layer CDP.  It extends a bit into decisions by applying segments, creating derived variables, setting up triggers, and sending audiences to execution systems. But it doesn’t do multi-step campaigns, predictive analytics, offer tracking, and supporting functions like content management. So, although AudienceStream can connect directly with message delivery systems to manage some types of campaigns, most users will combine it with a more robust decision system to properly manage relationships. It probably makes the most sense to view system’s segmentation, enhancement and (to a lesser degree) trigger capabilities as part of creating a rich customer database, not as directly managing customer relationships. This is perfectly consistent with Tealium’s own “do it yourself marketing cloud” goal of letting its clients work with whatever decision and delivery tools they wish.

Tealium introduced AudienceStream in late 2013.  It is currently used by about 100 of its 550 clients.  Pricing is based on events processed and starts around $12,000 for a small implementation. Mid-size and bigger customers can expect to pay more..


UK_OmniMann said...

An interesting development indeed. As the survivor TMS's race to feature parity what better way to build an ecosphere "mini telephone exchange" when you already own the data layer. It also took me a while to "get it", since then ive got from skeptical to complete believer.

Gina Kopf said...

Have you done the same type of review on the Ensighten platform? Great enterprise tool!

David Raab said...

Indeed I have, Gina. See