Qubit CEO: A Tag Manager Is Really A First-Party Data Structure

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GrahamEx-Googler Graham Cooke believes that just as the data-management platform (DMP) space has evolved and entered a period of consolidation and attracted new cash injections, so too will the tag managers.

Prior to founding Qubit in 2010 with Emre Baran, who spent four years in product management on Google AdWords and AdSense, and two other former Googlers, Cooke worked on conversion-rate improvement within the Google ranks. The single greatest catalyst for data-driven personalization, as he described it, is the collision of big data, open-source technologies and large-scale processing.

He spoke with AdExchanger about the coming effects of such.

AdExchanger: As consolidation colors the DMP space, do you see the same happening for the tag-management category?

GRAHAM COOKE: For us, the tag manager is really about creating a first-party data structure. And the benefit of creating that comprehensive structure on your website is you can use lots of different marketing technologies with that. It improves the agility. The real value is in the ability to understand customers better. Tag management is a means to an end and the end is improving the lifetime value of your customer. All tag managers are a little different, but our application is about, "How do I edit my website faster to surface a welcome banner to somebody who has never been to the site?" But if you’re a VIP, or regular customer, I want to show you the last product you bought and maybe an offer to buy. For us, the tag management piece is just a democratization of creating better data on your website.

How does Qubit work?

We create this incredibly powerful map, all based on first-party data. Our ecommerce customers, Farfetch or Topshop, for example, are creating a data/privacy-centric relationship with their customers. We’re the data processor and enabler that allows them to create this value with their customer that goes beyond CRM. If you’ve come back for a second or third visit, and you’ve never logged in to this visit, you’re seeing personalized information based on what you looked at in the past, and we find that has a far better impact on conversions.

If a customer has an existing tag-management system, we would do an audit of what exists and we have a product that’s a data exchange that fits into Tealium, for instance, and we read the Tealium data model and we talk to the customer about enhancing it with more information. We see tag management as an application on top of data. And it’s taking a data schema from a website and doing a translation to a marketing system.

Some parallels have been drawn between DMPs and tag managers. What’s the core difference, according to Qubit?

We see ourselves as very separate to that. I think the DMP space has gone through multiple iterations. The DMP started with, "Let’s create a single view of the customer." It then evolved into third-party data and media buying. I think tag management, the way Qubit, Ensighten and Tealium have looked at it, has become, "Let’s create this single view of a customer again." We wanted to make the application level on our platform easy-to-use for marketers. If you want to create a personalization on your site, it is drag and drop, WYSIWYG editing. And it takes literally about two minutes to set up a personalization. They can move fast. You don’t ever want the marketer to miss a marketing beat. We’re more of an application to help marketers drive sales and revenue.

Sales and revenue sounds like CRM. Is tag management CRM?

There’s a big shift going on where the chief technology officer used to buy all the software and now it’s the marketer. There’s a huge shift in the buying power. If your solution isn’t easily understood by a marketer and they can get up and running within a few minutes, it’s not going to work. We want to answer the question, "How can we help a marketer generate a 10% improvement in sales in less than a couple of minutes for a certain segment of customers and that’s both on an analytics part and on a testing/personalization part?" I think that’s where the tag-management industry has created another layer away from that direct, revenue-driving activity. That’s where we see ourselves differently. You have to be end-to-end – collect the data, structure the data, put it in a database and make it accessible, and then make it easier to interact with it.

Speaking of databases, what did you think of Oracle and BlueKai? Will more enterprise platforms make DMP moves?

The reality is databases are totally going through a revolution right now. The concept of how you use big data and open-source technology to build a better version of a database that’s not relational, which is really this concept of Schema on Read, which means you don’t define the data structure going in. You define the data structure when you extract it. Oracle is fighting in this world where a big shift is happening, so they’re trying to provide application-level solutions that use their database and they’re looking at it from a first- and third-party perspective. The purchase of BlueKai is saying, "We want to have a play with user data, marketing data, so let’s integrate that into our database model." But in a way they are opening themselves up to a bit of a risk here [in terms of neutrality].

What’s the single biggest problem the large enterprise acquirers face?

We’ll see. It’s tough. I run an engineering team that’s pretty big, about 40% of our company [and we have over 100 employees]. Just getting engineers within the same company to work and integrate their technologies together is one thing, but to then get five companies to simultaneously get [lines of code] together is so difficult. The easiest way to make an acquisition is to acquire customers, and literally to throw away the technology. It’s very hard to integrate. But if you’re innovating by acquiring companies, it’s a hard thing to do rather than building innovation from your core.

I think this big data revolution will be transformative and it needed cloud computing to happen. You need enabling technologies to get to the next step. Uber/Hailo wouldn’t exist without a phone with a GPS in it. Uber couldn’t happen without the Internet. These steps need to happen to lead to the next major shift in technology. So that’s why open-source, database and processing techniques needed to improve in order to reach this level of personalization that’s coming.

Can you discuss your client picture and your 12- to 24-month plan?

We’ve grown rapidly and we’ve done it with minimal investment. We have over 100 enterprise customers that do typically at least $10 million to $15 million in online revenues, and we’re driving these businesses 15-20% uplift in sales. We’re at Series A when we raised $10 million in November 2012, so we’ve raised a fraction of what our competitors have and we’ve grown at a rate of 150% a year. We’re signing up businesses in the states pretty quickly, and at the moment are very focused on Europe and the states. We’re constantly evaluating our options for where the growth is.

We’re not looking to sell the company for some time because this will be such a new category – the new CRM, personalization. There will be many chances for companies to go public and that’s where I see a really big shot for Qubit. We’re looking for the right partners to help us along that journey and are having conversations with really interesting potential investors but we’re focused on building up a great set of customers and developing our product now.

 

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