A new report finds that while most Top 1000 retailers collect analytics, many don’t employ tools to help manage and act on that shopper behavior.

Nearly all retailers in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 1000 employ analytics services, with Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics leading the pack, according to a new report from digital data and analytics vendor Cardinal Path.

However, only 42% of Top 1000 retailers use tag management services, the report suggests. Tag management services help online retailers manage the plethora of tracking codes added to their web pages by analytics providers to track site activity.

Small segments of tracking code, or tags, are designed to record information such as when a site visitor clicks on an ad, makes a purchase, clicks a free-shipping offer or takes any other action that a site operator wants to measure. But installing and managing all these tags on a website can be difficult and time-consuming, and having many tags firing data back to a retailer and ad-network tracking system can slow the performance of a web page as well as of the tags themselves.

Cardinal Path says use of tag management services is increasing. Tag management services adoption among the 500 largest retailers in the Top 1000 increased to just over 71% in 2016 from 58% in 2015. Of note is that the Google Tag Manager tool is the most popular service used by retailers outside the Top 250 retailers. Cardinal Path says this likely is because Google Tag Manager is the only free offering among the major players. Other leading tag management providers among the Top 250 retailers include Tealium’s iQ tool and Ensighten’s Manage tag management service.

The report also looks at retailers’ deployment of optimization tools. Nearly 80% of Top 50 retailers employ optimization services, 60% of retailers ranked No. 51-250 do so and about 30% of merchants ranked 251-500 use optimization tools. However, only 18% of retailers No. 501-1000 use them. “This suggests that while analytics itself—the collection of marketing data—has become universal, the ability to activate that data to drive optimization at scale is lagging some distance behind,” the report says.


Adobe’s Test&Target tool is most popular among the Top 250 retailers. Beyond the Top 250, Optimizely is the most popular tool. However, the report notes that the distribution of tools across retailer sizes is fairly even. “We see tools [from companies like] Monetate and Maxymiser appearing consistently across the Top 1000,” the report says.

Looking at testing, optimization and personalization tools, 37% of Internet Retailer Top 1000 retailers use one of those three services, a much smaller percentage than the 71% that use tag management services. Testing and optimization are the most popular with 76% of the Top 50 online retailers having deployed such tools, and the adoption falls as retailers get smaller. Just 11% of retailers ranked No. 751-1000 employ such tools.