Real-time marketing is often spoken of in glowing terms by those who employ it, yet for many businesses understanding the basics of the approach — what it is and how it can be executed — remains elusive.
Much of this confusion is rooted in the unfortunate fact that the term “real-time marketing” is often used to describe two very different things.
The first definition is when a marketer responds to an event (breaking news, pop culture moment, conference, etc.) as it happens (i.e., this iconic tweet sent by the Oreo cookie account during the Super Bowl XLVII blackout).
The second definition is when a business delivers a targeted message based on a specific person’s actions (i.e., a special discount offer appears on a website right as a consumer is about to abandon an e-commerce shopping cart).
While real-time marketing related to live events can be an effective tactic, it’s the second use of the term — delivering targeted, triggered messages to individuals — that this article is focused on, and which almost every business can benefit hugely by embracing.
Why? Because that type of real-time marketing — also called just-in-time marketing or right-time marketing — is truly transformational.
A survey of businesses that utilize real-time triggered/targeted marketing found that the approach has a wide-range of benefits, including increased customer engagement (81 percent cite as a benefit), improved customer experience (73 percent), increased conversion rates (59 percent), improved brand perception (52 percent), and increased retention/reduced churn (52 percent).
In other words, real-time targeting is in many ways the holy grail of marketing: it makes consumers happier and more loyal while also boosting conversions and revenue.
Intuitively, these benefits make sense. After all, it’s no surprise that a person is more likely to value and take action on a real-time message based on current behavior — such as a discount on a product they’ve been thinking about purchasing or an offer on a trip they’re researching — rather than generic message which is delivered at a predetermined time.
Given these advantages, why haven’t more brands embraced real-time marketing? In large part it comes down to technology.
Real-time marketing is essentially tailored marketing: it is messaging which fits perfectly with what a consumer needs at a particular moment. That approach is inherently more effective but up until recently was also harder to execute at scale.
What’s changed over the past few years is that digital platforms have evolved to the point where they now allow firms of all sizes to engage in real-time marketing without a big investment. Businesses finally have the ability to consistently and cost-effectively understand consumers’ preferences over time, create tailored offers, and deliver messaging in the places, and at the moments, that are most likely to spark action.
For example, if consumer visits a furniture e-commerce site to look at desks the brand can now use a combination of affordable digital tools to build a profile of the individual and deliver targeted desk offers across a range of channels (their own website, other websites, via email, on numerous social networks, etc.). Moreover, the brand can continue to present additional highly-relevant offers — for desk chairs, desk lamps, etc. — to that individual at the right times.
What makes the approach extra powerful is that the more you engage in real-time marketing, the more effective it is. The more customer profiles you create, and the richer they become, the more targeted messages you can deliver. And the more targeted messages you deliver, the more you can hone which offers and timings work best for different people/situations. It becomes a virtuous cycle in which your marketing becomes increasingly relevant and efficient.
So, how can your business get started with real-time marketing? As boring as it sounds, success begins with systems and organization.
Before reaping the rewards of real-time marketing you have to put in place the right tools; specifically for data collection/organization, message development, triggered delivery, and measurement. You also need to ensure that your internal team is structured in a way so that automated systems can run seamlessly while also being monitored/adjusted to improve performance.
That may sound complex, but it’s fairly simple for most businesses. Ultimately, you just need to take a step back and spend some time setting up a strong real-time marketing structure from the start. That means a bit of an initial ramp-up period, but you’ll be positioning your marketing program for significantly improved performance well into the future.