There was a time not so long ago when people had to wait weeks for the response they wanted from brands. Whether that was the process of picking up a catalogue, ordering what they wanted and waiting for it to come in the post, or buying something in-store and having to wait weeks for a delivery, the concept of instant consumer gratification was not first nature.
But fast-forward to the last 20 years and the idea of real-time marketing has become a reality rather than a pipe dream. The advent of the internet combined with data-driven insights have helped to quicken the pace of modern life and create a virtuous circle of brands being able to expose their target audiences to relevant marketing messages quicker than ever before. Meanwhile, the same online platforms are allowing consumers to make instant enquiries for information, advice and purchases. This has great potential for creating the much-vaunted one-to-one marketing dialogue with customers; but as with all new technologies there is also the very real risk of getting it wrong.
As with any progressive form of technology, those in the vanguard of the new marketing dimension of real-time enjoyed first-mover advantage with the obvious benefits of reaching individuals with offers in the right place, at the right time and with the right message. Or rather, that was the intention. Too often when new channels or concepts are developed, they are abused just as much as they are used correctly and for their intended purpose. So for some online cowboys the web and mobiles have simply become a dumping ground for unwanted spam, upping the annoyance factor for unsuspecting consumers and reducing the effectiveness for ’honest brands’.
So with the plethora of real-time vendors now on offer, it’s ’get real time’ for the serious players in the industry. The key word here is relevance – one of the guiding principles that should underpin data practitioners looking to build and market a better customer experience, and ultimately boost a brand’s bottom line.
The ’get real’ vendors are the ones that use the data at their disposal to enhance the customer experience for individuals, whether beforehand with offers or, ideally, as they are in-store or at the tills. Imagine, for example, linking sales terminals directly to a customer’s bank via their mobile phone. They’d be able to receive instant and relevant marketing messages on the handset direct from their financial services provider, alerting them that they were about to reach their credit limit, potentially even offering a higher credit limit or a better means of payment.
That’s just one example of how real-time marketing can be of true benefit to the individual. But if the real-time champions are to make an overall success of this form of instant communication, they will need to work out a way of determining when a message really is most relevant, and through which channel, beneficial and desired by consumers, who are clearly harnessing new technology to grab the balance of power back from brands. And the only way to do this is to make sure that the data you are using allows personalisation of the message, is delivered through the recipient’s preferred channel and is ultimately aimed at building long-term relationships with the customer and not used to gain a real-time ’quick buck’.
The key to keeping it real is a true understanding of what your customers want, and having confidence in the data-driven insights that identify which real-time contacts are most relevant at the right point of engagement. It’s all about doing away with generic targeting and making communications bespoke for each customer.