Moving Beyond Basic Personalization to Real-Time Marketing

  |  January 7, 2014   |  Comments

Real-time marketing is the ongoing cycle of engagement, data management, analytical insights and optimization - performed continuously and immediately. Are you delivering great customer experiences?

real-timeThe constantly connected consumers of today are extremely savvy, using all available channels and devices to research, review, compare prices and ultimately purchase products. Basic personalization (such as name and account personalization and dynamic interest or product content) no longer serves consumers' demand for deeper levels of real-time personalized information. Increasingly, these savvy consumers are taking their business to companies that provide more than basic personalization and automated lifecycle campaigns. Customers now prefer brands that deliver individualized experiences that match their needs in the present moment.

Differing definitions of real-time marketing abound, but essentially it means "just-in-time" or "on-the-fly" marketing that leverages the most appropriate communications to deliver a personalized customer experience, based on time, place, and the most recent understanding of individual customer intent. Real-time marketing is one component of Present Tense Marketing, which focuses on methods of understanding customers' current context in order to deliver personalized customer experiences at scale.

So how can a company move from basic personalization to real-time marketing? Here are three primary requirements to get started:

  1. Understanding Your Customer or Prospects - Who are they? What are they interested in?
  2. Collecting Real-Time Customer Interaction Data - What are they doing right now? Where are they located?
  3. Optimizing Individual Customer Experiences - What is their current intent? What do they need at the present moment?

When you get these three things right, you can engage your customers in highly relevant and tailored ways. Providing a value-adding service or offer at the right time in the right channel will increase engagement and create a much more individualized and positive customer experience.

1. Understanding Your Customers and Prospects

Who are they? What are they interested in? To fully understand your customer or prospects requires a collection of multiple data points that can include demographic, purchase history, customer service requests, lifecycle stage, browse and cross-channel engagement behavior data. Analysis of this information can help identify product and brand affinities, individual preferences, channel engagement behavior, and offer and price sensitivities.

From the consumer perspective, they want companies to help them easily find what they are looking for when they want it, and are much more likely to do business with you if you provide this information and make the experience about them. This may seem obvioius, but many brands fail to achieve this customer-centric focus.

For example, some consumers will pay full price to get the item they want today (i.e. immediate gratification) while others will never buy a product on the first visit no matter how good the current offer is. Some consumers refuse to make a purchase without receiving free shipping, and some are focused on loyalty programs and earning points for every purchase they make.

A company's failure to recognize a customer profile and understand their shopping preferences can easily outweigh brand loyalty. If customers do not receive what they are looking for from one company, it is very easy to purchase the same or similar product or service from a competitive brand.

2. Collecting Real-Time Customer Interaction Data

As we all know, a customer's profile and context changes from moment to moment. In order to develop and manage deep and current customer profiles, you must have real-time data collection. Historical purchase, engagement and demographic data are all very important. However, they only provide a potential or predictive view, based on the past.

It's far more beneficial to understand what your customers are doing now, where they are located, and how they are engaging with your brand (which channels and devices) - all of this data allows the marketer to understand their customer's current context and update their profile which in turn enables them to engage customers with hyper-personalized communications that fit their needs in the present moment.

What are they doing? Are your customers clicking through on your latest email campaign, browsing a specific product category on your site, looking at ratings and reviews or asking for product or service feedback and recommendations from their friends on Facebook?

Where are they located? Do your customers frequent their local brick-and-mortar storefront near their home address, or do they often travel to other locations?

How are they engaging with your brand? Did your customer open your latest email, download your app, purchase in-store or call your service center? What type of device are they using (laptop, tablet, smart phone, kiosk)?

Certainly, real-time browse and click behavior, mobile app use, shopping cart activity, keyword searches, social media engagement, interaction with call centers and ratings and reviews all provide valuable information for determining the most relevant interactions. However, in order to respond to the customer's current need, you must also be able to combine this real-time engagement information with existing profile data to identify their current state.

3. Optimizing the Individual Customer Experience

Many companies offer blanket discounts or promotions to everyone who has subscribed or previously made a purchase. Even if basic personalization is used in this messaging, it does not provide the individualized experience that today's consumers expect. Consumers want to feel as if they're being offered something unique, exclusive and directed at their specific desires.

What is their current intent? What do they need at the present moment? In order to determine the optimal customer experience, marketers must leverage a current customer profile combined with real-time interaction data (what, where and how that customer is engaging with the brand) to help determine need and intent, along with any external influences like weather, holidays or economic conditions that may impact the customer context. Bringing all of these factors to bear in marketing messaging can result in a truly individualized customer experience.

Real-time marketing is the ongoing cycle of engagement, data management, analytical insights and optimization - performed continuously and immediately. In other words, it's the streamlined management of data, transformed into actionable insight that is used to enhance your customer's experience.

Are you using your customer profile, real-time and external data to identify and deliver great customer experiences?


Katrina Conn

Katrina leverages more than 15 years of cross-channel email, mobile, social, display, and direct marketing experience to oversee the development and execution of StrongView's suite of cross-channel strategic, creative, and implementation services. An established industry thought leader, Conn works with StrongView's enterprise marketer clients in retail, financial, hospitality, consumer services, and media to help them develop, deploy, and measure cross-channel marketing programs and advanced marketing analytics initiatives.

Conn has been in the business of email and database marketing since 1999. Most recently, she served as a senior strategist at Responsys, where she helped brands design and optimize cross-channel marketing programs. Prior to Responsys, Conn served as Director of Client Services for Datran Media's StormPost division, where she managed client services and strategy teams serving brands such as Microsoft, NBC, and Turner Broadcasting. She has held management roles at digital marketing companies Alterian, Donnelley Marketing/Yesmail, and DoubleClick/MessageMedia.

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