A Mantra for Data-Driven Marketers: Time Is Money

Marketers constantly seek to match the right message with the right person at the right time. Due to the proliferation of digital media, executing on the time factor in this equation has become more important than ever. Direct response techniques that have proven so successful for direct mail and email marketers are now available across nearly every marketing channel, because every consumer’s click can now be used to infer intent and personalize the next message that a consumer sees. Click-stream analysis can place each consumer at the appropriate stage within conversion funnels for your offers, and because the “right message” for each consumer depends entirely on their position in the funnel, faster click-stream analysis results in more relevant messaging and improved campaign response. In other words, marketers who invest in reducing the data latency involved in analyzing the digital behaviors that result from their campaigns make more money for their firms.

Search engine marketing (SEM) is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon. Marketers buy keywords and their ads are instantly displayed alongside the search results for those keywords. Those ads would be far less relevant – and far less effective – were they displayed hours, days, or weeks after those keyword searches were performed. The “right time” to display those ads is instantly – at the very moment the consumer enters the keywords, signaling their intent.

Since nearly every marketing channel now provides data that can be used to close the direct response loop, similar principles can now be applied more broadly. For example, on websites, every visitor’s clicks can be fed into algorithms used to optimize content on every page and layer display ads alongside that content in order to maximize the relevance of every page to every unique visitor. Every click has the potential to change the definition of relevance for every visitor, so there’s no time to lose in analyzing them. In the mobile channel, local retailers can feed every patron’s location into algorithms that trigger the delivery of special offers to those that are nearby. Every step away from the retailer’s location represents a step away from a conversion, so time is of the essence. In social media channels, firms can monitor when their brands are mentioned and respond appropriately. Rapid responses can mean the difference between positive outcomes and negative impacts on a brand.

The following examples – one from the direct marketing world and another from the real-time display advertising world – further illustrate the importance of reducing data latency in order to market in real time, regardless of channel focus:

  • Acxiom, the venerable marketing data provider with over 40 years of interactive marketing services experience, is focused on reducing data latency in its next-generation InfoBase platform (see the case study PDF here). Making data updates available to clients in near-real time is strategically important to Acxiom because “nobody wants to receive a compelling financing offer three weeks after buying a new car.”
  • AppNexus, the hot startup whose real-time display advertising platform sees over 27 billion ad impressions daily, is focused on reducing data latency so that each buyer can analyze the value of each impression and make buying decisions in real time (see the case study PDF here). Making data updates available in near-real time gives AppNexus platform participants an inherent advantage because “their knowledge is fresher and more accurate, and as a result, advertising performance metrics increase dramatically.”

Smart marketers (chief marketing officers in particular) recognize that real-time marketing requires a significant focus on big data and the technology strategy required to unlock its value. They also realize that the value created by marketing in real time is more than worth the effort, because it lets them get closer to their customers and prospects by creating more meaningful and relevant interactions with them in support of their campaign goals, which ultimately leads to increased customer acquisition and retention – the metrics by which every marketer’s success is measured.

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