Creating Real-Time Marketing that Customers Crave

Real-time marketing has grown faster than any form of media over the past 100 years. Here, experts in the field sound off on the initiatives marketers must have in place to successfully advance real-time efforts while ensuring relevance and retention.

In a time where every activity and communication has the potential to be instantaneous, today's consumers lack the patience once required before email and social media ever existed. Instead, they expect their favorite brands to respond to questions and complaints quickly and conscientiously, rectifying whatever issues may be plaguing them in that moment.

However, the very channels that have altered consumer demand offer brands an equal advantage, as they can tap into customer insights and sentiment with ease and purpose. Such real-time data allows companies to assess consumer preferences and dispense content and service in line with customer expectations.

People who consume real-time content are typically more engaged, therefore making them greater influencers than their peers. Thus, by delivering the right message at the right time, brands are better able to reach those who have an impressive reach themselves. As Amit Avner, CEO of Taykey, highlights, branding emerges at the result of getting in front of things that your audience cares about most.

"Real-time marketing does more than just put the right ad in front of the right person at the right time; it can also inform future strategy," Avner notes. "By examining the trends that have gained the most attention from target audiences, marketers can determine how best to advertise in the future, and uncover new audiences that they should be targeting. This insight can also inform overall strategy going forward, including everything from ad creative and product development, to maintaining and improving customer satisfaction."

While real-time marketing isn't exactly new to the customer engagement and service space, such strategies continue to evolve at breakneck speed, requiring marketers to reevaluate their approach at every turn. Jane Paolucci, vice president of global communications at Sitecore, recommends that, as companies look toward their future within the real-time marketing landscape, these brands must be prepared to meet consumer demands by integrating real-time messaging across channels to create the personalized, seamless experience customers crave. However, in preparation, marketers must pay special attention to these three elements of their evolving strategy:

  1. Listening: Implement the tools and technology necessary to follow news and influencers as they pertain to the brand's audience and industry. Creating alerts will also enable marketers to follow conversations that contain keywords, allowing them to share insights and content in real time.
  2. Content: Initiate weekly brainstorm sessions and establish a marketing communications team so the brand will always have relevant content at hand. Generate content that can be easily tailored to events so marketers may comment on relevant hot topic trends as needed in real time.
  3. Analytics: Incorporate Big Data analytics into the creation of the customer experience, for marketers can no longer rely on their gut for success. Instead, marketers must use analytics to test and prove each given campaign's ROI and impact on personalization and customer loyalty.

As Wendy Breakstone, director of marketing at Service Objects, highlights, marketers need the most up-to-date, accurate customer data available if they are to personalize the customer experience, strengthen loyal relationships, and receive the best ROI on their real-time marketing programs. Inaccurate and incomplete data will inevitably slow marketers down, as they will likely waste time and resources, ultimately risking attrition among even their most loyal customers.

Observations Bring Consumer Insights to Action

While analytical tools are an essential component of any successful real-time marketing program, brands must recognize that they can't just show up-they must also play the game. As Karl Wirth, CEO and cofounder of Evergage, emphasizes, real-time insights offer marketers the unique opportunity to engage with customers and generate dialog that strengthens customer relationships. Prospects and current customers, however, need to see the benefits behind the brand's value proposition up front, for the Web enables consumers to quickly defect to the competition if they so desire. Thus, when it comes to developing an analytical foundation, brands must understand the three crucial roles such tools occupy in the real-time marketing space:

  1. Comprehension: By studying the data, comparing segment behavior, and diving into the stream of particular users or accounts, marketers can hone their understanding of their current digital customer relationships, as well as the attributes and actions of one segment versus another.
  2. Testing: While every marketer has their own set of hypotheses around which targeted personalization techniques will impact the consumer interaction, professionals must employ said analytics to understand if these hypotheses are correct so they may continue to improve.
  3. Intervention: Because predictive analytics can move strategy to the next level, marketers must observe digital behavior as it pertains to previously identified personas. Once a match has been detected, the brand's real-time personalization solution will enable an immediate targeted response that aligns with that individual's preferences and intentions.

Once companies can lockdown concrete observations with regard to customer behavior and experience, marketers may then apply such insight by responding accordingly to relevant consumer sentiment in order to bring prospects into the funnel and strengthen the loyalty of those who decided to return.

Real-Time Retargeting in the Age of Abandonment

Charles Nicholls, chief strategy officer at SeeWhy and chair of The Conversion Academy, emphasizes that one-to-one marketing has always been more effective than traditional "spray-and-pray" marketing strategies. But, while many companies are looking to real-time to drive engagement as they work to reinforce customer relationships and boost conversion rates, marketers must also incorporate real-time with their retargeting efforts as they move to embrace the consumer's impending moment of truth.

For instance, when it comes to shopping cart abandonment emails, one study suggests that remarketing in real time elicits greater open rates than bulk campaigns. Bulk retargeting campaigns are typically sent long after the prospect has left the brand's site, thus email open rates average only 20 percent and click rates average 5 percent. However, open rates for retargeting emails sent in real-time average 46 percent, with click rates of 15 percent. Bulk campaigns fail to cater to the consumer's immediate need, potentially offering deals and discounts long after the customer has moved on to the competitor. Real-time campaigns, on the other hand, recognize the consumer's indecision and use this hesitancy to reengage prospects and bolster perceptions by tapping into timeliness and relevancy.

Gardener's Supply Company Grows Its Pinterest Conversion Rate

After noticing an increased volume of Web traffic coming from social sites, Gardener's Supply Company recognized that, while many visits were driven by Pinterest, these prospects had a very low conversion rate. Thus, the garden supply and outdoor equipment retailer sought to develop a new strategy that would embrace these new consumers and drive them into the sales funnel.

"Because customers increasingly shop closer to the time of need for any given item, and repeat visitation to a website isn't a given, and often includes an incremental marketing expense, converting the visitor the first time via relevant and real-time marketing is essential," says Max Harris, vice president of eCommerce at Gardener's Supply Company. "Individual user personalization may be the promised land, but start by mining data to identify chunky segments of shoppers, customers, and visitors to whom a shared and relevant message will add value."

With the help of Evergage, Gardener's Supply launched its welcome message popup to target Pinterest visitors specifically, offering prospects an exclusive discount upon arrival. By integrating such engagement strategies with its real-time marketing strategy, Gardener's Supply saw a 3x increase in conversions from Pinterest. The popup also provided Gardener's Supply with the opportunity to drive email address capture in an effort to increase engagement and drive conversions for future remarketing campaigns.