Technological advancements have conditioned today's customers to expect instant gratification and personalized attention. Marketers are discovering that real-time marketing strategies can be a useful way to respond to these expectations and engage jaded customers.
The real-time marketing industry continues to evolve in response to a recent wave of new software technologies and the increasing accessibility of technology, data, analytics, and advanced marketing techniques. The rapid evolution of technology has paved the way for innovative organizations to enter the marketplace to enhance the customer experience across channels, targeting consumers based on their behaviors.
That's where "offer orchestration" comes into play. It involves both a prescriptive approach (subjective business rules such as product price, margin, and strategic placement) and a predictive approach (advanced statistical models that automatically detect relationships and behaviors). By integrating both approaches, marketers can better monitor, control, and simulate offers.
Not surprisingly, personalized offers enrich consumer interactions and marketers are already seeing the benefits of real-time interaction—a type of relationship that did not exist a mere decade ago.
According to analysts, a range of marketers is adopting new technology that can help recognize a customer's interests and provide actionable intelligence in real-time to any customer channel.
Once a niche capability, real-time marketing is moving toward becoming a standard component of larger vendor offerings. An offer presented by a retail associate, for example, might appear to be the same offer given to everybody who completes a transaction. A retailer using real-time marketing software, however, could present personalized offers based on who that person is and what he or she has purchased in the past.
The analysis happens in real-time, in a fraction of a second, and that customer is given an offer or message specifically designed to appeal to him or her.
So how can marketers better engage customers via real-time marketing? Here are five primary action steps.
1. Use multiple channels
Instead of focusing resources only on email, direct mail, and social media channels, also use relatively untapped channels (such as mobile ) to interact with current and prospective clients.
Consider the customer-support channel. Marketers should be extending customer service agents as sales agents, providing them with the necessary tools to effectively upsell and cross-sell depending on the customer's demographics, purchase behavior, and needs.
Maintaining a call center that actively drives product recommendations can help drive sales. A dynamic Q & A, using a prescriptive and predictive approach, can better assist agents in discovering clients' needs and desires. It is critical that each channel return the customer response data to the real-time marketing tool so it can be considered in future modeling and decisions.
2. Understand the customer
Companies should not underestimate the power of customer data they already possess. Transaction history and customer support conversations provide a solid foundation for real-time marketing initiatives. Third-party vendors can also provide information—about customers' household status, income, recent purchases, and behavioral determinants—to help you create a more personal shopping experience.
Data available in real-time from an organizational, systematic, and customer-dialogue perspective can also be taken into consideration, especially for customer retargeting initiatives. Imagine a scenario in which a customer browses products online, adds some to the basket, but fails to make a purchase. Most marketers would want to find out what happened and, ideally, re-engage the customer.
Consider retargeting initiatives that will service that customer with an optimized ad or offer via email (or during that person's next Web visit). That retargeting can be optimized by using click-through rates or other traceable metrics.
3. Don't segment customers and then assign offers; use a prioritization equation instead
As an extension of the previous point, incorporating personalization into marketing efforts is important. Today, most marketers take that to mean they should segment customers and then assign offers. Instead, marketers should allow offers to compete for the chance to be presented to customers in the channel they prefer. A strong prioritization equation should be used that is flexible enough to consider multiple data inputs simultaneously.
Real-time marketing considers information specific to each customer, creating an offer or a message to which a customer can personally relate. Customers can easily be turned off by cross-selling or upselling if offers are not specific to their needs.
Retail marketers, in particular, should personalize Web experiences at checkout, and at individual item and category pages. Doing so can lead to more relevant recommendations and can increase a consumer's propensity to buy. Dynamic email should also be considered because there is virtually no limitation to personalization in email (depending, of course, on your email vendor).
4. Enhance the overall customer experience
Today, it is not enough to simply attract customers. The overarching goal of a marketer is to enhance customers' overall experience and build a relationship with them. If customers feel appreciated, they will be more receptive to offers, suggestions, and messages—which will ultimately drive profit for a company.
Do you have a brick-and-mortar store? If so, consider the next wave of technologies that will assist in customer service, such as tablet devices that allow associates to pull up relevant customer information and pinpoint specific offers that will enhance their in-store experience.
If you operate a website, are you making it easy for consumers to search for products and services and contact your brand via tablet device? The experience of using a tablet differs from that of using a website on a desktop or mobile device; consumers often use different devices for different objectives.
5. Remember the basic principles
Just because a marketing strategy may change as the industry becomes more sophisticated with technology and customer channels doesn't mean that marketers should forget the basic principles of good marketing.
Real-time marketing intelligence continues to rely on basic marketing tactics, such as control groups, A/B testing, and experimental designs.