The age of social media has brought about a new dynamic in customer communications: The concept of "real time" has made companies more accountable to their customers.

The application of the concept goes beyond generic customer service, however. In fact, if anything, companies and brands should see the importance of taking it a step further... into the realm of marketing.

Brands today have a huge opportunity to use real-time marketing to enhance personalization and reach, especially in addressing the continually changing customer expectations. Companies should seize the day by making timely offers to increase loyalty (even to upsell) and to retain customers.

Sadly, most don't.

The Problem of Silos

There are many reasons for the persistence of silos. For most companies, it's a matter of the infrastructure in place: Many get comfortable with the old and don't want to experiment with the new. That's why many marketers are still using disparate, siloed systems and platforms that are outdated for the purposes of inbound and outbound marketing.

Those platforms don't speak to the growing needs of our marketplace to focus on the real-time component of marketing. They also don't speak to each other. As a result, one platform may serve an outbound need, and one may serve an inbound need; but, if someone handling outbound communications does not see what is being said on the inbound side from the same customer, there could be a substantial disconnect.

Think about it this way: Let's say Bob Jones contacted your company as an inbound lead, and three days later, after Bob is already working with your inbound account executive, an outbound sales development representative pitches Bob, having zero knowledge of the ongoing communication between his colleague and Bob.

That doesn't look good for your company.

Piecing the Puzzle Together

Integration is pretty important to the notion of communications, especially for creating a real personalized experience and increasing lifetime customer value.

Having a product that integrates processes not only avoids mistakes, as noted above, but also enables the ability to "do it all" with a single product. Marketers can reach a customer on multiple channels via a single application.

For example, MailChimp is known for doing one thing really well: delivering email. SimpleTexting is known as one of the top SMS marketing platforms. Urban Airship is one of the top mobile notification providers. But do they work with each other? Not so much.

It can be helpful to diversify and broaden focus. That's why Facebook has taken some pretty substantial interest in more than the core social network built by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004—in, WhatsApp and Messenger, and many other platforms that don't directly define the social network experience—perhaps because Facebook wants to connect everyone and make it possible for everyone to get online.

Similarly, Google—now Alphabet—is expanding its focus. The idea is for it to get to know all about you, to be able to provide the best possible online experience (and that includes monetizing the experience, of course).

With a multichannel application, marketers have the ability to select a channel that works really well for a particular customer while also having greater ability to experiment and refine tactics for best results overall.

The Right Channel for Every Customer

With multichannel tools, the marketer gains the ability to target messaging to specific activities within sites or applications. Based on specific behaviors, multichannel tools can truly gather data that allows messages to be sent on a channel that has the best performance for the end user. If email performs better, that's great. If SMS performs better for another user, that's the method of communication the marketer goes for.

One of these multichannel tools is the in-app messenger, a relatively new SaaS tool that has been building steam. You might have heard of Intercom; newcomer Nudgespot also recently launched and is offering similar functionality.

In-app messengers or other multichannel platforms allow companies to market in innovative ways.

Let's consider the example of e-commerce: You're visiting an online shop with multiple brick-and-mortar stores throughout the country; you're in South Florida, 30 miles away from the flagship store in Miami; knowing where you are, in-app messengers can let you know about special promotions that happen in the Miami store right on the Web page (something no company ever does). Furthermore, that can be done either on the website or via email, or both.

That is the crux of real-time marketing. There's nothing like it out there.

Multichannel tools' harnessing of user behavior to make informed communications is relatively new, but it helps with retention and with marketing to a new audience: Valued at over $1 billion, Ola cabs in India is one of the most popular taxi companies in the world, operating in 19 cities and over 33,000 cars in India. Using Nudgespot, Ola was able to capture customers who were interested in real-time marketing but also used the tool to re-engage customers, ensuring a healthy marketing funnel to lengthen the lifetime customer value. The result, according to Sudarshan Gangrade, VP of Marketing at OLA: "We saw that the number of people who used OLA increased within a week as a result of the more than 100%, and the segment of people that returned within 21 days increased by 45%."

The Bottom Line

So how can your business similarly take advantage of this new kind of real-time marketing? Consider these ideas:

  • A B2B company can feature its in-app messenger on specific pages by using the app's segmentation features that enable operators to reach customers at a very specific time. For example, let's say someone is watching a webinar video on your website; you can have an in-app icon letting the people who are watching engage with the operator if they have further questions.
  • A B2C company can trigger messages based on geography to sell more. An online store with a brick-and-mortar location can reach its local customers, notifying them of a special discount that is available in-store only.
  • Both types of companies can send messages to people who haven't logged on in quite some time, welcoming them back with specials and incentives that help with retention and potentially driving upsells.

Perhaps the most widespread real-time marketing vehicle is the use of in-app messengers to communicate product enhancements and additions in a SaaS suite, giving users the knowledge to make informed purchase decisions: to upgrade or not to upgrade? That is a tremendous boon for customer success, easily communicating product upgrades to encourage the upsell.

Mind you, this isn't about just pushing out messaging. Any website can broadcast such little things in some way, though they don't because of struggles with segmentation and utilization of development resources. After all, for maximum reach, the marketing guy has to talk to the development guy to roll out these little notifications—and then they'd have to talk about removing them when the promotions are no longer relevant.

Multichannel tools can truly change the game by using real-time marketing to engage customers in a meaningful dialogue, with relevancy and personalization, driving a seamless online customer experience—unlike others, which are too disjointed.

Real-time marketing also is predicated on the collaborative nature of these platforms, giving site operators the ability to communicate directly with customers and prospects at the very right time and to ensure that the communication is ongoing, with the ability to shift gears and push the communication to another colleague—in the view of other staff members—to maximize the customer relationship, which adds to the strength of the personalization.

So, from a revenue standpoint, to be personal in communications is vitally important. Very few companies have embraced this approach to date, and coupling it with marketing campaigns pushed at just the right time can truly super-charge the growth of your business.

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How Real-Time Marketing Changes the Game

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image of Tamar Weinberg

Tamar Weinberg is a professional hustler and the author of The New Community Rules: Marketing on The Social Web. She blogs about all things tech, productivity, and social media customer success at Techipedia.

LinkedIn: Tamar Weinberg

Twitter: @tamar