In our experience-driven world, success hinges on being relevant and immediate when responding to customers. In the always-connected age, this means employing real-time marketing to provide the best customer experiences.
During a recent SAS-sponsored webcast, we invited guest speaker Rusty Warner, principal analyst, thought leader and all-round real-time marketing guru at Forrester Research to give us his thoughts on the state of real-time marketing. Warner spends lots of time talking to vendors and brands that are building marketing technology that enables them to provide the consistent and contiguous experiences customers now expect.
The conversation revealed some tangible insights into how real-time marketing delivers better results.
This report, sponsored by SAS, Intel and Accenture and conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, looks at how businesses are using advanced customer data analytics, along with real-time analytics and real-time marketing, to enhance their customers' experiences.
Why is real-time marketing such a hot topic?
“We all have, higher buying power because of our devices that connect us to a world of information,” Warner said. “The world is truly at our fingertips, and we can browse lots of products and information about those products from anywhere in the world. With that higher buying power comes the desire for more value. People are not as motivated by price alone as they once were. We all like to get a good deal, of course, but all things being equal, and if we have the money to spend, we’ll look for a value exchange where we perceive that we are in a give-and-take relationship with the brand where there’s added value for us as part of that experience.”
Consumers are using a variety of devices to find and buy what they want, when they want it. But along with that flexibility comes a change in behavior. Consumers are more willing to try new things. Warner calls that “hyper-adoption”. But he cautions that with hyper-adoption comes hyper-abandonment. “Consumers have been very quick to move to something new if what they're using doesn't perform. So, if you're a brand with a mobile app or a website that doesn't provide what people are looking for, they'll very quickly move on and look for someone who will do that,” Warner said.
Another challenge for real-marketing efforts is that we all receive an overwhelming number of marketing messages every day. And if those messages aren't relevant to us in the moment, then they doesn’t even register with us on a conscious level.
“I live in London, so I'll give you a British statistic,” Warner said. “I know that if I travel on the London public transport system for just 45 minutes, I'm exposed to between 80 and 100 different ads representing between 100 and 130 products. It's a lot of volume, and that's just what I see on my commute. If I add that up and take into consideration everything I see during the day it's well over 3,500 different advertising messages.”
Consider that as your brand tries to reach its target market. You need real-time marketing that’s not just clever or gimmicky, but something that provides that value they're looking for in that moment when it matters to them, according to Warner.
Consumers have been very quick to move to something new if what they're using doesn't perform. So, if you're a brand with a mobile app or a website that doesn't provide what people are looking for, they'll very quickly move on and look for someone who will do that. Rusty Warner Principal Analyst Forrester Research
If real-time marketing is creating the most value, then do marketing campaigns go away, or do they evolve into something else?
“This is a question I get a lot from brands,” Warner said. “Because when I talk to them about the customer experience and being able to deliver this dialogue that we're talking about, the first thing they usually say to me is ‘Oh well, you're telling me my campaigns are dead. I have to throw everything away and start over.’ No. The death of the campaign has been announced a few times, but I don't personally believe that's true. Our campaigns aren't dead. Reaching out to customers with our outbound communications, whether that's email, print or any other channel, will remain with us for quite some time.”
“If we get it right, we'll personalize those communications so it becomes a seamless experience for the customer, whether we're communicating with them, or whether it's a customer-initiated interaction where they've come to the website or they've called up the contact center.”
Real-time marketing means campaigns must evolve, according to Warner. Campaigns need to be internally and externally consistent so that what you’re sending out is exactly what the customer expects based on the way they initiate interactions with your brand.
“We also have to make sure that we're relevant,” he said. “I'm referring to that real-time concept, that is what matters to the customer in his or her moment of need, and are we providing value as opposed to static, useless information like one of those ads that we would see on the London Underground?”
Once you’ve gotten the customer’s attention, the key is holding it, according to Warner. You have to keep up your end of the conversation so that they keep coming back. You have to do that instead of sending a message, waiting a week, and if there is no response, then you send something else. “Those days are gone; we really have to ensure that we engage with the customer continuously in the way that he or she would expect,” he said.
What are some of marketing organizations’ priorities in making this transition to real-time marketing?
According to Warner, there are three real-time marketing must-do items that may vary a little bit by industry in terms of priority but are fairly consistent across all industries.
“The first one has to do with integrating online and offline. From a technology perspective that really gets at that problem I mentioned earlier where you need to personalize experiences that start as online marketing, but you want to be consistent with previous interactions when the customer initiates contact (say with your contact center). So, there's a technology problem to solve there.
“But there is also an organizational issue at hand. And that's because marketing typically owns the digital channels, but marketing might not integrate well with the customer contact center,” Warner said. “Also, marketing might not own what happens face-to-face when the customer walks into a store or into a bank branch. So, it's about getting the organizational alignment right so that you're consistent not just across the channels, but consistent across different organizational functions.”
The second priority that Warner identified is optimizing your real-time marketing for various digital devices because many customers use multiple devices throughout their day.
“Right now, I have a smartphone, an iPad, and a laptop with me, and they're all connected to Wi-Fi,” he said. “All of these devices represent me but that's very hard for a brand to keep track of. Trying to optimize interactions across those channels, understanding that it's the same person at a different time of the day, using a different device, or perhaps in a different location, and catering to that customer as the same individual, regardless of device, becomes a key challenge.”
According to Warner, in most organizations there is a tendency to work in silos, making it harder to be consistent across all customer touch points.
Overexposure and contact fatigue is another big problem. One that marketers are reluctant to recognize or change their behaviors. “A lot of organizations think that because they have access to a customer 24/7 that that’s open season on the customer. I can put something in front of him or her, get that person to click, get that person to buy, and I can constantly make offers. And that's not always going to work in many cases,” Warner said. “Just because the customer is connected doesn't mean that he or she always wants the brand to try to reach out with an offer. There are other reasons why that person might be on the mobile device and connected to the brand. So, understanding the context in real time is important, as opposed to just communicating an offer just because you can.”
The third challenge: Contextual real-time marketing
“Understanding context is so critical, and understanding the moment because the third challenge is not just doing this properly across online and offline, not just understanding digital device behavior so that you can get it right across touch points, but advancing that to the point where you can do it in real time and meet the customer's expectations,” Warner said.
This can be addressed in part using technology. But more than with the other challenges, the organization plays a larger role. Why? If the organization isn't prepared with the right resources and process, it won’t be able to execute in real time, to be there with the right response when the customer interaction comes in, then they're in trouble, according to Warner.
“It's a big gap to fill unfortunately,” he said. “And, we see time and again that what marketers are trying to solve is what we would call ‘the insight-to-action gap,’ where organizations are swimming in all of the data they're collecting. But trying to get insights from that data, and more importantly, get insights from the data that enable you to take the appropriate action is the big challenge. In fact, we find that about three-quarters of organizations will tell us that their goal is to be data driven and to use that customer data to understand what they need to be doing next. But less than one third of them can use that data in an active, or I should say in a proactive, way in order to take the appropriate action.”