Why Real-Time Marketing Isn’t Always the Right Time

by Kristin Naragon

posted on 11-14-2016

Real-time marketing is a slippery, often misleading, concept. Done well, the benefits are significant — a proven strategy you can and should deploy. Yet, real time isn’t always the right time, and effectively reaching customers with timely, on-point messaging doesn’t always occur in the moment. Real-time marketing is a bold tactic but only when used in the right context. Confused? Here’s a quick refresher on real-time marketing and how right-time marketing may be the better alternative for your brand.

Real-Time Marketing Explained
Real-time marketing (RTM) is an ambiguous term — even the most successful brands disagree about what it means and how to use it. Most companies believe RTM is about delivering personalized content to customers across channels. Others think it’s about responding quickly to current events or injecting your voice into social conversations.

The framework used by industry analysts — and the most common take on real-time marketing — aligns with the former belief about having the ability to push a message to a customer in the very moment that he or she takes action. It could mean generating an offer in response to a website click or following an abandoned cart with an email or text message sent to a customer in that moment.

Why Real-Time Marketing Tactics Fail
Today, brands have a wide range of tools available for collecting data on customers — and that’s a good thing. But, while real-time marketing techniques may be attributed to many success stories, there are just as many failures. Why do they fail? Typically, the marketer lacks key ingredients for success: behavioral data, predictive analytics, a single view of a customer, data for personalization, and integrated systems that allow for cross-channel remarketing. Unfortunately, lacking these ingredients results in an inability to reengage at the right time, in the right channel, and with the right content. But, some try anyway and send remarketing messages with blinders on, potentially leading to poor customer experiences and even opt-outs.

Right-Time Marketing — Driven by Context
While real-time marketing has its uses, a better alternative may be right-time marketing. Unlike RTM — which is pushed exclusively by the element of time — right-time marketing is driven by the context of an interaction. The more you understand your customer’s behavior, the better you will become at sending him or her messages. By gathering data elements that map to each person, it’s possible to build unique profiles using past purchase histories, channel preferences, and more to help identify the right time and channel to effectively message your customer.

Think of the abandoned-cart scenario. Most website visitors don’t take the action the marketer would like them to take, and with cart abandonment estimated to be near 75 percent, marketers are using remarketing strategies to reengage their prospects.

While remarketing tactics can be effective, it’s still important that marketers ensure messages are thoughtful, relevant, and timely — or risk providing consumers with disruptive experiences that result in opt-outs.

Brands often misuse real-time marketing tactics, hoping to incentivize consumers to return and complete unfinished transactions. But, consumers today are savvy. Many know that, if they leave something behind, they’ll likely receive something in return. That might be an email with a nudge or reminder, but sometimes, it’s a discount. An email may arrive at the right moment, but it’s the content that matters. With right-time marketing, timing is only one piece of the puzzle. Content, channel, and strategy must be considered together for success.

Right-Time Marketing Use Cases
How can right-time marketing make an email sent in response to an abandoned cart more impactful? When it not only nudges the customer to complete the transaction, but also provides him or her with a value add. For example, let’s say a customer places a pair of pants and a shirt in a cart and leaves. Right-time email-marketing tactics might suggest a purse or shoes that other customers purchased to complement the abandoned items — great for the brand and the customer.

How about mapping inventory to customer data for more effective retargeting? When customers abandon carts, RTM can compel action by informing them when the items they are interested in are running low. Marketing that’s driven by inventory level and what’s left in a cart can deliver even more results. For marketers who are familiar with the entire lifecycle of their customers, RTM makes it easy to offer items to their customers before they even realize they want them. This predictive element makes RTM the more complete tactic.

Deploying a right-time marketing strategy takes practice and a coordinated, sustained effort. While overnight success isn’t likely, working closely with all departments — both internally and externally across your organization — is the key to understanding your customer better and being better prepared to greet them with things they truly care about.

Topics: Campaign Management