Real Time Marketing – the Good, the Bad and a better Customer Experience

Getting the right message to the right people at the right time is an age-old marketing mantra. And how you hit that sweet spot has been foremost in the minds of every marketer since people started selling things to each other. That hasn’t changed over the years, but our ability to connect with each other and gather information about each other has. So you would think that with today’s Real-Time Marketing (RTM) and all this technology at our fingertips we could hit the bull’s eye every time, right? Well… we’re getting there, but it’s still a rocky road. Sometimes when we try to use advances in technology to get in front of more prospects, we get some push-back, especially online and in social channels. However, that depends on how the information gets used.

In an earlier article, Real-Time Marketing: 4 Best-Practice Examples of Getting it Right at the Right Time, I talked about some companies like Amazon that have done their homework on how to deliver those right messages to the right people in real time. Amazon uses predictive data analytics about your shopping habits on their channel, so your next visit triggers non-intrusive “Related Items” and “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” messaging.  Netflix also uses it—and it works! I know that when I’m cruising these sites, my eyes often drift to those sections to see if what they’re posting there really intersects with my interests, rather than typing in a new search. They are exchanging VALUE for what otherwise might be thought of as being intrusive.

However, there’s more to RTM than triggered shopping ads on websites. Mobile location-based technology that targets consumer location in-store and pushes ads to their phone is another form. Monitoring social channels during brand events and reacting to queries as they happen, responding to breaking news–even customer interaction on social channels (handling complaints, customer service, etc.) are becoming more and more RTM opportunities.  As digital channels keep expanding and becoming more real-time, the theory is that soon every marketer will have access to this capability on multiple fronts. Or will we?

As with anything new, theory and practice can be miles part.  Implementing RTM can be expensive, as it requires lots of planning and can be resource-intensive, depending on how deeply you want to integrate it into your organization and processes. Not everyone has the money to throw at round-the-clock teams or can shift their processes to accommodate real-time interactions.

But from a theoretical standpoint, I think there’s a good side and a bad side to implementing RTM, depending on how a company intends to use it.  So here’s my opinion on the best and worst uses:

Best Use of RTM: When companies use the information they gather to be more personal (and less corporate), more spontaneous and relevant to consumers, it elevates their brand perception overall. But being “in the know” also means that you give up some control of the conversation. I’ve been saying this a lot in terms of social conversation—our brand perception is now largely in the hands of the consumer. However, being armed with information about your customers can be a great thing—especially when you can use this information to make better connections and to delight your customers at every opportunity. RTM can be a natural extension of social connection, and those who can pull it off will reap the benefits of closer, more human relationships (Return on Relationship, #RonR). Delight them once and you’ve got a sale—delight them often and you develop Trust, Loyalty and Advocacy.

Worst Use of RTM:  The worst use (and this is where companies see push-back) is when a company uses the technology in a way that causes discomfort to prospects or customers. A case in point, Tesco PLC, a giant supermarket and gas-station chain in the UK, installed OptimEyes facial scanning technology to determine sex and age of customers as they waited in line at the checkout. The data was used to deliver targeted on-screen advertisements to individuals as they queued up to the counter. London news outlets touted the screens as “Minority-Report-Style” technology (In the movie Minority Report, the lead character gets personalized ads delivered to him on wall-screens wherever he walks). The Tesco brand suffered major fall-out. Customers found technology a violation of their privacy and the ad push intrusive, as you can see from the comments on this article.

The bottom line is really your mindset and how you approach marketing in the first place. Are you in it for the most part to get more eyeballs, or are you in it to develop relationships? My advice to brands looking to take advantage of RTM is to think of it in terms of developing new opportunities not just to advertise, but to connect with individuals… use it to Serve rather than to Sell. Being able to expand brand recognition is one thing—but sit down with others in your company and ask these questions before you get started:

·       How can we use RTM to improve customer experience?

·       How can it be used to develop a better product, make processes more efficient, or promote advocacy?

·       Do we have the resources to dedicate to making the changes that RTM will require?

Those are just a few of the questions I think you need to ask before looking for a solution. The answers may change your mind about moving forward, or they might get you more excited about the possibilities. It’s all about perspective, but I think you’ll make the right decision as long as improved relationships (which will lead to trust, loyalty and advocacy) are your major goal.

Originally published at InsideCXM

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