The bad news: Only 7% of marketers say they have the ability to use real-time data to implement real-time marketing activities to their leads and customers, a CMO Council survey found.
The better news: Nearly 70% of brands say they “scale customer-centered decisions and actions across function in the business” thanks to real-time analytics, per a Harvard Business Review report.
Whether your organization is part of the 7% or 70%, one thing has become crystal clear:
- Leveraging real-time data for real-time marketing is a primary reason so many companies — both B2B and B2C alike — are able to better nurture customers and scale their businesses.
When you examine brands that make the most of instantaneous first-party data access, one thing they have in common is they not only have the right processes in place, but also the right martech.
Real-time marketing: Impossible without real-time data
Here’s an interesting tidbit: Real-time marketing has been around for quite some time.
Digital strategist David Meerman Scott was arguably ahead of his time by noting in 2011 (remember 2011?) that “marketing departments need someone who lives and breathes real-time [marketing].”
The differences for marketing teams who took advantage of real-time data back then (which were likely few and far between) versus companies with real-time marketing strategies today are twofold:
- Connecting with customers is far easier today, given the multitude of channels at their disposal: mobile apps, responsive websites, and Internet of Things devices, to name a few.
- There is a growing preference (an expectation now, really) among consumers today that brands hyper-personalize messaging to them (but only when they provide consent for use of their personal data) to offer superior customer experiences.
Thankfully, marketing technologies, like the customer data platform (CDP), have continually evolved over the past decade, making it easier brands looking to capitalize on real-time marketing.
Real-time data means in real time — not hours or days
Allow us to clarify an important element of real-time data: It’s provided in real time. (Shocker, right?)
Not weeks from now. Not days from now. Not hours or 60 minutes from now. In actual real time.
Here’s a real-time marketing example that proves just why you need instant customer data access:
- Objective: You want to commence with real-time messaging to certain customers in your database — a tactic used by brands across several industries: from retailers to restaurants — with the goal of serving said messaging to just one, targeted, potentially lucrative segment.
- Problem: You need up-to-the-minute, accurate data for the chosen segment — their most recent and relevant brand interactions — but your database doesn’t update their profiles in real time because your current primary marketing tech only offers batch processing. By the time your system processes the new info, your window of marketing opportunity has closed (or at least narrowed).
- Solution: A pure-play customer data platform (like BlueConic) offers both batch processing and real-time data integration, to ensure customer profiles are dynamically updated upon each attribute change, action taken, and general behavior. (Yep — this tech exists and is used by many marketers.)
- Result: All relevant customer data from your martech — CRM, DMP, ESP, data warehouses, and other core software you use — consolidates in your CDP in real time, in turn updating your segment automatically and allowing you to activate that data moments after merging.
When you have time-sensitive promotional activities required to convert new customers — prospective subscribers of your newspaper, possible buyers of your clothing line, fans of your sports team, etc. — it’s critical today to have precise, reliable data access for those particular people and segments.
Individualization the goal with your real-time marketing
We will never, ever say it’s “either-or” when it comes individualization and personalization (which, by the way, are not one and the same, despite what some marketers may say.)
However, individualization can offer more value than the latter for companies in certain sectors: ecommerce organizations, financial services firms, direct-to-consumer brands, and the like.
In short, individual marketing is a hyper-targeted version of personalized marketing.
Both utilize real-time data to employ real-time marketing, but the former approach allows you to provide much more targeted, custom messaging that a given customer knows is meant just for them.
BlueConic SVP Strategy Cory Munchbach put it perfectly in a guest post for Chief Marketer:
- “Masters of individualization recognize individuals across channels, devices, and sessions. They engage on the consumer’s time-table in response to the user’s activity by capturing that data, analyzing it to optimize the best response, and serving that out through the appropriate touch point — immediately.”
Cory admits this is not an easy task for some marketers, given it requires a constant understanding of where a person is in their customer journey (which is unique to each and every customer) and the ability to consolidate all of an individual’s data in one, single database (more on that shortly).
Nonetheless, it’s a task worth your while.
It means more customer engagement and conversions and less time, money, and resources wasted marketing toward specific members of segments where the messaging is ill-suited (e.g., those who haven’t shown a proclivity to buy a certain product from you).
Balancing personalized marketing and individual marketing
To reiterate: Personalized marketing should definitely have a place in your overall marketing strategy — in case we haven’t made that clear already. In fact, it should be a staple for your team and organization.
But there’s also a need to provide individualized marketing to individual leads and customers that, when based on activities like behavioral segmentation and predictive modeling, can lead to far more effective messaging that reaches them when and where they’re most likely to buy.
Real-time data supports both marketing methods. It’s on you to try out both in equal measure — personalized recommendations to a broad segment and individualized suggestions to a specific person — to see if one or both work well in helping your various business goals.
Getting real-time analytics from the right martech solution
As mentioned, having the proper marketing software in place is paramount to gain real-time data access (not “near-real-time,” which some martech platforms offer and is not equivalent to real-time data).
We’re not talking a “moment-in-time snapshot” of customer data via an identity graph. We’re talking unified data incorporated into a single source of truth that’s instantly available to marketing teams.
Not all martech is created equal. In fact, many platforms don’t offer the requisite identity resolution functionality necessary to automatically update customers’ profiles in real time and, right after, make that data accessible to marketers for activation in lightning-quick fashion.
What’s more, not all solutions offer real-time analytics built in to efficiently scrutinize said data to determine what’s helpful, what isn’t, and what messaging can be implemented shortly thereafter.
Real-time marketing analytics now a must-have
Nearly 60% of business leaders across the globe noted their companies have seen marked increases in customer retention thanks to real-time data analytics. Roughly the same figure said access to real-time marketing analytics was pivotal to bettering the customer experience across touch points.
If your systems can’t access real-time data, analyze it, then give you the opportunity to efficiently activate it in your various marketing channels, your marketing metrics — and sales numbers — will never reach the heights they could.
Some tech industry members say “good-enough analytics” should be — well — good enough for most brands and professionals today. Others say data lakes should suffice regarding data access.
But “good enough” isn’t going to cut it in the competitive world of digital marketing where the difference between winning business from a particular buyer could be a matter of minutes.
Connecting with customers the ultimate goal
We’re all competing for consumers’ attention.
If a competitor beats you to the punch with a customer conversion because they had the right real-time data processes and platform in place to expediently meet that customer where they are and at the most opportune time, you’ll soon come to realize you’re at a distinct disadvantage — and could lose out on revenue from many more customers.
As Gartner analyst W. Roy Schulte pointed out, with proper real-time analytics in place, operational decision-making, modeling and simulation construction, and personalized customer views become much more easily achievable for organizations, including their IT and marketing teams.
If you lack the tech to make this approach a reality, it’s time to reevaluate your current stack.