Bad news: Only 7% of marketers have the ability to use real-time data to implement real-time marketing activities to leads and customers, a CMO Council survey found.
Better news: Nearly 70% of organizations say they’re able to “scale customer-centered decisions and actions across function in the business” today, thanks to real-time analytics, per a recent 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 are able to better nurture customers and scale their businesses.
Brands that make the most of instantaneous first-party data access have two things in common: They have the right processes in place — as well as the right martech.
Real-time marketing: Impossible without real-time data — and modern martech
Here’s an interesting tidbit: Real-time marketing has been around for quite some time.
Digital strategist and marketing industry influencer 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 between marketers who leveraged real-time data back then (likely few and far between) versus those with real-time marketing strategies today are twofold:
- 1) Connecting with prospects and customers is far easier today, given the multitude of channels at marketing professionals disposal: mobile apps, responsive websites, consumers’ inboxes, and Internet of Things devices, to name a handful.
- 2) There is a growing preference (an expectation, really) among consumers 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 evolved over the past decade, making it easier brands looking to capitalize on real-time marketing.
Real-time data access means in real time — not in hours, days, or weeks
Allow us to clarify an important element of real-time data: It’s provided in real time.
Not weeks, days, or even 60 minutes from the time of request — but now. Here’s a real-time marketing example that proves 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 certain companies, like ecommerce organizations, financial services firms, and direct-to-consumer brands.
In short, individual marketing is a hyper-targeted version of personalized marketing.
Both utilize real-time data related to distinct customer segments to employ real-time marketing and messaging. 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 marketing professionals, given it requires a constant understanding of where a person is in their customer journey 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 personalization and individualized 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 (you guessed it) individual prospects and customers who, 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 preeminent marketing technology
As mentioned, having the proper marketing software in place for your business is paramount to gain real-time data access (not “near-real-time,” which some martech platforms offer and, bottom line, 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 and determine what’s helpful and what isn’t marketing-wise.
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 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.