The real-time marketing industry is constantly evolving and more competitive than ever, as it becomes increasingly important to find new ways of engaging with consumers.
In recent years there has been a wave of new software technologies, as well as increasing accessibility of technology, data, analytics and advanced marketing expertise. These factors have paved the way for innovative organizations to enter the marketplace to enhance the customer experience — both in-store and out of store.
Consider these new scenarios:
- With a swipe of a consumer’s credit card, an in-store associate can determine that consumer’s purchasing habits, and can automatically identify that they qualify for a 20 percent discount if they choose to buy certain merchandise that day.
- A retailer can prompt a consumer to come into their store by texting them a “buy one, get one 50 percent off” coupon as they window shop.
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Retail marketers are seeing the value in enriching consumer interactions as a whole by creating these kinds of personalized offers. Technology can now be leveraged to recognize a customer’s interests and provide actionable intelligence in real-time to any customer channel. It is about responding to the customer in a relevant and engaging manner. A mere decade ago, this real-time interaction did not even exist.
Real-time marketing is not limited to the retail industry, however. An offer presented by an ATM, for example, might seem to be the same offer given to everybody who uses the ATM. In reality, if the company is using real-time marketing software, the offer is personalized based on who that person is and how they behave. The analysis happens in real-time, in a fraction of a second, and that individual is given an offer or message specifically designed to appeal to them.
Analysts assert such technology is moving from a niche capability, offered by a few best-of-breed vendors, to a standard component of larger suites, offered by mainstream vendors.
There are many initiatives retail marketers can take to better engage with customers. I view five primary action steps:
1. Know the customer
Companies know a lot more about their customers than one might think. They have a record of all their purchases and relevant customer support conversations, which gives them a baseline of useful information. Using real-time marketing, data can be augmented with other information available from third-party vendors — If they own a house or rent, where they work and approximately how much they make, what they have recently bought from other vendors and so forth. In utilizing all of this information, a customer can encounter an instantaneous, unique, one-to-one shopping experience.
2. Propose a relevant offer
If a customer has ever been turned off by cross-selling or upselling, it’s because the offer was not pertinent to their specific interests or recent behaviors. Real-time marketing takes into consideration information specific to THAT customer, to create an offer or message in which they can very personally relate.
3. Consider a variety of channels
Today’s retail marketers are often focused on leveraging email, direct mail, and in more instances today, social media. There are several untapped channels to interact with current and prospective clients, however, especially in the mobile space. What about your customer support channel? Retailers can and should be extending customer service agents as sales agents, providing them the necessary tools to effectively upsell and cross-sell depending on the customer’s particular circumstance.
4. Enhance the customer experience
The overarching goal of a marketer is to reach customers in a way that is significant and engaging, creating an enhanced overall experience for that customer. If customers feel like they’re being heard, they will be more receptive to offers, suggestions and messages — which will ultimately drive more bottom-line profits.
5. Maintain sophistication
As technology and marketing strategies continue to demand more collaboration, marketers must not forget the tried and true database marketing principles. This includes control groups, A/B testing and experimental designs that lead to accurate incremental sales equations. Launching real-time marketing strategies doesn’t mean the intelligence behind those strategies has to disappear simply because they are associated with a new technology or channel.
Joshua Smith is co-founder and CEO of Toovio, a SaaS-based real-time marketing (RTM) solution provider. (Photo by Funkdooby.)