Srividya Sridharan of Forrester Research, posted the question of “How real is real-time” on the customer intelligence community. I’d like to share my reply to her.
There are multiple areas of marketing in which real-time has a unique definition, it’s own importance and a set of tools, practitioners and process that enable it.
From a transactional point of view, real-time means being able to transact from start to finish with no latency. In ecommerce, this is a given, although it surprises me how many websites still ask the customer to submit a form, or call a rep. to get a quote, complete a transaction or get customer service. The Holy Grail of this type of real-time marketing is the complete integration of multiple channels including online, social and in-store. While some, mostly B2C, retailers have done a good job combining online shopping, order and payment with in-store availability and pick-up, this cross-channel experience has rarely been duplicated in the B2B world where sales are still driven by direct sales forces and represent long and complicated purchase cycles. for example, it’s still virtually impossible for a company’s procurement department to negotiate, transact and fufill an enterprise software licensing agreement online.
From the data perspective, real-time refers to the ability to collect and process data in real-time. Whether transactional or behavioral, it is usually focused on the online advertising, search, web or email experience and increasingly user generated activity on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. There appears to be the most momentum in capturing and analyzing social data, which is created, distributed and reacted to in real-time, however most marketers, agencies and analytics providers are still trying to apply the same methodologies to social as they have used in the past to understand traditional channels like broadcast and print. Needless to say, the importance of frequency and reach is completely different when applied to multi-facted social relationships. it is is this area of campaign management and analytics that appear to be paying the most attention to trying to achieve real-time. It won’t be difficult to generate mountains of data, but the trick is having the resources to understand the data and most importantly use that data in real-time. There appears to be very little progress in brands ability to act in real-time.
And finally, the most important area of real-time, is the one most overllooked; understanding the customer in real-time. We spend a lot of time, technology and resources to understand what consumers did in the past and hope that will help us predict what they are going to do in the future. But we devote very little energy to finding out what’s important to a consumer in the moment and then being able to communicate with them in a manner that is relevant to them in that same moment. This is the real real-time Holy Grail and in an increasingly ADHD afflcited world, this is the key to cutting through the noise and engaging customers on their terms. This is why I’ve started my new company Blab. We’re all about relevancy and relevancy is both listening as well as creating and distirbuting branded content. Check our our website for more details about our approach, http://www.blabbings.com.