‘The customer is always right,’ so uttered Harry Gordon Selfridge, founder of the world-famous London department store, back in 1909. 100 year later, that statement still rings true in an age when every company is talking CRM. According to Resulticks’ research, real-time marketing is a priority for 65% of businesses in Southeast Asia, and 51% rate their current solutions as “good” in terms of responding to individuals across channels in real time.
But how should one define the ‘real-time’ in real-time marketing? According to Mani Gopalaratnam, CTO customer success of Resulticks, a company that provides real-time conversion marketing solutions, the definition of real-time marketing is two-fold. “First, real-time marketing is to provide the right substance in the right context at the time of need,” he says. “Second, we need to make sure that the aforementioned ‘context’ isn’t the context of the company, but that of the customer.”
Missing and bad-quality data are challenges
A majority of marketers understand this; the challenge, however, lies in the execution. For real-time marketing to work, getting enough good-quality data is key. Yet, one key problem marketers face is that the data they’re looking at often comes from different sources of varying qualities.
“Data is the biggest challenges. If you have the right data, and you have a reasonable understanding of the context, then real-time marketing becomes easy. But it’s difficult to get good quality data across the board when there is such a huge amount of data available.”
The other challenge is mindset. According to Gopalaratnam, marketers need to stop seeing the wide variety of channels used by consumers as a hindrance. “The US is, for example, very email-centric. Japan, meanwhile, is shifting away from emails to LINE. India is moving away from SMS to WhatsApp. As a marketer, you need to localize your channels of engagement, and instead of treating them as a bother, approach them as different ways to communicate with your target audience.”
Doing real-time marketing right
Gopalaratnam shares three tactics for real-time marketing.
First, marketers need to identity situations that would generate immediate results so that they can provide a blueprint for venturing into more complex ones. Second, the ability to accurately predict what customers need differentiates the excellent marketers from the average ones. “Let’s say my health insurance is expiring, but I don’t know the impact of the expiration, the ability for a health insurance company to communicate with me, based on my needs, could result in a very happy business relationship.” But what happens if there isn’t enough, as he mentioned, good quality data? That’s where non-responsive data comes in. “As a marketer, I should be able to build on that rather than go, ‘hey, give me all the data, or else I couldn’t do real-time marketing,’ every time there isn’t complete data.”
One would presume that’s when artificial intelligence is applied. But while AI is connected to predictive analytics, Gopalaratnam says it is a word he uses very carefully. “You have two scenarios. The first is, you have the data, and you uncover [consumption] patterns from it. I won’t call this AI. AI is creating a new view from the partial data that exists. If I only have an incomplete, hazy picture, AI can turn it into visualizations that I can use.”
Resulticks currently leverages AI to sharpen certain patterns of non-available data. Based on patterns uncovered across the industry, AI is able to provide a better view of customer context. The focus on customer context also points to the need for marketers to not only segment their audience but allow their engagement to evolve with the customer.
“It shouldn’t be about I, as a marketer, thinking that the person belongs to a particular segment and sending them information at my leisure.” Gopalaratnam says that marketers currently spend “too much time cutting segments, which slows them down” and should “redirect some of that effort towards real-time marketing.”
He gives an example of how real-time marketing, when done right, can elevate the customer experience in the banking industry.
“For example, I go to this shop called Croma [specialist retail chain]. When I use a co-branded credit card to pay for a product, the system will be able to detect what other products I want and make that suggestion right then and there. The system will be able to inform me about the potential cost to prevent credit card fraud.”
With the call for ethical data sourcing and storing on the rise, the CTO also advises marketers to be clear from the get-go on what they’re using the data for.
“When I’m using Alexa [Amazon’s virtual assistant] to discover what someone wants, and based on the findings, to provide a relevant response, it needs to be clear that I’m not recording anything. Or if I’m using someone’s current location to make a suggestion, it should also be obvious that I’m not tracking this person’s movement all over the city.”
And for companies trying to navigate the complex web of data, context and privacy that real-time marketing requires, Resulticks is here to help.
“We have the expertise to harness data securely, and then leverage a rules-based approach to create contextual and continuously relevant customer experiences in real time.”