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Real-time marketing or right-time marketing?

05.07.2013
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Real-time marketing is all the rage, though as TIBCO Loyalty Lab’s David Rosen is quick to point out, brands really need to be focused on right time marketing. “The speed and reaction of marketing needs to be relevant when the consumer is discovering, shopping or sharing,” he said.

Brands need to act with relevance and timeliness without crossing over into creepiness, Rosen warned. “You need to have customers’ permission to collect data and contact them in the time of decision-making. When that relationship is within a loyalty program, it’s far less creepy,” he explained. I agree because when the relationship exists, and it is documented via membership, the consumer feels a connection that otherwise may not exist.

Real-time marketingLoyalty and rewards may be the first thing to get right first, he suggests, noting that “…it creates the permission-based relationship between a brand and its consumers.” There’s a value exchange there, he explained; customers have consented and contributed to the brand-consumer relationship. This is a great point because in many ways it makes it easier for the marketer than initially spending time on relationship building without a guarantee the C-suite often requires to fund relationship building.

The collection and analysis of the data available in a loyalty relationship allows marketers an edge in real-time marketing, with greater insight into which messages or offers are most likely to influence a customer in that critical moment. But keep in mind… data and analytics can’t replace judgment. Along with data, be sure to let judgement, learning, inspiration be your guides, not simply numbers.

Simple, compelling offers for the win

The future of offers and real-time marketing is simplicity, according to Rosen. “The best rewards program is simple enough that any employee can describe it. It’s compelling enough that people will naturally want to sign up,” he said, noting that Sports Authority is a perfect example. They offer 5% back on all purchases, an offer everyone can comprehend and appreciate. It’s simple to use and doesn’t require that the customer understand a complex spend and earn program. I find this so incredibly important… ease of use and participation is key!

“If you can achieve high rates for enrollment and out of the gate, you’ll get immediate attention from senior management. If management doesn’t care, you don’t get buy-in and won’t have their support and budget to effectively run your program,” Rosen warned. Simple, compelling offers appeal to customers and can win the support of internal decision-makers.

Marketers are realizing the potential of next generation marketing tactics and tools, such as game mechanics, to essentially stimulate activity, add an element of fun, and change people’s behaviors in different ways. Game elements also help to cement the relationship by keep people involved and engaged.

“In this realm, you’ll see offers like group rewards, where consumers enter as a group to win prizes,” Rosen explained. “Retailers can link a number of behaviors and get consumers to accomplish certain tasks, ie: wearing a certain product and having a picture taken and posted to Instagram.”

Communication = Relationship Management

Better communication with loyalty program members means much more than simply delivering the content they want in a format they prefer. Brands needs to use the information gleaned from the program and other data available to them—through the website, email marketing, social channels and in-store—in order to effectively manage their customer relationships. When your customers are engaging via loyalty initiatives you have the opportunity to interact and engage them on a more personal level.

Are your customers shopping online, making returns, opening or responding to emails, or taking other actions from which you can draw insight?

Customers have come to expect that brands will deliver messages and offers relevant to their needs. This is the power of real-time marketing—the ability to act almost instantly on customer insights. Easing communication means understanding the needs of each customer and communicating the right message to them, at the right time.

It’s so important to keep in mind that right-time marketing means making a connection that goes beyond simply time and place, but takes it a step further and builds the connection… and therefore the relationship. Consumers desperately want to feel heard, connected, and valued, so remember to take it beyond the simple offer to engage and build Return on Relationship.

Analytics

Information has exploded, between the type of information we keep stored in databases —such as past purchasing behavior or past flight behavior—and the types of insights gleaned from activities happening in real time. “Customer loyalty marketing is not really marketing to people in real time, but using events, happenings, behaviors that are happening in real-time in order to very quickly make decisions about what to do next,” Rosen explained.

Analytics are critical for taking these masses of real-time and stored (historical) data and identifying patterns, in order to determine what to do next.

“The other piece of analytics that is incredibly compelling is that it gives the creative marketer the ability to be more creative,” Rosen explained. “You don’t have to get it right. You just need to have a great idea that it testable. If you have a great idea, you can make a moderate investment and put it in front of a limited amount of consumers and test that; you can measure the impact it had on people.” Great analytics takes away the risk of failure, he noted. Again I will add that analytics can only get you so far, it is easy to interpret data to mean what you are looking to hear, so be sure to let judgement reign.

Powerful reporting helps communicate the value of the program across the organization, not just to senior management, but across other teams, logistics partners, creative partners, etc. Dashboards, reporting and success metrics have become incredibly powerful and are critical for customer loyalty management.

Rosen’s recommendations are designed to help marketers move beyond the traditional loyalty program/offers model, to a relationship-based, mutually rewarding customer loyalty marketing solution. So use the all-important data, but remember the value in the data is in deepening the relationship connection.

“The whole idea is, don’t overcomplicate things,” Rosen advised. “Create a simple program with a compelling hook—this will become your canvas for testing and refining these other amazing things. That doesn’t mean it’s so vanilla people won’t sign up. But once you have that permission-based relationship with your customers, you can really do anything if you’re a good marketer.”

How effective is your brand at real-time marketing, using current and historical insights to influence purchasing behavior at the right time, in the proper channel, and building true relationships at the same time? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Hear more from David on right-time marketing and reimagining loyalty in the webinar, Customer Loyalty Management: Marrying the Art & Science of Loyalty.

Published at DZone with permission of Christopher Taylor, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)