What Every Marketer Needs to Know about Real-Time Marketing (RTM)

Eva Maria Schmidt
November 13, 2018

Today’s consumers are moving fast on self-directed customer journeys. And they expect brands to follow them at every step of the way. After all, brands collect so much personal data, consumers have every right to demand individual attention at every moment.

And by ‘every moment’ – consumers mean right here, right now.

In 2018, 75 percent of online customers demanded a response to their service questions in five minutes or less. Patience levels are trending downwards, over half of all consumers also reporting long wait times as their biggest frustration, for instance in retail.

In meeting these high-strung expectations, real-time marketing (RTM) has emerged as a major buzzword in our industry. As with all new trends (think artificial intelligence), it can still be somewhat confusing to determine what ‘real time’ actually means. Does it mean responding in under 5 minutes? 1 minute? 5 seconds?

When it comes to harnessing the power of ‘right message, right moment’ for your brand, here’s what marketers need to know:

What is real-time marketing?

Marketing Land elaborates:

Real-time marketing or “RTM” moments occur when brands and agency marketers react quickly to local, national, or global events happening online or offline, in an effort to interject corporate marketing into consumer conversations via social media messaging or boost brand recognition utilizing marketing platforms.

But besides from external events, RTM can also mean targeting meaningful situations on the individual customer level. Such as, when consumers spontaneously happen to look for interesting on-site activities at their holiday destination or glance online at gifts to splurge on.

These are moments that consumers are especially receptive to tailored marketing messages. Delivering the right messaging at the right time could even be the final nudge on the path to purchase – so no wonder real-time marketing is such a big ticket.

Are there technical requirements for real-time marketing?

Put simply, yes.

At its most basic, effective RTM requires a brand to leverage technology capable of “listening” and gathering customer insights on social media, online, and other channels and consumer communities, such as customer support feedback, and local, regional, and national news, events, trends, etc.

Luckily, this technology is widely available today. True RTM marketers will need the following tools to “hack” the customer journey:

  1. Rich customer profiles. Personalization is the fairy dust that creates real-time marketing magic and a universal customer profile can help make it happen. Marketers need to attain a 360-degree view of their customers’ personal preferences, past purchases, and preferred devices. Without these fundamental insights, RTM becomes a guessing game – or in cases of automation gone haywire, a liability.
  2. Current location data. Capturing the customers’ current location can be done without fancy technologies such as geofencing and beacons (although these are ideal). 30 percent of Google searches involve location, while social media platforms and a wide array of apps also capture customer location. These location-based data sets allow for adjusting website content and marketing emails at the moment of open with nearby offers and happenings via dynamic content elements.
  3. Omnichannel marketing platforms. As customers oscillate between devices and physical locations, marketers need full omnichannel capabilities to keep track. While shopping for an RTM-friendly platform, look for capabilities such as dynamic email and web content, predictive offers powered by artificial intelligence (AI), and predictive customer journeys mapped with AI. Trending real-time marketing tech includes live mobile content, chatbots, and messenger bots, plus real-time e-commerce featuring “Buy Now” buttons in emails and messenger apps.

How can brands catch consumers at the right moment?

Armed with location data and consumer profiles, marketers can adopt a consumer-first mindset to create programs for specific situations. Ask questions such as: What do customers need at this very moment, or what are they actively searching for? And what do they own already?

On a basic level, customers walking near a store can be targeted with location-triggered emails containing active promotions specific to this location. But in case they open the dynamic message when a store is already closed, their email will display offers from the company’s online store to match the current moment.

This scenario-building process also involves listening to your audience. Listening on social media, but also listening to consumer communities you may manage and customer support feedback. Plus keep an eye on the big picture, from local, regional and (inter)national events such as the football World Cup or social trends. Basically, anything with a trending #hashtag.

How does RTM impact overall marketing strategies?

Catering to real-time situations marks a paradigm shift, as it tightens the connection between data collection and activation. The continuous analysis and reporting that are core to RTM lead to effects such as:

With the right technologies, marketers can harness customer insights and data in real-time and quickly modify messaging or branding for maximum effectiveness. Savvy marketers know that the best way to reach customers is to meet them where they are – and tailor your marketing strategy to them accordingly. For great examples of real-time marketing IRL, check out our follow-up blog post here.