The Promises, the Challenges of 'Real Time'Our world has sped up. Everything is personalized and served up in real time, but there isn’t a single business function that can single-handedly deliver on the real time promise. For marketing to happen in real time takes robust technology and data analytics, and for the marketing message to be believable, the user needs to verify the claim with peers -- in (you guessed it) real time.

Let’s unpack how a customer experience actually looks and feels in real time.

The Promise

Personalized Service

The more customer communications move online, the more data is created -- it currently adds up to 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily. This is a huge opportunity because we no longer have to guess what customers want – we can understand who they are, see what they do and predict what they will need. Multiple customer journey tools aim to connect browsing and purchasing behaviors -- ultimately linking between intent and behavior.

Right Experience at the Right Time

Serving up the right information to the right person at the right time is the “holy grail” of real time marketing and a result of knowing your current and future customers and prospects. But it’s more than just serving up information: It’s about providing “social proof” through other users’ stories, connecting them to each other, and stepping up to provide support and additional resources when needed -- and staying out of the way otherwise.

Peer Advocacy

No one believes companies’ lofty claims anymore. Knowing that people just like you are using the product to solve problems just like yours acts as the biggest motivator. More and more these social stories become embedded into experiences companies create for their customers. It’s why platforms like Chute help brands embed their customers’ user-generated content into the shopping experience and at the point of decision. Online communities provide this kind of social proof at the right moments by bypassing the company as a middleman and connecting individuals directly to each other.

Expanding the Pie

By bypassing the company and connecting directly, users and customers not only share knowledge and get more out of your products -- they also share and build upon your products. In this kind of collaborative economy -- which according to research by Jeremiah Owyang's Crowd Companies and Vision Critical, weighs in at an impressive 80 million sharers in the US alone -- customers are no longer idle consumers. They can create product extensions, share them, bring them to market in interesting ways and build new business models. It’s up to you to participate with them or become irrelevant.


When customers connect with you and with each other, they become more loyal. Even the most logical humans are motivated by emotion, and research shows we gravitate to where we have stronger relationships. Customers are willing to stick it out with brands they feel loyal too, even if their competitors may have better features. With the Internet of Things, a company can get a distress signal immediately from a customer and anticipate her needs, ultimately winning her loyalty.

The Challenges

It’s not all roses. Real time communication carries with it some serious challenges that have to be understood in order to be resolved. I asked people on Facebook what challenges they've experienced with things happening in real time. Here are some observations based on their answers and my own experiences:

Yesterday’s Tools

Real time means many things to many people, but everyone can agree that it means speed and relevance. Unfortunately, most of the time the tools we use and the way we organize ourselves get in the way of actually delivering the value we promise. Think about large, siloed companies delivering an answer to a customer when it falls outside of the normal protocol .... Exactly!

Too Many Channels

There are a lot of channels to use, blogs to read and “influencers” to impress -- and they're growing by the day. You never know if your customers need you on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email or chat -- and you may be missing out on valuable visual opportunities on Pinterest or Instagram. The expectation for responsiveness has become 24/7 -- and has even started to affect how quickly we expect an answer in a channel like email. Spreading yourself over so many channels stresses the system and eventually reduces quality.