Real-time marketing has progressed from a social media tactic to an omnichannel strategy but marketing organizations still struggle to harness its potential. The number one reason for that lies in the data.

In fact, executing a successful real-time marketing strategy always comes back to the data. If your brand is able to capture and manage its data, generate insights from it and take action — while learning from the process — you will see better results and continuous improvement.

The Dawn of Newsjacking

Many marketers consider Oreo’s famous “You can still dunk in the dark” marketing campaign during Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans in 2013 to be a landmark event in real-time marketing. During the third quarter of the game, the Superdome experienced a partial power outage, darkening the stadium and suspending play for 34 minutes.

During this time, Oreo cleverly took advantage of the situation and tweeted its message out to thousands of loyal followers, receiving over 10,000 re-tweets and 20,000 likes on Facebook. Many similar events followed, such as Arby’s 2014 tweet about Pharrell William’s hat at the Grammys and Tide’s 2015 DressGate tweet, giving rise to the term “newsjacking.”

3 Pillars of Real-Time Marketing

It turns out, however, that Oreo’s social media war room had only scratched the surface of what is now possible with real-time marketing. Real-time goes well beyond speed and agility to incorporate a comprehensive view of data that allows for more effective personalization across various channels.

Let’s consider each of these three pillars:

1. Speed and Agility

Since real-time is all about being able to interact in at the very moment of engagement, in the right way, marketing professionals often confuse real-time with needing to react instantly to a purchase or click. Marketers need to find the right balance of timing and context.

In some cases, instant engagement can be very effective, such as answering customer questions or responding promptly to service complaints. But bear in mind that responding with a remarketing campaign or cart abandonment offer risks coming off as extremely creepy if delivered within seconds or minutes.

2. Data-Driven Personalization

What impact could Oreo have made if they had messaged their brand followers with more personalized content? What if they had been able to segment their audience and only deliver messages in the channels that their consumers preferred?

Effective personalization is largely about the data that gives your brand a strong sense of its customers and their behavior, both on- and offline. Big data such as browsing behavior, social media activity, URLs, posts and comments — once streamlined and organized — can then drive the targeting and personalization processes.

Omnichannel Optimization

What if Oreo had been able to pair its tweets with follow-up email, website or display offers? Could the brand have delivered specific coupons or in-store promotions based on the results of the social campaigns?

The process of automating data capture and data interaction can be daunting for marketing organizations. Taking advantage of data science such as self-learning models, scorecards or predictive analytics can help marketers play the numbers game and determine what audiences, segments or individuals are the most likely to respond to ensure that ongoing feedback is driving future decisions.

Crawl, Walk, Run

So how do you get started with real-time marketing? Consider taking a crawl, walk and run approach:

  • Crawl: First, get your house in order. Ensure you have a way to combine social data, clickstream data, anonymous browsing, POS, loyalty and CRM data all in one place and a plan for how to orchestrate it. Once the data is merged and cleansed, ensure that it’s residing in a marketing database where it can be readily accessed for targeting and personalization.
  • Walk: Next, progress your real-time tactics from single-channel to multichannel. Generating real-time inbound offers, experiences and testing is a great way to engage consumers, whether on the web, through your call center or in-store. Triggered messaging and remarketing through email, SMS or mobile apps provide great ways to tie in real-time outbound channels, and remember that integrating your inbound and outbound marketing efforts will generate a more comprehensive customer journey.
  • Run: Finally, focus on optimization. Don’t fear the algorithms. Take advantage of machine learning tactics like automated recommendations, propensity to buy models, customer scorecards or business rules that can ensure you are not inundating your customers and prospects with the same content or experiences. Close the loop on these programs and focus on continuous improvement.

Title image by Seb Zurcher