Getting real about right-time marketing

Getting real about right-time marketing

The difference between real-time marketing and right-time marketing may seem like semantics to some. In a nutshell, real-time marketing is when you engage with your customers based on immediate actions and behavior, current news or events. Right-time marketing means you are identifying buyers who are currently in the market for your product or service and determining when they are most likely to purchase. When you establish those criteria, you can develop the optimal communication cadence to meet them at the right time—leading to an increase in purchases and ROI for your marketing dollars.

Finding the balance between real-time and right-time can be a tricky proposition. As a marketer and a consumer, I understand the challenge when I think about my own behaviors. Last Christmas, all three of my daughters wanted a FitBit® activity tracker, and I was determined to find the best deal. I monitored apps like Flipp for sales and checked holiday ads every week. And I abandoned online shopping carts—a lot of carts.

My habit of scooping up an item and then leaving it to languish in my virtual cart is not unique. In fact, SaleCycle reported that approximately of 75.6 percent of carts were abandoned in 2018. So I, like many, received dozens of trigger email reminders that went straight to my trash bin. Clearly, the time was not right for me to buy. Yet.

Timing is everything…or is it?

I wouldn’t say that real-time marketing doesn’t have its place in any marketer’s strategy arsenal. For instance, the famous Oreo Super Bowl tweet posted during a power outage, “You can still dunk in the dark,” is a shining example of real-time marketing.

Other more overt examples include this Walmart tweet:

However, the technique is limited because it underestimates consumers. It’s reactionary and focused on simply beating competitors to the punch. Real-time marketing also relies heavily on short-lived trends and assumes that consumers are impulsive and inclined to make hasty purchases. In truth, technology has created a well-informed—and sometimes even skeptical—audience of buyers with nearly unlimited options.

Today’s consumers typically follow a buyer’s journey of three stages: awareness, consideration and decision. By collecting data at every step of that journey, you can serve up content that is relevant, timely and leads straight to purchases.

RIGHT place at the RIGHT time

Want to boost your sales? Then it’s the right time to think about real-time marketing. A Digital Marketing Magazine survey found that 62 percent of respondents bought more (and/or more often) when they had personalized retail experiences. Even more compelling, 75 percent logged in to e-commerce websites when content was curated based on their personal preferences and previous actions.

It may seem overwhelming to develop a robust real-time marketing strategy. The best way to start is by asking some basic questions about your target audience:

  • Who? Is this a first-time or repeat buyer? What is this buyer’s purchase history? How much money does this buyer typically spend? What search terms are they using? What is their browsing behavior? What is their engagement?
  • When? Is this buyer reacting to a special offer or coupon? Has this buyer been researching your products or have they recently made a similar purchase? Does this buyer have any patterns of shopping on certain days or times?
  • Where? Is this buyer more likely to make an online or in-store purchase? Where does this buyer live on social media and how can you connect? What web pages does the buyer visit?

A recent study by consulting firm Bain and Company in partnership with Google confirms that these are questions every marketer should be asking, whether they are in B2B or B2C. The study surveyed nearly 1,700 marketers globally with the goal of calculating the value they gained from data and technology investments.

According to the study, “To strengthen customer relationships, marketers need to know not only which current or prospective customers to reach, but also in which moments. By communicating at the most opportune times based on people’s behavior and signals, companies can generate more business with fewer or more efficient ads or expand the audience to find unexpected wins.”

Rest assured that while right-time marketing is key, content is still king. Once you know where your buyer is on his or her journey, you still need to engage them with compelling content. Or, as marketing expert Robert Rose puts it, “Instead of focusing on the ‘right message, to the right person, at the right time,’ successful content marketers are creating ‘the right value, to the right audience, in their time.’”

As for my Fitbit buying adventure? Costco won the day with a timely email, and my daughters are now engaged in an ongoing competition to see who can get the most steps.

Headshot of Holly Hurst

With more than 20 years of professional experience, Holly appreciates the importance and power of Crystal Clear℠ Communications. For much of her career, Holly has been responsible for the ideation and execution of communication strategies for both internal and external audiences in a variety of industries. In her role as an associate marketing manager, Holly develops communications strategies, copywrites and provides client support for Writing by Design’s clients. When she’s not serving up marketing strategy, Holly can be found checking out the local music scene or chucking a tennis ball for her tireless rescue mutt Murphy.