Real-Time Marketing: A Changing Hypothesis

By Guest Writer

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Real-time marketing is a common practice in today’s marketing environment, defined as marketing performed “on-the-fly” to determine an appropriate or optimal approach to a particular customer, at a particular time and place. It stems from the amount of data and interaction the digital age has provided, and marketers want to connect messages to large, active audiences to capitalize branding opportunities.

There are different theories on how these metrics and data points should be used, however. One view puts the emphasis on messages becoming more personalized to each individual. The other view focuses on the fact that the digital age should allow marketers to tailor content to events and trends happening around the world, and produce this content in a short time frame. They both seek to customize content the audience would be more interested and engaged in. We’ll break them down as follows:

The Two Schools Of Thought

01. Personalization: Some thought leaders are of the opinion that real-time marketing is meant to be the personalization of marketing efforts through data. “Real-time” here refers then to the collection of customers’ actions as they interact with a campaign. It tracks what they look at, what they ignore, and tailors responses and future content based on these factors. This content will begin to give visitors more of what they want, and theoretically cause them to prefer that particular source. The personalized content would hold the customers attention for longer, and provoke more engagement.

02. Responsiveness: Other thought leaders will tell you that real-time marketing is meant to be a responsive and constantly changing interaction with the world around a marketplace. Campaigns and content are created based on new findings or events. If a huge breakthrough in 3D printing is made, marketers for these companies would want to integrate the breakthrough into their sales pitch and other advertising content as soon as possible. In a perfect world, they would adapt immediately. However, certain lags in information and human action can cause delays. “Real-time” then can still often mean minutes, hours, or days.

In reality, real-time marketing is an incorporation of both these practices. There is no reason why it should be restrained to one. Just as people are constantly changing and engaging in new events, good marketing should have a plan and follow it, but that plan should allow for changes based on the events taking place around it. (This is seen more in digital marketing than any other channel, due to the lags required for changing content in print or on television.) By having a flexible digital plan, the content can gain a human element to it. It becomes more real, and more relatable to its target market. Furthermore, every person who interacts with content is different from one another, so marketers must personalize each piece. The amount of data that’s now at a marketer’s disposal makes this possible. It is not perfect, and will never perfectly model and adapt to each individual’s ever-changing preferences. However, through trend analysis, interaction analysis, and algorithms with scientifically proven results, there will certainly be improvements in engagement and in the end, return-on-investment.

Putting It In Perspective

Real-time marketing shares some interesting aspects with a scientific hypothesis. For example, a scientist must be willing to adapt to change. Their hypothesis must be able to restructure and refocus if an outcome fails or if a better method is found. There must be both a constant framework (i.e. a plan), and variable methodology. Approaching a marketing campaign with the willingness to accept what is and isn’t working is vital. A marketer, especially in real time, with a lot at stake in terms of profit or loss, must be devoted to this idea. The end result is a campaign that reaches the right audience, in a way that prompts further interest or engagement from them.

Real-time marketing should appeal to every marketer, but also to their audience. A reader of C&EN for example, will prefer some articles over others. That is just personal taste, and as C&EN uses these preferences to tailor content and articles, each individual can see more of what they do like, and less of what they don’t. In theory, this causes the audience to get more out of the experience, and in our case, to get more excited for the next issue. The benefits can be limitless. They can take a potential reader and lead him to read. They can take a dedicated reader and help him benefit from more of ACS’ goods and services. That is the whole point of marketing in the first place.

In summary, here are the main things you need to know to have a good grasp on real-time marketing:

» It is not just a fad. Real-time marketing has been around since technology has allowed it to be. The popularity of the World Wide Web spawned digital marketing, allowing companies to close the former gap of updating print ads, which could take weeks or months. Thus, marketers are now able to respond to something within a day or two. When Twitter was launched in 2006, it gave companies the ability to send a new marketing message within minutes of an event, and have their campaign organized around an event via tools like hashtags. Real-time marketing has gradually drifted into practice just as social media and big data have. It is essential and will only become more refined and more responsive.

» Incorporate BOTH schools of thought. Respond to live events, and have practices in place that can be adaptable to change. Create programs and content that have more of a human element to them. Also, use big data to create campaigns that reach people who are most interested, in order to recognize their needs and, again, adapt.

» Analytics and market testing ARE real-time marketing. Most digital marketers are already practicing real-time marketing. They are performing A/B testing. They are tracking metrics and analyzing their meaning. This all leads to better performance, customization for certain customers and responsiveness to change.

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Evan Duso is a digital strategist intern with ACS and the C&EN Media Group, obtaining a BBA with a double major in Marketing and Computer Information Systems at James Madison University. He aspires to become a marketing consultant for small businesses, and enjoys analyzing (and/or) critiquing television, print, and digital advertisements that he comes across.


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