Real-Time Marketing for a Real-Time World

Consumers are rapidly changing how and where they spend their time, where and when they shop, and where and to whom they award their loyalty. Every time a business or marketing organization thinks they have it figured out, everything changes again.

The truth is that today's consumers have more control over the buying process and which brands they choose to engage with than ever. Customer loyalty and profitability increasingly depend on real-time event-based marketing. Companies that fail to realize this will be left behind.

Buying and selling is moving beyond a simple choice of online versus brick-and-mortar to an experience that involves in-store, mobile, geolocation, kiosk, social, and loyalty/reward initiatives—all in real time.

Omnichannel—not multichannel—is the new normal

Having systems that can sense and respond across any combination of channels is only half the battle. Once acquired, merchants need to continue to refine their basic understanding of each customer and then relentlessly foster meaningful and relevant relationships with each individual. Never forget—this is about them. Broad segment campaigns and point-in-time events will no longer suffice.

And in an always-on mobile world, organizations that invest in technology have the advantage. Real-time, event-driven marketing that blends offers, next-best offers, next-best action, and loyalty in a single, unified platform is today's answer to yesterday's data warehouse.

Data warehouse dilemma

If businesses are still relying on a data warehouse and its historical view of their customers as a basis for marketing, they are missing the opportunity to delight and engage their customers with offers in real time that meet all their needs, right where they are, when they most need it or are tuned to accept it.

For example, a consumer in Toronto walks past a store in freezing weather, and her transactional history indicates she has never bought gloves. Imagine if she received an offer delivered in real time to her mobile phone for gloves that are currently overstocked at the store she is walking past. Using event-enabled technology, customized offers at the individual consumer level can be made that take into account "events," such as environmental (weather) and operational (overstock), which are transient and never stored in the data warehouse. The result of using data in motion versus data at rest? Increased sales and increased customer loyalty.

This is event-driven marketing—redefined.

No amount of historical data could have prepared a retailer to deliver as the situation above developed. That doesn't mean historical data isn't valuable—it's just that when it's combined with other factors or events in real time, we have a context for knowing and rewarding customers that makes all the difference.

Event-driven marketing gives businesses the opportunity to expand customary trigger-based programs—moving beyond traditional broad-based birthday offers and seasonal promotions to influence interactions in any moment. Consumers can be engaged every day of the year, not just on their birthday.

Sports marketing scores

There are few markets with more perishable inventory than professional sports. Games last for a finite amount of time and represent large numbers of people moving through an arena or watching events via Web, mobile, and broadcast channels.

One pro basketball team, the Golden State Warriors, is working beyond the traditional boundaries of sports marketing and turning customer into fans. Their innovative mobile app brings together real-time information to deliver news, stats, video, and exclusive and personalized content. When a fan interacts with the app, his profile is updated with information that makes it easier to provide the right offers in the moments when he is most likely to respond.

For example, the app can differentiate offers based on location. Fans can check in via Facebook for the "deal of the night" and might receive an offer for two-for-one hot dogs at halftime. If they are at home, however, they might enter to win a virtual contest.

In addition, special pages on the Warriors' loyalty program Web site let fans interact with each other and the team (e.g., voting for "best player of the night") and provide other feedback to help the Warriors improve the experience for their fans.

Fan creation isn't limited to sports. Fans can be created in any industry, and customer lifetime value will increase as a result. Today's SaaS-based marketing platforms allow for very rapid rollout, in as little as two months, and can constantly adapt and evolve with the marketplace in ways that installed software never would.

We can't expect the pace of change or consumers' demands and desire for a custom shopping or fan experience to slow down. The move to mobile and the ever-increasing power that consumers wield from their smartphones and tablets means that taking a real-time, event-based approach is the best guarantee of marketing success. It's the only way to be prepared in a time where no one knows what changes are coming, and how consumers will shift with technology and time.

Brett Hannath is the director of marketing at TIBCO Loyalty Lab, whose on-demand loyalty platform supports end-to-end loyalty programs for some of the world's largest brands.

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