The latest State of Marketing report has found the top priority and challenge for marketers today is one and the same: engaging with customers in real-time.

It’s always been a challenge for marketers to get the right message, in front of the right person, at the right time. And that challenge remains the same today, but now that real-time engagement is a possibility, the definitions have changed dramatically.

The ‘right message’ refers to the specific tastes, wants and needs of an individual, rather than a demographic. It’s also about where the individual is in the buying cycle.

For example, if they’ve just begun thinking about buying a car, they should be presented with a range of vehicles in a certain class. But if they’re a long way down the purchasing funnel, it could mean delivering a message about a special deal, on a specific model, at a nearby dealership.

The ‘right person’ is an individual. It’s not a couple in a particular neighbourhood, because the pair likely have very different tastes and interests. It’s about serving the right information to the right person, on their preferred channel.

And the ‘right time’? Well, that’s an entirely new and wonderful challenge that some marketers are getting right, to spectacular effect. They’re achieving real-time engagement, which means getting the right message to the right person, at crunch time, while they’re in the moment.

Say, it’s an individual who’s only ever looked at family sedans, and now they’re back on the car brand’s website. The brand has the entire history of the individual’s interactions with the business, including the website and other channels. In that moment, there’s no point serving them information about a sports car or an off-roader – it’s clearly not what they’re after. It’s that real-time personalisation; the ability to respond to exactly what the customer needs and to be as relevant as possible, is what ‘right time’ is all about.

Real-time engagement pay off

Every study into this space has shown that getting real-time engagement right leads to high engagement, high customer satisfaction and high conversion of sales.

It’s clearly a priority, with our latest State of Marketing research report showing that 52% of marketers are now engaging customers in real-time, on at least one channel. While high-performing marketers are 1.9 times more likely to engage customers in real-time across one or more channels. However, only 49% of marketing leaders believe they provide an experience completely aligned with customer expectations.

So, what does it look like when real-time engagement is done well? Consider Ticketmaster, a business that, on the face of it, simply sells tickets to events. But behind-the-scenes they’re using data and technology to create real-time experiences that add value to the customer experience.

Ticketmaster sends billions of personalised emails each year. If you click on a personalised email and buy a ticket, the ticket is sent to an app on your mobile phone. Then when you go to the event, you scan the barcode on your phone. Ticketmaster gets that signal in real-time – they know you’ve arrived. To create real-time engagement, they send you a text, or a push notification in your app, saying, ‘We hope you enjoy the show. If you share a photo on Instagram and use this hashtag, you’ll enter a competition to win some great merchandise’.

Real-time engagement is about connecting all of the data signals brands get from customers and building the experience to be much more than it would otherwise be.

AI and real-time engagement

Ticketmaster is an advanced example. But other businesses are using bots to answer calls immediately and deal with customers in real-time, reducing wait times and ensuring calls are directed to a customer service agent knowledgeable in the specific area.

The most common example of real-time engagement is simple personalisation – customising a website experience based on a person’s interests. That is something any business can achieve with the help of AI.

“The most common example of real-time engagement is simple personalisation”

From small to big businesses, anyone can utilise AI to create real-time engagement, delivering a more interesting journey for the client or customer. Unsurprisingly, the most successful companies in this field are the ones that are totally focused on the customer, meaning all data is shared internally to ensure the customers’ needs and expectations are met.

To find out more about the trends impacting marketers in 2019, check out the fifth edition of the State of Marketing research report.

About the Author

Kevin Doyle is Regional Vice President – Marketing Automation at Salesforce. which is a member of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence UNit. Members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of readers. Membership fees apply.

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