Originally published in Realtime Customer Experience
Written by Mark Smith
Brands have long touted their aim to provide seamless customer experience when customers call support, get email promotions or walk into a store. Seamless customer experience is how businesses compete for attention, dollars and customer loyalty, yet many are failing to live up to customer expectations. In fact, 86 percent of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience, but only one percent of companies are rated by customers as delivering a great experience.
The potential solution is to focus on making sure that every customer interaction makes sense given the larger context of that individual customer’s relationship with the brand, in other words — through real-time everyday interactions. The goal should be to provide the best (next) experience that directly builds on prior behaviors and moves the customer further along the desired journey in a mutually beneficial way.
Forrester describes real-time interaction management (RTIM) as the ability for brands to deliver, “contextually relevant experiences, value and utility at the appropriate moment in the customer life cycle via preferred customer touchpoints.” However, most brands are only using real-time marketing as a part of campaigns, and there’s a significant difference between real-time journey marketing and campaign marketing.
Marketers need to start thinking about building their strategies for real-time, ongoing customer relationship management with the goal of providing the next best experience to customers. And the best place to start is by examining your current customer base to identify behaviors and trends that should be incorporated into an always-on marketing strategy across channels.
Finding patterns to make better decisions
Before marketers and CX leaders can deliver the next best experience to every customer, they need to determine the current state of their journeys. The scalable way to achieve such insights is by leveraging new journey analytics tools to establish not only where customers have been, but also where they are going next, and use this knowledge to inform marketing strategy. For example, if a large number of customers exit their journeys at the same point, this is an area that marketers can focus on improving in order to successfully move customers to the next step. On the other hand, if a message resonates with a large number of customers at a particular touchpoint, the company can use the analytics to identify customers with similar profiles and serve them the same experience.
Using data as your strategic foundation
In order to action real-time interactions effectively, marketers and CX professionals need historical data. These vital data points include information on past purchases or returns, store and website visits and even interactions with the brand across social channels. Marketers are currently swimming in this kind of data, analytics and reports, but unfortunately, much of it is channel-specific and siloed, meaning that only small bits of the customer experience are reported. Ability to leverage product preferences, usual spending patterns and preferred shopping channel or location, is where agile marketers differ from their traditional, campaign-focused counterparts — and those are the ones that blaze new trails for contextual, cross-channel customer engagement.
Knowing your customer in the moment
Another method for effective real-time marketing is to monitor customer behavior, on a customer-specific level, and with real-time context. Knowing exactly what a customer has just done, or what they are trying to complete, are vital pieces of information for predicting future behavior and figuring out what the customer wants at the moment. For example, marketers should track how often a customer visits a store so the brand can prompt a new visit; how often a customer visits a website, so the brand can send a promo email or text to prompt desired behavior. Leveraging geo-fencing to invite customers to come in the store and get a discount based on their loyalty status is also a behavior-based tactic CX professionals should look to with real-time marketing.
Keeping it contextual is key
Tying marketing communications to important market, social happenings or special events can be a key way to show your knowledge of the customer, and also allow brands to cater for specific customer interests. For example, during global events like the Olympics or fashion week, brands can easily elevate their messages, creating real-time customer segments based on categories like winning teams and send customers celebratory messages across a range of channels including email, text or Facebook Messenger. CX professionals can ensure that their responses to customers on social channels and other points of contact are in tune with what’s happening in the larger global context. Real-time marketing can also allow brands to be sensitive to natural disasters or local incidents.
Unlike in standard marketing automation or “campaign” tools, a real-time response allows marketers to pull customers from planned emails or stop serving them promotional ads in flight to avoid sounding tone-deaf during an emotionally-charged time.
While the components that make up a real-time marketing strategy are individual to each brand, ultimately the goal should be to monitor and analyze what customers are doing in real time to provide contextually-relevant experiences based on each individual journey. Companies must look at the benefits this will bring throughout the entire customer lifecycle and focus on collaboration across departments so that marketing and CX are working in conjunction to make instantaneous yet intelligent actions.