Getting real about real-time

Real-time means something a little different to everyone. The term is too-often used to describe getting information on what happened up to the moment, a rolling report of the history of something – like customer purchases, staffing costs or inventory levels. It’s like asking what time it is. There’s only an accurate answer for that one-dimensional question at one moment, then time moves on.

But what if real-time can mean something much different? In the event-driven marketing realm, it does. We’re going through a transformation of the meaning of real-time driven by the increasing ability to know what’s happening simultaneously across a customer – their history, their location, our location, inventory, pricing, and more.

Hoping the needles move

Real-time’s new definition is about being able to anticipate the scenarios that move a customer to make a purchase, taking advantage of distributed inventory, rescuing an abandoned shopping cart and driving business to the web and store. It isn’t a dashboard to watch and hope the needles move. It is a way to anticipate and act in the actual moments that matter the most.

There’s a historical component to this kind of real-time, but it’s part of the context, not the answer.

But redefining the term isn’t enough. It has to be backed by event-driven marketing that connects all of those dots and provides a measurable advantage over the competition. For some retailers, this is a known fact. For the rest, they’ll know soon enough.

This article was first published in the Loyalty Lab blog and has been lightly edited.

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Categories: Marketing, Real-time, Retail

Author:Jeanne Roué-Taylor

I'm fascinated by disruptive technology and its impact on our world. I manage sales operations for an excellent startup with a unique team of highly experienced data scientists.

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One Comment on “Getting real about real-time”

  1. January 14, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    There is now a whole culture of “real-time” that people just merely expect. Everything we have today is delivered to us instantaneously: text messages, emails, phone calls etc. It would be hard to imagine using dial-up to get on the internet again. Merely emailing someone and not getting an answer back within five minutes can cause frustration. For instance, people hardly notice it, but when you google something the search engine tells you how long it took to provide you with the answers you are looking for. Googling “real-time” produced 862 million results in only 0.19 seconds, taking into account my search history, location, and everything you mentioned above. People merely want a service that is fast, accurate, and can allow them to make an actionable decision. They do not even necessarily need to know how it works, but just that it did. You are absolutely right and I love the way it is put: the retailers who have not realized there is a culture/customer expecting real-time events will know “soon enough” – in real-time perhaps as their customers move on to a retailer who knows event-driven marketing is the future.

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