If you are a customer or a brand, you know that there’s enormous change coming in the world of loyalty marketing. Customers are generating information about their preferences and behaviors at a remarkable speed, thanks to smartphones, better websites, and changing shopping and buying patterns. It’s becoming a customer-driven world, making that data ever more important to follow and understand. Customers shop whenever and wherever using Web, mobile and brick and mortar, and this inevitably leads to a conversation about “real-time” data and response.
It’s hard to talk about real time marketing without getting into a debate about what real time really means. Even more, there’s a strong sentiment among software types and their customers that real time isn’t necessarily the only timing that matters.
A Simple Definition
Let’s make it simple then, and say that real time is about knowing what happens—as it happens—and the most appropriate time to respond to customers is best called “right time.” That’s not to say that right time isn’t sometimes real time. It just isn’t necessarily real time.
So if real time isn’t always right time, what decides what right time should be?
Right Time is About Context
Marketers shouldn’t act on every impulse to communicate with the customer, no matter how much speed might seem to be an advantage. Instead, the time for response needs to be decided by the context of the customer’s interaction with the brand. Responding too quickly can be creepy and feel like stalking, and making offers at times that aren’t convenient for the customer can create frustration. Context decides when the value of the interaction is high and aligned with both the customer and the brand’s goals.
Real Time Has Its Value
Context can also mean that real time is the best time, like when providing customer service, interacting via social media, engaged in gamification, or when a customer is about to cancel the relationship. These are moments when having the tools to respond in real time increases relationship and provides revenue lift.
The best marketers have the information they need when they need it, be it real time or otherwise, and are able to determine the context that decides the best time for response.
This post first appeared on the Loyalty Lab Blog and has been lightly edited.