Real-time marketing: engaging in the moment of truth

Real-Time Marketing: engaging in the moment of truthIf all advertising were well-timed, it would be more efficient and not feel as much like advertising “noise.” I bet hundreds of banner ads by hotel chains have flashed across the screen without making an impression on me. But when I’m scanning through a list of hotel selections to book a trip, the smallest distinction could flip my choice in favor of one hotel chain over another. Decisions are highly dependent on timing and context, so marketers have always tried to influence “the moment of truth” where they capture my attention.

A big opportunity for marketers in a digital world is to synchronize these moments. As we know, the digital era was ushered in by search engines, which created a new moment of truth and enabled advertisers to align to buyer interests via the new discipline of Search Engine Marketing.

Television advertising or a typical direct mail campaign is largely ”asynchronous” since these cannot be timed to appear precisely at the time of the viewer’s consideration and interest. A brand impression delivered when I’m not interested is largely ignored and represents wasted media budget.

Of course, mass marketing and direct mail campaigns are often timed to sync with various seasons. For example, I’m much more likely to be choosing a hotel prior to school Spring Break. Additionally, marketers may place promotions directly in the path to purchase, such as a standing display in store to align with the time of purchase. However, today we need more granular, more sophisticated synchronization; we need real-time marketing.

As Google observed in a white paper called “The Zero Moment of Truth,” the digital path to purchase generates many new occasions for truly interactive marketing. Consumer decisions are made in a wide variety of ways and are influenced by a wide variety of factors.

Well-timed, relevant interactions feel much less like advertising and more like advice.

Well-timed, relevant interactions feel much less like advertising and more like advice. It doesn’t interrupt my enjoyment of content but rather becomes content I enjoy. What are some ways to synchronize with buyer intent? Here are two key techniques:

Real-time content – Though content management has been available for years, few web sites offer content that adapts in real time based on the visitor’s profile. Most visitors are anonymous, but cookies provide bits of information including which pages the visitor touched on the last visit, or a question they answered earlier. Using these clues to dynamically alter content is now much easier with interaction management tools.

For example, a hotel chain might place an article about best restaurants in Florida on an affiliated Florida destination site. Unlike a static ad, an article can be updated based on motivational factors such as weather, recent news or a widely publicized celebrity event. Simply changing the opening line of the story, changes the relevance of the content.

Intelligent interactions – Every search result, website click or email open is an opportunity to interact and not to simply “make offers.” Rather than delivering a single message to the target, campaigns can engage visitors in a sequence of interactions. For example, a landing page on a hotel chain’s site might start with an observation and a simple poll: “Over 50% of Florida vacationers come from the Eastern United States. Are you from a) Eastern US, b) Western US, c) somewhere in between, or d) none of the above. Submit to see today’s results.”

Based on the answer, the next web page in the sequence can change, involving the visitor in an interactive experience rather than a reading experience.

These simple techniques are not employed by marketers for two reasons. First, interaction management is sometimes perceived by marketers as very technical and complicated. Second, getting even small bits of useful customer-specific data is cumbersome. However, both of these barriers are quickly coming down. Interaction management is moving from the realm of technical wizardry to simplified and integrated tools for marketers. And the safe and proper use of customer data to better serve customers with relevant content is easier today.

So what are you waiting for? A pitch in time saves nine!

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