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Real-Time Marketing: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

by | Sep 19, 2022

Today’s media is ubiquitous, found anywhere at any time with the simple click of a button. As today’s consumers have access to endless channels for entertainment, education, and of course, eCommerce, there has become a need for digital marketing to be not just omnipresent but also increasingly relevant to consumers’ online activity. Thus, real-time marketing was created.

A real-time marketing strategy is built on the foundation of decades of digital marketing solutions but implemented in a fraction of the time to meet customers where they are across the digital landscape continuously. While the heightened pace can leave some marketers questioning if it’s just a fad, a 26% increase in conversion rates1 with real-time marketing indicates it is here to stay.

Here is a quick guide to real-time marketing and why it is gaining traction across industries. 

What is Real-Time Marketing (RTM)?

Real-time marketing refers to a strategy that helps brands present relevant messaging that caters to an audience’s wants, needs, or interests in the present moment. It analyzes audience behavior and attitudes to predict customer needs and react in real-time, or as close to real-time as possible. 

The focus of real-time marketing is to systematically engage with your audience based on current events, trending topics, or customer feedback. Often abbreviated RTM, the purpose of real-time marketing is to listen to and anticipate your customer’s needs through a thorough analysis of how they interact with your brand, related brands, or potential customers on various channels. 

Real-time marketing is not necessarily a new trend. However, the shift from proactive marketing to reactive marketing has been several years in the making, as enhanced social networks and marketing automation have allowed brands to interact with customers on a more personal level. Now, marketers are encouraged to relay their brand position and remain more relevant than ever. 

Real-Time Marketing Strategies

Though real-time marketing is implemented in the spur of a moment, that’s not to say it won’t require a preplanned tactical strategy. On the contrary, your real-time marketing efforts must be supported by relevant customer data, from the platforms they use to their language and everything in between. Take a look at some of the tactics and strategies that can inform your real-time marketing efforts to help effectively connect with your audience, enhance brand awareness, and boost sales.

1. Social Media Engagement

Social media engagement is measuring how users interact with your social media content, including but not limited to actions like shares, comments, and reactions. However, customer engagement is not one-sided on social media — brands must take an active role in engaging with customers. This level of engagement can inform real-time marketing opportunities.

For instance, when a brand responds to a customer’s Instagram story or tweet within minutes, they are reacting in real-time. This fast response to an individual customer adds an element of personalization to the brand’s social media marketing. Still, more importantly, it demonstrates that the brand is willing to interact with its audience on social platforms.

The more a brand strategically engages with customers on social media, the higher the likelihood that others will begin to recognize the brand’s name or logo, enhancing brand awareness. Plus, the more a brand responds to relevant and time-sensitive issues on social media (such as a recent customer experience or related current event), the more they become an authority within their niche.

The bigger the brand, the more time-consuming social media engagement can become. Invest in technology that alerts you to new customer interactions on social media to simplify customer engagement and even saves and pushes pre-canned responses for specific situations. In addition, social media management tools like Sprout Social autonomously track engagement for easy RTM wins.

2. Social Listening: Capitalizing on Trends and News

Aside from interacting with your target audience, social media platforms also create many opportunities to analyze customer behavior and monitor consumer attitudes towards your brand. From current trends to current events, a significant way to stay up-to-date on what’s happening among your target audience is through social listening, a vital aspect of a real-time marketing strategy. 

Social listening refers to the process of monitoring and assessing what’s said about a particular product, service, brand, or industry online. Though it is often referred to as social media listening, social listening can take place across various platforms aside from social networks, including online forums, review websites, and even the comments section of industry publications.

The purpose of social listening in a real-time marketing strategy is two-fold:

  1. Understand the public perception of your product, service, brand, or recent marketing, and identify the colloquial terms and customer-specific jargon used by your target audience. 
  2. Monitor the emergence of up-and-coming trends, current events, popular conversations related to your target audience, or the problem/need your brand fulfills.

For social listening to properly inform your real-time marketing strategy, gathering all relevant customer intelligence in a central location is essential. Tools like Sprout Social, and even a series of free Google Alerts can help identify relevant brand mentions and current trends and then aggregate them into a structured database for real-time response.

3. Real-Time Bidding

Real-time bidding (RTB) is a mainstay of a traditional outbound marketing campaign, and for a good reason. It is an in-your-face tactic that allows brands to initiate conversations (or conversions!) with potential customers by displaying relevant messages in high-traffic places. It’s efficiently managing real-time advertising purchases with an auction system. To understand how real-time bidding relates to real-time marketing, let’s refer to a few quick paid media definitions.

  • Media buying is the process of buying advertising space through ad exchanges, networks, vendor relationships, and demand side platforms (DSPs).
  • Programmatic advertising uses a combination of data insights and algorithms to automate media buying and serve ads to the right users at the best price. 
  • Real-time bidding is a function of programmatic media buying that enables marketers to buy and sell ad space in real-time on a per-impression basis through an instant auction.

With real-time bidding, marketers can bid on a single impression of a publisher’s inventory, with the highest bid shown to the user as the winning ad. With the appropriate customer intelligence, marketers can identify the inventory most relevant to their audience and present the right message at the right time on the right platform based on recently analyzed consumer behavior. 

Once a marketer secures the highest bid, their aid is instantly shown to the user. This action is considered real-time marketing because it leverages current consumer behavior to position relevant ad placements. The ad is then displayed in real-time to provide customers with the information they need at that moment to take the brand’s desired action (e.g. become a lead, make a purchase, schedule an appointment.) 

4. Live Chat

As the name might suggest, live chat is an element of real-time marketing that uses marketing automation to respond to potential customers in real-time or as close to real-time as possible. As a function of real-time marketing, live chat has grown exponentially over the past few years, likely accelerated partly by ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially, chatbots were a method to limit the number of repetitive queries that reached time-constricted sales representatives or frontline workers. Today, live chat technology gathers customer data to simplify the sales process, drive leads, and improve customer experience. It’s now akin to a virtual assistant that can bring potential customers further down the sales funnel.

Live chat applications can help segment traffic to indicate cold or qualified leads or recurring customers. They benefit lead nurturing by instantly responding to frequently asked questions while collecting relevant customer data that can enhance current marketing initiatives. Live chat can help close sales, new appointments, or consultations in real-time. 

5. Leveraging Data to Enhance Touchpoints

Most marketers are aware of the five stages of the customer journey — awareness, consideration, decision, action, and loyalty — but not all realize just how many touchpoints are between each stage. In fact, it takes an average of eight touchpoints to trigger the first conversion from a new customer.3 When you take a 360-degree view of your target audience, you will learn how many touchpoints they genuinely have with your brand across social networks, paid ads, and your website.

For real-time marketing, you will need to leverage these customer insights. For example, what channels do your target audience prefer? Where do they go for product research or reviews? How can you make communication seamless? The answer lies in real-time data. 

Develop a system to aggregate customer insights via Facebook, Instagram, and Google Analytics, as well as any other platform your audience frequents. Invest in a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to ensure interactions across platforms are in sync. You must be able to carry data over from multiple sources to connect with prospects in real-time on their preferred channel.

Examples of Real-Time Marketing

Now that you are primed  with a more comprehensive understanding of real-time marketing and the strategies that inform a RTM plan, it’s time to put those steps into motion. So here is a look at three recent real-time marketing examples to explain why RTM is vital to a digital marketing strategy.

Wendy’s Social Media Presence

Wendy’s, once known for being America’s home of the Frosty, has grown to become something that resembles a social media celebrity — well, the chain’s Twitter account has, at least. In 2017, the corporation voted to veto the extensive review process for its social media strategy. Once the social department had free reign, they instantly shifted gears for a reactive, real-time approach.

Wendy’s Twitter account has become synonymous with quick one-liners aimed at current events, real-time customer complaints, and digs at other fast-food chains. With an edgier, more youthful brand image, the chain partnered with their social media channel of choice, Twitter, for a Best of National Roast Day 2022 event, which was a master class in relevant real-time content. 

In the first six months of real-time marketing, Wendy’s Twitter account grew from 2.1 million to 2.4 million followers.4 Today, the account has amassed 3.9 million followers, hundreds of whom interact with the account daily. Financially, Wendy’s pivot to real-time increased the company’s net income from $129.6 million to $194 million, a whopping 49.7% growth in a single year.5

ASOS Misprint

Few marketers can rebrand the misprint of 17,000 bags as an ideal marketing activity, but online fashion retailer ASOS did just that. After a spelling snafu landed the phrase ‘discover fashion onilne,’ on thousands of shipping bags, ASOS decided to run with the typo as a happy accident. They cheekily called the bags ‘limited edition.’

Fans and fellow fashion brands alike were quick to weigh in, with most praising the company for being transparent. The ASOS social media team was instantly inundated with responses, many of which they responded to in order to maintain engagement. This incident is an excellent example of reactive versus proactive marketing and striking on social while the iron is hot.

Though there’s no concrete answer on whether the ASOS misprint drove sales for the company, it did garner quite a bit of positive customer sentiment and definitely drove brand awareness. News of the misprint caused the brand to trend for several days online, spurred tons of news articles, and one customer even responded, “I hope when my order comes tomorrow I’m one of the lucky winners of these!” 6

Massage Envy Chatbot

We have already discussed how helpful chatbots can be for providing instant customer service and enhancing the customer experience in real-time. Massage Envy is a perfect real-time marketing example that uses chatbots, a national wellness spa chain. Though Massage Envy previously had a chatbot on Facebook Messenger, they upgraded to a more user-friendly platform in 2020.

The new iteration of the Massage Envy chatbot2 allows potential customers to schedule an appointment in a few simple steps. All users have to do is select their desired service, indicate what issues they would like help with, and create their new appointment with the touch of a button. In addition, it meets customers where they are to eliminate any friction and hyper-personalize the conversion process. 

Is Real-Time Marketing Effective?

With global brands like Wendy’s becoming a leader in real-time marketing, it’s clear that RTM isn’t just a fad in digital marketing — it’s an effective strategy that we can anticipate playing an even more significant role in the future marketing landscape. Almost 50% of organizations 7 that use real-time say they have measured an increase in customer retention, loyalty, and revenue growth.

Marketers in the UK have found a 26% increase 8  in conversion rates from real-time marketing, and 85% of marketers agree that real-time marketing is fundamental to their future business success. Across all industries — including those that fall between B2B, B2C, and DTC audiences — real-time can help your brand authentically connect with your customers to drive conversions. 

Get in Front of Your Audience in Real-Time!

Your customers are online right now, scrolling through social media or product feeds. The time is now to build organic conversations centered around their wants, needs, and interests. A real-time marketing strategy not only makes your brand relatable but also boosts your brand awareness and generates meaningful conversations that can lead to successful (and repeated) conversions. 

At Bullseye Strategy, we’ve been mapping the trajectory of real-time marketing content over the past several years to help our clients craft strategies that meet customers where they’re at across the digital landscape. We’re ready to help your brand develop the relevant messaging and on-trend advertisements today’s customers require. Contact us to get started with real-time marketing.


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