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Real-time marketing in Retail: a revolution or a gimmick?

Real-time marketing in Retail: a revolution or a gimmick?

Cutting through the marketing noise to acquire and retain customers in a multi-channel retail environment can be tough going. In this highly competitive environment most marketers know that relevancy is the bedrock of a campaign’s success; pitching the right product to the right person at the right time at the right price drives sales. But being this relevant is challenging.

This challenge has created an influx of real-time technologies that aim to influence the customer as closely as possible to the point of purchase to generate additional sales. These include tools such as Geo-location based mobile apps that enable retailers to target customers with special offers and messages based on their proximity, or online product recommendation aimed at increasing basket size.

A new variation on this real-time marketing theme has been reported recently linked to weather forecasts. A number of vendors are promoting an ability to adjust marketing messages according to the prevailing weather conditions. For example, Stella Artois is running weather-activated electronic billboard ads for its Cidre brands, in which the ad only shows when the temperature rises two degrees or more above that location’s average. It’s a perfect FMCG solution for brands susceptible to changeable weather. After all, an advert showing someone sipping cider in sunshine doesn’t resonate with the viewer in quite the same way when it’s raining.

Real time marketing technology is being promoted hard by many vendors and on the face of it sounds great. But can it be seriously considered as part of an integrated customer engagement strategy?

Clearly any move towards being more relevant to consumers is going to boost sales and some reported results have supported this conclusion. For instance, an ecommerce recommendation engine was reported to boost Christmas Sales for UK retailer John Lewis by 27%.

However, relying on contextual relevance alone can only take you so far.  For example, if the sun is shining it may well be the right time to encourage someone to buy a polka-dot bikini through a blanket email. But this context alone doesn’t tell me whether an individual is likely to want one; i.e. does it fit their brand preference, or whether they would pay the premium without further price inducement or if they bought one from you only last month!

The weather context will certainly help but this does nothing to really reduce the costs of marketing or merchandising, or substantially increase sales. Fundamentally, profiles built on a customer’s known behaviours and preferences are probably a more reliable predictor of future behavior and relevance than information relating to recent events or context.

Data is the foundation upon which all relevant campaigns are built. Without this, any boost in sales derived from real-time marketing becomes little more than a quick fix. On the other hand, real-time technology when combined with accurate customer insight and contextual data provides an unbeatable combination.

Jésus García of emnos comments “Before focusing on quick fixes, retailers need to be sure they have the information required to make informed decisions. Combining current context with customer insights enables the retailer to be not only more accurate in meeting individual customer needs, but to be more creative in their approach. After all, good analytics not only takes away the risk of failure, but gives the retailer the confidence to exploit other real-time marketing technologies that influence consumer purchasing behaviour to great effect.”

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