Improving customer engagement is important for marketers. In particular, the ability to use real-time marketing tactics to connect with them. One survey found that 40% of marketers believe the ability to segment customer in real-time would offer the greatest ROI to their business. Implementing real-time experiences can improve customer service, add relevance through personalization, or an enhanced level of customer convenience. In return, it provides data that helps you know more about your customers to increase retention, boost sales, and encourage cross- and up-selling. A survey by eMarketer says 82% of marketers have experienced an increase in open rates, 75% have seen higher email click through rate and 56% have witnessed an increase in sales by using personalization. Better still, customers claim to enjoy when brands demonstrate better knowledge of them and their behavior. Reports regularly find that consumers found personalized recommendations useful, or that the majority of people buy more (and/or more often) when met with personalized retail experiences. Moreover, 75% use websites that cater for their personal preferences based on previous behavior. Before we get to that stage, we must cross two important bridges. First, to acquire the data needed for personalization. Second, to convince the customers handing over this data will return a relevant, convenient and value-added experience. Whether this trade-off means an improved hotel experience; more affordable insurance premiums; a more convenient airport check-in; or special treatment from their favorite retailer, feelings are generally the same. If a brand clearly defines what value there is to them for giving up their data, even those who are otherwise more cautious of sharing are prepared to so given the right incentive. I what ways can marketing teams use real-time strategies to enhance how they engage with customers? Responding with triggered messaging Linear marketing campaigns have many benefits, but also shortcomings. Not least that when customers deviate from this set path, they become lost from view and your campaign ceases to be effective. Today, customers decides their route to conversion, and organizations should facilitate their needs when and where they have them. This requires an understanding of their journey – whatever the channel or device – to establish a more holistic view of how different people engage with your brand. Understanding this, marketers should look for ways to support whatever journey a customer is on, and doing so successfully requires timely, relevant responses and engagements. Real-time, triggered messages, for example, can be personalized to reflect the appropriate stage a customer is at. Some of the most obvious triggers relate to customer browsing behavior, such as: Email recommendations – these can complement a customer’s site search or most recent purchase, and can encourage cross- and up-selling. Cart abandonment messages – To tempt customers back who didn’t complete a purchase with incentives or to solve any transactional friction. Live chat – offering the chance to engage one-to-one with a customer service representative can help. Pop-ups – for example, to present an eBook to a customer who has spent time researching your product page, or to encourage readers to subscribe to your blog. Incentive messages – Online gaming and gambling sites, for instance, can use triggered messages to congratulate players on a winning streak in order to encourage further play. Anniversary Messages – A life-cycle message of a membership or purchase anniversary, birthday, etc., to re-engage with absent customers or celebrate loyal ones. Creating urgency with countdown timers For shoppers, a real-time countdown dropped onto a website or in an email is a great way to encourage action and give a sense of urgency. For example: ‘Offer Ending’ timers – Ideal for increasing urgency to take action, or offer a reminder to complete a transaction before a certain deadline. ‘Coming Soon’ timers – Perfect for events such as the opening of a new store, or seasonal events both online and in-store. Product launch timers – To build excitement for the arrival of something new. Store information timers – Keep visitors informed about your opening hours, or the availability of customer service representatives. Making real-time product recommendations Product recommendation strategies personalized to a shopper’s browsing behaviour can boost sales, increase conversion rates and your average order values. But it’s not only these huge retail companies who can make use of these tactics. As soon as a shopper hits your website, real-time tools record every product or content that visitors browse, recording data on the items that are being sold, or the content/web pages that they are engaging with. This can be used in conjunction with rules that choose which piece of customized content will incorporate and display these popular products. Along with the more common product recommendation tactics, there are many alternative real-time tactics to deploy, such as: Recommending products that similar shoppers buy The ‘people like you buy’ approach records a shoppers’s browsing history. An algorithm then finds others who have searched the same items, recommending alternative products that those customers most often purchase. Recommending products bought at the same time This ‘frequently bought together’ recommendation looks at the item currently being viewed, along with what other who bought this same product have purchased at the same time. These recommendations work particularly well when they appear on product pages, when a shopper is checking out their cart, or included in follow-up cart recovery messages. Recommending cross-sell and up-sell products Using a ‘frequently bought this this’ option endorses the shopper’s decision, using the decisions made by others as to showcase high converting items purchased by people who have viewed the same product. This real-time strategies uses affinities to highlight a broader inventory to those on your site. One of the best things about these types of recommendations is that they do not look to customers like an aggressive way to sell you more products. Instead, they will come across as an unobtrusive addition to your services, personalized to an individual’s shopping habits and a complement to their shopping experience. Conclusion Even with consumers shopping across channel and around the clock, real-time strategies allow marketers to be ‘always on’. This means the ability to deliver personalized, contextually appropriate content when and where needed, maintaining an engaging customer journey. It enables an automated, customized and relevant message to improve customer service as well as enhance brand sentiment. This approach to real-time marketing demands data. Not just to collect it, but access to it, analyze it and the tools to put it into action. Critically, it also requires the permission to use data. This happens only when customers see value in the exchange. Get the ingredients right and real-time marketing is a recipe for happier and more engaged customers. Moreover, better performing campaigns and increased sales and revenue.