4 Steps Towards Real-Time Customer Engagement: Stretch, Walk, Jog, Run

Patrick Tripp | December 14, 2017

Success with real-time customer engagement doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey, with four clear phases. Understanding these phases helps you become more focused and strategic about everything you do. You can make the right investments at the right time, based on your organization’s current maturity. You can avoid false starts and dead-ends, keep things simple, and deliver more value sooner.

Think of it as an athlete would. First you stretch. Then walk. Then jog. Finally, you’re ready to run at full speed. To be successful at real-time customer engagement, you need to understand how these four phases apply to your marketing.

STRETCH

Athletes must prepare to compete. Runners stretch to minimize the risk of injury and get their muscles ready for peak performance. Real-time marketers prepare their data so that when it’s time to execute, nothing stands in the way of speed, agility, and accuracy.

This involves identifying all data sources, importing data, and merging, cleaning, and augmenting it. It also means loading all this data into a marketing database designed to help you understand your customers and recognize what makes each one unique. Finally, it means integrating your data with customer engagement tools so you can efficiently personalize and deliver the right messages when they’ll have the greatest impact.

As great athletes know, even stretching requires organization and discipline. For real-time customer engagement, the equivalent is data governance. It’s critical to your long-term success, because what you can achieve is strictly limited by the accuracy, robustness, and relevance of your data.

Data sources change fast. Some degrade, others become newly-relevant. They must be coherently managed, and that won’t happen by itself. It requires a clear data governance function that encompasses both business and IT stakeholders.

WALK

When businesses innovate, they usually look for “low-hanging fruit:” opportunities to earn value quickly. Real-time customer engagement is no exception. Here, these opportunities tend to be associated with improving dynamic outbound communications.

Assuming your data’s now in shape, the right tools enable you to routinely execute personalized outbound campaigns. These may leverage data from social platforms, clickstreams, anonymous browsing, POS systems, loyalty programs, and your CRM.

You can begin promoting engagement through dynamic personalization triggered by implicit and explicit data. You can build more systematic and effective cart abandonment campaigns. These techniques often deliver substantial lift with manageable effort.

In the Walk phase, you’re focused on segmentation, and implementing business rules to control message volume and eliminate repetition. You’re putting tools in place to gain deeper customer insight, and you’re beginning to use them in new ways – for example, via outbound “newsjacking” that generates up-to-the-minute insights into your target audiences.

While you’re already drawing on multiple data sources, you’re probably delivering your messages through only one or two channels. But you’re relentlessly focused on testing, gaining deeper customer insight, and learning from experience.

To support all this, you’re transitioning from traditional data warehouses/lakes to a modern customer data platform you can manage yourself with little or no IT involvement. These systems integrate all customer information into one unified and persistent database, making it practical to use this information throughout campaign management and analysis. You may also be investing in a modern campaign management system, strong email service provider relationships, and offline BI tools your analysts can comfortably use.

JOG

Now that you’ve proven your ability to execute on real-time marketing in one or two channels, you can begin orchestrating full multichannel campaigns, and layering in sophisticated optimization techniques.

For example, you can create dynamic real-time inbound offers and experiences to engage customers on the web, via call center, or in-store. You can use event-based trigger messaging and retargeting via email, SMS, or mobile app to tie in your real-time outbound channels. You might establish a customer preference center that empowers your customers, strengthens your relationships with them, and helps you improve message relevance.

As you do all this, keep analyzing your customers’ journey across channels, and identifying gaps in how you engage and converse with them. Building on system and process investments you’ve already made, consider new solutions for e-commerce, content management, identifying next best actions and offers in real time, and web analytics.

Now that you’re deeply engaged in real-time messaging, you may find that some legacy tools stand in your way. If so, now may be the time to replace them.

RUN

You’re now ready to compete at top speed. Identify ways to optimize inbound and outbound communications and start shaping your ideal customer journey. Focus on a true orchestrated omnichannel journey in which all inbound and outbound channels are fully coordinated.

Your goal is to always deliver the next “best offer” across the next “best channel,” while ensuring consistency across all channels. To do this, you’ll aggressively leverage machine learning tactics such as automated recommendations, propensity-to-buy models, and customer scorecards.

To automate continuous improvement and quickly respond to all you’re learning about your customers, you’ll integrate closed-loop measurement, advanced attribution models, and dynamic measurements of customer lifetime value.

Chances are, you’re now ready to gain compelling value from investments in customer engagement hubs, product recommendation engines, and turnkey modeling tools that take the complexity out of machine learning.

Conclusion

This organized, four-stage approach reflects what we’ve learned working with hundreds of marketing organizations. It links investments directly to value every step of the way, and helps you build your capabilities incrementally without wasting precious time or resources. As you move forward, you become increasingly agile, increasingly capable of anticipating as well as responding to customers. In short, you get the results that led you to start this journey in the first place.

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Patrick Tripp
Patrick Tripp

Patrick is vice president of product strategy for the Customer Engagement Hub at RedPoint Global, where he leverages 18 years of experience in technology, consulting, and marketing. Patrick is an expert on cross-channel marketing and real-time interaction management, and is a frequent speaker at industry events. He is a certified product manager and holds an MBA from Boston University. Connect with Patrick on LinkedIn and Twitter.