On March 11, I published a blog in this space on the real-time difference, writing about why it is so important for organizations to move at the cadence of the customer, and how the real-time component plays into the delivery of a personalized customer experience that delivers revenue.
Little did I know at the time that the day would become seared into our collective consciousness as the coronavirus flash point. On that day, in short order, the World Health Organization declared the virus a global pandemic, the NBA canceled the remainder of its season, the NCAA announced it would hold its annual national tournament without fans (which it later canceled), the president announced a European travel ban during an Oval Office address, and actor Tom Hanks and his wife announced they had contracted the virus. That morning, most of the country went about familiar routines of heading to work or school, shopping, meeting friends, and going to restaurants. By March 12, the world had quite literally changed overnight.
In the wake of such drastic change, I thought it worthwhile to re-visit the real-time personalization calculus, particularly for organizations that may have already been progressing with digital transformation efforts but were suddenly faced with a new urgency. If the need to move at the cadence of the customer was paramount before, it’s even more so in today’s “new normal” because customer journeys have become far more dynamic.
Change Will Not Be Fleeting
Results from a recent McKinsey survey indicate that shifting consumer behaviors due to the pandemic may not be temporary, even when economies fully re-open. In the US, 75 percent of survey respondents said that have tried a new shopping behavior since covid-19, with upward of 80 percent claiming that they will continue their adopted behavior beyond the current health crisis.
Changing behaviors have enormous implications for brands in both the short-term and long-term. If a customer expects a convenient curb-side pick-up service and you’re not able to provide it because your investments are tied up in a face-to-face retail operation, the customer will switch brands. McKinsey calls this “shock to loyalty”, one of five major consumer behavioral changes as a result of coronavirus. The global survey shows that US consumers prioritize value, convenience and availability over brand affinity.
Consumers, then, are moving to new behaviors and channels, and undertaking more dynamic customer journeys, yet they retain expectations for a brand to know who they are, as well as their likes and preferences. As this concerns the real-time personalization imperative, it becomes more important to know what customers are interested in, which product categories are important, what their priorities are, and what their customer profile looks like.
Real Time and Keeping Up with the Customer
Because the seismic changes describe both changing consumer behaviors and preferences, real-time customer engagement isn’t limited to dynamic onsite personalization, simply because that’s where customers are. It’s a recognition that what mattered to a customer yesterday may not matter today. Customers working from home may no longer be browsing for dress shirts or blazers, for example. Luxury items may no longer be a priority. The ground has shifted considerably under a lot of people’s feet, and a brand that relies on an outdated customer profile runs a risk of engaging a customer with an irrelevant message or offer.
The need for real time extends beyond customer behaviors and preferences, however, to include baking real-time customer experience into the processes and interactions that also are changing in response to newly dynamic journeys. Seamless curbside pickup service, managing promotions, and cost and demand profiles are all subject to the forces of external change brought on by coronavirus. Challenges are exacerbated with some local economies closing, re-opening and closing again, which creates a fluid, uncertain situation for consumers and brands alike. Brands with real-time capabilities are far better positioned to meet challenges head-on, because they’re in synch with a customer at every stage of the journey.
Find Your Blueprint for Real-Time Success
Redpoint recently published a real-time blueprint that describes in more detail the real-time imperative and provides best practices and use cases for how ambitious marketers can take advantage of real-time customer engagement. You can access the white paper here.
There is also a one-page infographic that details the stretch/walk/jog/run approach for getting started with real-time customer engagement, which includes a checklist of actions to help understand the various components.
Before the pandemic, there may have been a few remaining holdouts doubting the urgent need for real-time systems of engagement to consistently stay in cadence with a customer through a dynamic customer journey. There is no longer a legitimate rationale for skepticism. The unpredictable, fluid nature of a customer journey demands our rapt attention. By infusing real time into analysis, processes and systems, brands become equipped to deliver a relevant experience for a customer wherever and however they choose to engage. Accepting the need for real time is to embrace the new normal.