Move at the speed of life

“It’s all about me!”

That’s the gleeful sentiment driving every like, pin and post your customers make. In this age of individuation, when customers are connected and empowered as never before, marketers need a smarter approach—one that moves beyond the traditional pull and push to personal, continuous customer engagement that delivers value across the commerce cycle. Yesterday’s disruptors are today’s channels of choice—and you have to move at the speed of life or be left behind.

How do you create personalized engagement? You need a fundamental shift in your approach to marketing based on three imperatives:

1. Understand your customers as individuals. Beyond groups and segments, you need rich, personal profiles.

2. Create a system of engagement. This means sensing moments of truth in each customer’s life and supporting their every interaction with your brand, whether it’s online, during an in-store purchase, or a service opportunity.

3. Have a brand and culture that are authentically one—that infuse every employee with a commitment to deliver on your promise, every time.

And speaking of time, you need to be able to do all this in real time, and in context, sensing and acting on what’s happening in the moment. IBM’s Global Survey of Marketers, The State of Marketing 2013, found that leading marketers are leveraging the power of real-time personalization, adjusting real-time offers based on context by a factor of 2.6 versus all other marketers.

But the truth is, most marketers focus on just one dimension, failing to understand the full scope of what real-time personalization means. So let’s explore the who, what, where, when, and why of real-time personalization. Consider:

  • Who is the customer/prospect? Leverage all you know about his identity and behavior.
  • What gets personalized? Understanding what the customer is trying to achieve is critical. The shopper who ordered a TV online for in-store pick up does not want to receive a post-purchase coupon for a TV. The message and its look and feel must be right for the interaction.
  • Where is the interaction happening? Understand the context and connection of this instance to your marketing efforts in other channels. Customers think of these interactions as part of a broader series of experiences with your brand, so you should, too.
  • When are the personalization decisions made? Before or during?  A “before” offer may be waiting for the customer days or hours prior to her visit. Decisions made during the interaction require a greater investment and real-time capabilities, but the payoff is far greater, with more relevant messages and a greater chance for conversion.
  • Why is real-time personalization important? Connecting with customers on their own terms—during those moments when they contact you (and prospects as well)—can dramatically improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

With real-time personalization you can increase response rates by maximizing the relevancy of messages; improve customers’ experience by personalizing their interaction with your company; maintain a consistent, omni-channel dialogue with customers; and achieve better overall marketing results, including increased sales and revenue, improved online conversion rates, and strengthened customer loyalty and retention.


Right now, top marketers are creating value by effectively engaging with customers, expanding their reach and the results they achieve. The bank that retracts cash left in an ATM and notifies its clients immediately via SMS; the hotel chain that tracks guest stays and online explorations, then customizes offers that connect available inventory to current interests; the global beauty brand that pushes mobile offers to customers visiting store locations tailored to individual skin type; the airline whose proactive messages about flight delays and baggage mishaps forewarn and forearm travelers. These real-time engagements cement relationships with customers and create advocates.

Underpinning real-time personalization is an integrated technology platform that delivers three must-haves:

  • The ability to connect data from a variety of sources and breaking down those silos of data within and beyond your organization
  • The wherewithal to understand that data through the application of deep analytics to form a rich and personal profile of your customer and make the right decisions for each moment
  • The savvy to engage with the right message, at the right time, on the right device, relevant to the moment.

Ultimately, real-time personalization is all about the quality of the experience you want to deliver to your customer—it’s continuous customer engagement at the speed of life. Depending on the time, channel, place, and reason for the customer interaction, you have a complex set of factors to consider when deciding the best offer or communication to serve up. Do it poorly at your peril—remember, likes and loyalty can change in an instant. Do it well, and you have an advocate today, and a customer for life.

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