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Comment: right-time vs real-time marketing - determining the best time to market

Part two - don’t ignore the concept of real time marketing. By Marc Darling of TIBCO Loyalty Lab.


Comment: right-time vs real-time marketing - determining the best time to market

Part two - don’t ignore the concept of real time marketing. By Marc Darling of TIBCO Loyalty Lab.


1. When a customer needs immediate service

Asking a customer to be patient when they’ve initiated the interaction is off-putting and drives poor perceptions of the brand.

2. When a customer needs to be “saved”

Arming customer service representatives with likely scenarios and analysed responses makes a real-time response much more likely to save the customer.

3. When a customer extends the conversation to social media

Social media, unlike email, is a running conversation that requires rapid, genuine, and positive responses to keep the conversation on track.

4. When the customer is engaged in an experience shaped by gamification

Gamification is an often-misunderstood term that refers to the application of the mechanics of great games to drive more customer engagement. Real-time response to a customer’s action is key to maintaining the compelling design of the game.


Determining the right time to engage is largely shaped by the analytics of right-time marketing. First, marketers need to engage with the best segment of customers. With a mathematical approach, we can determine who belongs in which segment.

Once we have our customer segments defined, we can perform “test and learn” within the segments. This involves:

• Selecting a small random subset within the segments and giving them a couple of candidate offers at random

• Analysing / visualising results of ensuing purchases – comparing performance of the offers and understanding customer attributes involved

• Choosing which offers work best, and on which segments

• Monitoring, visualising, and analysing results while continuously improving the process.


The following three core areas of understanding are also paramount to timing your engagement:

• The context of the engagement between brand and consumer

• The channel through which the engagement will take place

• The characteristics or traits of the specific consumer.

Context can be expressed by (and certainly not limited to) a number of situations that correspond to the first level of right-time decisioning. Think, “what just happened to trigger a response?” Then combine that context with the channel through which you are able to engage and finally, we must be conscious of and reflect the characteristics and attitudes of our customers so we’re best matching their expectations, respecting their perception of privacy, and reinforcing the level of control they’ve strived to achieve.


A loyal customer comparison-shopping on her mobile phone who purchases products monthly requires a very different response from a customer who hasn’t opted in to a loyalty program. Because she has given permission, a text message with that month’s program, delivered during the context of her comparison experience, is likely to be well timed. The right time to engage in discounts or other offers may be later, when analytics show the opportunity to be better.

When the characteristics and channel change, right time response changes. A non-identified customer performing the same action on the website presents a very different right-time action. This could include an immediate invitation to sign up for a loyalty program, perhaps combined with a discount for their purchase. In this example, these customers have a similar context and intent, but the channel and characteristic differences change the right-time response.

In another example, a customer who typically stops for coffee before work presents himself in a new context – at an unusual hour, and through a different channel – on the shop’s app, looking for the nearest location. This could be an excellent opportunity to encourage business at that hour of the day or through products that aren’t normally purchased. The same customer being served before work is less likely to respond to a message about lunchtime sandwiches. In this case, the context and channel are changed, but the characteristics are the same, making a different response vital to serving both the brand and the customer’s needs.

The elite customer who has given the brand great loyalty and value may present an opportunity for engagement with each website logon, each search for a store, and each product comparison. Depending on the individual’s response to programs in the past and the analysis of that type of customer, taking action wherever and whenever can have a dampening effect on that customer’s enthusiasm for the brand. Instead, right-time marketing for the best customers may be best defined by asking customers up front and periodically about the engagement level that best suits them in various circumstances, as they occur.

And then there are customers who show themselves to be casually loyal but transactional. For this group of coin-operated shoppers, the relationship has been established by rewards that are mechanical and linear. Careful analytics and monitoring of patterns may offer opportunities to surprise and delight those who least expect it based on their past patterns.

Right-time marketing is a nuanced way to build brand loyalty and create revenue lift, and it starts with a brand’s ability to understand customer characteristics, channels, and context. Success depends on the ability to know, sense, and plan ahead for all three, while being able to evolve with a customer’s gradually changing characteristics, evolving channels, and increasingly fine-grained context.

If that sounds hard, it doesn’t have to be. With the right platform and analytics in place, marketers can expertly track a wide variety of context across today’s many channels and apply those factors to the customer’s characteristics. When they can see real-time and historic information, marketers can make better decisions about when and where to engage their customer.

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