Predicting technology's potential seems to be something of a dark art these days. The falling cost of hardware and rising importance of round the clock connectivity has given rise to a plethora of connected devices attempting to innovate to cater for every conceivable aspect of our lives.
Take Amazon's latest #NowItsSummer store. The weather reactive online shop is based on trends sales data from 2013-2016, displays products including sun cream, flip flops, and sunglasses, for when the sun is out. But, because British summer isn't the most reliable thing in the world, it also stocks umbrellas, anoraks and Wellington boots for the rainy days.
Certainly this seems like a leap in the right direction. Sure, we've all be caught out on a rainy day in dire need of an umbrella and sure enough, the first vendor to pedal us one for a fiver gets the sale. But real-time marketing has become embroiled in this low-hanging and somewhat gimmicky affair. This massive real-time opportunity for businesses in every sector to cleverly exploit has become a one-off tactic for the occasional 'flash sale'.
Thinking caps on
Real-time marketing extends well beyond the reach of Amazon's carts and calls on all brands to get creative. For instance, if sales data shows that the volume of holiday bookings usually increases when the temperature drops, travel marketers ought to be tailoring their advertising campaigns so that they automatically scale up during those periods. When someone goes to post about the winter blues on Instagram, tropical getaways should be prominent in their feed.
Of course, real-time marketing is not limited to weather, If there's a tube strike in London, this is the moment for companies selling collaboration and meeting tools to reach out to the commuter audience segments of Greater London and drive awareness. In much the same way, fast food restaurant and delivery services can ready campaigns for the individuals arriving home late, losing the ability to prepare and cook food themselves.
Many brands believe the only way they can catch the attention of a particular audience is to be obvious about things - i.e. during the latest Game of Thrones premiere, advertising travel holidays to set locations like Croatia on the show's official website. While these tactics are successful, the problem is, many brands only consider these tactics on occasion, failing to reap the benefits of adopting real-time marketing as an always-on approach.
Instead of only going for the obvious, brands need to be smarter and consider all of its audience segments - we don't all just watch Game of Thrones and we certainly won't respond to one-size-fits-all messaging.
As ever, social media can provide a window into the soul of the consumer and help brands determine which way they should lean and what landmines to avoid altogether. By layering in additional data such as television consumption and ad occurrence, a more complete map of consumer affinity emerges and real-time value-driven marketing becomes possible.
For example, fashion brand Missguided's customers are 94 times more likely to engage with Made in Chelsea's Twitter handle. To implement this social insight, Missguided could schedule a TV ad to play in the break. While this is a great use of social insights, what would boost brand engagement further would be if Missguided were to sync social ads displaying offers to run alongside its TV ad. This double-pronged approach is guaranteed to boost engagement and cover current consumption behaviours - watching TV while patrolling social media.
Whether it's the weather, a tube strike, or the premiere of a TV show, brands have to connect with real-time relevance, because it's what we expect as consumers today. But, brands must also be tactful to avoid becoming a gimmick. The key is to realise the power of affinities to understand the consumer and deliver a relevant consumer experience.