As a long-time brand marketer in the consumer goods industry, I was used to developing marketing campaigns, deploying them through traditional media channels, then wait patiently for results. This process often took weeks, if not months. The idea of changing campaigns mid-stream or responding to customers in real-time was not even imaginable. As technology, mobility, and connected consumers have made their steady march forward, the idea of real-time marketing is not only possible, we are seeing leading organizations take important steps forward. Gartner defines Real-time Marketing as an organization’s ability to rapidly respond to opportunities and threats within time frames that can impact business advantage (see Introduction to Real-Time Marketing, Part 1: Exploring the Concept). Richard Fouts also highlights that an organization’s ability to take advantage of real-time marketing capabilities requires a significant culture change. Leaders in this space have outside-in cultures – they are highly driven by the needs and wants of their external constituents vs. the capabilities of internal constituents. I couldn’t agree more. But, I also know that these changes take time and are often driven by visionary leaders and even difficult circumstances.
Two examples come to mind as evidence that leading companies are thinking more about real-time marketing capabilities:
- Stop ‘N Shop, the Northeast U.S. division of grocery retailer Royal Ahold, enables shoppers to self-scan their groceries as they shop. It started in 2005 with special scanning “guns” and in 2012, via a smart phone app called Scan it!. The app is able to determine your location in the store and deliver offers in real-time based on what is in your basket, what you have purchased in the past, and how you shop the store. I tried this out for the first time in Boston recently. It took me some time to get the hang of scanning barcodes with my phone, but the cool moment was when I started to get offers and alerts on my phone in real time. Clearly, the leaders at Stop ‘n Shop have a vision for how technology can improve the shopping experience and they are willing to stick with it.
- Domino’s Pizza launched its mobile application in 2008 and has been steadily making enhancements since. A popular feature is the “Pizza Tracker” that can show the progress of your pizza in real time and you can send messages to the crew crafting your pizza. Today, this application is seamless across all platforms and contributes to Dominos $1B ecommerce business. The app was jointly developed internally between marketing and IT and was part of Domino’s broader “Pizza Turnaround” led by CEO Patrick Doyle to re-invent the company after a series of quality and service mishaps. The day after I got home from the conference, I downloaded the app and experienced it myself. I liked following the progress of my pizza and I even knew the name of my delivery driver. Best of all, the pizza was excellent and not the taste of cardboard so many consumers complained about. Dominos was driven by a customer focused CEO, leading real culture change under difficult circumstances.
In each of these cases, strong cultural change and strong leadership empowered marketing and IT people at these companies to think differently about how technology and real-time capabilities could improve the customer experience (outside-in). Plus they had the fortiude to test and learn. Organizations that have this combination will be in the best position to unlock the benefits of Real-Time Marketing.
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