Marketers ramp up real-time strategies

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Hearst Magazines uses real-time techniques to delineate high-risk and low-risk prospects
Hearst Magazines uses real-time techniques to delineate high-risk and low-risk prospects

Ask any marketer what it takes to effectively reach consumers in a digitized, mobilized and socialized shopping environment and undoubtedly he will say you've got to target the right consumers with the right message at the right time. Increasingly, however, marketers are going beyond the notion of "the right time" by attempting to target consumers in real time with personalized and segmented interactions. 


In a Sept. 27 Forrester Research report authored by Srividya Sridharan, Dave Frankland and Allison Smith, the writers attempt to define real-time marketing. 


"The real-time buzzword is back," they write. "Marketers, vendors and service providers use this term in a variety of scenarios to describe technologies, analytics, customer service and processes. The hype around real time has multiple implications for customer intelligence professionals. Real-time marketing, often touted as a technology solution, is a people and process focused effort too."


While that may be helpful, it doesn't necessarily nail down a definition. Outdoor gear retailer Cabela's leverages Bazaarvoice's customer intelligence tools to understand consumers and how they respond to and review different products. By coupling customer review data with other information in its database, Cabela's is exploring how it can make amends to consumers who have had a difficult time with a product or service. 


Although Cabela's is still exploring the program, it currently operates two real-time programs designed to regain consumers who have abandoned the site before making a purchase. Event-triggered emails allow Cabela's to lure customers back to the site if they've abandoned their shopping carts while behaviorally targeted banner ads attempt to bring consumers back to the site if they previously left without making a purchase. 


For Hearst Magazines, real time means the ability to segment potential subscribers of two of its titles according to likelihood of transaction. Prospects with a high likelihood of subscribing have less obstacle to registration than less probable subscribers. Prospects deemed high-risk are funneled through one or two more action steps and offered an incentive to provide payment with their orders. 


"We had high-risk customers and we wanted to delineate them and treat them differently to improve overall return," says Charlie Swift, VP of database strategy and marketing at Hearst Magazines. 


By partnering with Experian Marketing Services, Hearst was able to delineate high-risk and low-risk consumers within 300 milliseconds by validating the consumer as he interacts on the Hearst site. Within that fraction of a second, Experian enabled Hearst to advance the consumer's record to run a model, score it and deliver a decision. Leveraging that strategy allowed Hearst to decrease subscription and servicing costs by 20% to 30% depending on the particular program, and increase profits by 9%, all without alienating potential customers. 


"We're now rolling this program out to half our magazines on the higher-risk channels on the Internet," 
says Swift.


Restaurant.com has been working with Adobe Systems on a cart-abandonment email trigger to make real-time offers to consumers. The online restaurant directory also uses geographic data to generate the appropriate search landing page so that consumers in Chicago aren't shown New York City restaurants. 


Jared Vestal, VP of analytics and insights at Restaurant.com, says the company also uses email to alert consumers when products they've purchased in the past have been restocked. "If you purchase a certificate, take it in and use it, [and] upon that usage, we push out an email to encourage you to fill out a review and purchase again," says Vestal. 


Urban Outfitters tracks consumer browsing to make real-time product recommendations to its e-commerce shoppers. By working with e-commerce technology company Baynote and website-optimization company Monetate, Urban Outfitters can tailor the shopping experience based on how the individual consumer comes to click on certain products.

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