Real-Time Personalized Messaging Is the Future of Marketing

Demand and Lead Generation

Ever seen the 2002 movie Minority Report? It has an example of personalized messaging – delivered in real time – that’s kept marketers talking for 15 years.

The scene happens when John Anderson, the hero, is on the lam from the law. And in this movie, the law is all but omniscient. Anderson has just taken a radical step to evade his pursuers and finds himself in a modern mall, hoping to find a fast change of clothes.

That friendly Gap store screen lady greets him as soon as he walks in, calling him by name (the wrong one) and asking him if he’d like to buy more of the tank tops he purchased the last time he was in the store.

Needless to say, Gap Inc. would love to be able to do this now. And technology is getting closer. The next time you walk into a marketing conference, don’t be surprised if a friendly screen lady greets you, too. She’ll probably even get your name right.

Current technological capabilities might not be quite to the caliber shown in Minority Report yet, but real-time personalized messaging has real-world applications now. And you can be almost anywhere for it to work.

Know how? It’s via your phone. With personalized, instantly triggered emails, we can already send sophisticated messages to our customers. And that’s just email. Add in the ability to send text messages or a notification through a messaging app or via web push notifications, and it gets even more interesting.

This email from Zapier is much less futuristic than the Gap screen lady, but it’s a major step forward from the “email blasts” we all used to dispatch. Zapier sends this personalized message if you’ve signed up for their service but haven’t set up any actions. It’s a timed, personalized nudge to get you to use their product.

Email Marketing Automation

But wait: There’s more. Way more. We don’t have to stick to emails anymore. Social media messages can be personalized and sent in real time. So can text messages, website notifications, and the almost futuristic beacons.

All of this is happening now. Over a million beacons will be installed in US stores this year. We’ve got the technology to share what the Gap screen lady knew, and the types of messages we can send are getting better ― and harder to ignore.

Companies like Google get this. Retail beacons can work with any Google product or service. They can even send data to partner applications. And they’re also working on which channel delivers these messages. Interestingly enough, they’re relaunching Google Glass, too.

While the technology around real-time personalized messaging is cool, fundamentally it’s not the technology that actually makes this work. … It’s us. It’s how we respond to messages.

Going all the way back to the time of mid-century advertising legend David Ogilvy, marketers knew that when you sent a message mattered. And timing still matters.

The old-school catalogers had a formula that considered timing. It let them pick which people on their list they were going to mail a catalog to.  The term they used, “Recency, Frequency, and Monetary” (or “RFM”, as some of you know all too well), referred to how recently a customer had purchased, how many times they had purchased, and how much money they had spent cumulatively on those purchases.

Think of it as the very first version of an algorithm for targeting the right customers.

But that was just a formula. Human-to-human interactions are much more sophisticated. Ask any sales person if timing matters … or even any savvy pre-teen or teenage kid. As humans, we know very well that there are good times and bad times to ask for things.

A simple example of this in modern marketing is the welcome email. Welcome emails get crazy-high engagement rates. The only other kind of email that gets higher engagement rates is a transaction email or a birthday email. And birthday emails are another example of a well-timed, personalized message.

Welcome emails work because they “strike while the iron is hot.” They send a message in response to an action ― the sign-up ― and they communicate at the precise moment that the customer is most interested.

Welcome emails sent even a few hours after the sign-up don’t get as much engagement. They have to go right out, within minutes (preferably seconds) after the customer completes the sign-up. Welcome emails that are delayed even a few hours get one-tenth the transaction rates.

This mechanism of “take action, get result” is one of the reasons real-time personalized messaging is so powerful. We humans want what we want, and we want it now. Making us wait ― even a few minutes ― will suppress results.

And so that’s why the “real-time” part of this is so powerful. It’s why some marketers are willing to invest millions or even tens of millions to deliver real-time messages.

If you can get that message to a prospect the moment they make a specific trigger action, then you can increase your response rate ten-fold. That’s worth millions if you can get it right.

But that’s only part of the magic. Sending out a well-timed message is one thing, but pair it with the most beautiful word in English, and you’ve got a killer edge. …

You know what the most beautiful word in the language is, right?

It’s our own name.

Okay, kinda cliché. But it’s cliché for a reason. Personalization gets better results.

Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates. And 80% of B2B marketers say personalized content is more effective than unpersonalized content.

But, as you know, just adding someone’s first name to a message is barely Personalization 101. The best marketers take personalization much further. They’ll use your location, your past orders, the past website pages you’ve viewed, the places you’ve been, the connections you have on social media, the stuff you saved in your wish list, the ad you clicked … You name it.

Everything is fair game. Creative use of the data we already have can personalize almost anything.

Fortunately, most marketers are already well beyond just using first names. Here are the most popular ways to personalize messages currently:

When you blend the power of personalization with the power of real-time messaging you get the knock-out punch. 1+1 = 3.

It’s the sort of improvement that could literally sell trillions of dollars’ worth of stuff.

And it’s attainable, too.

I’ve mentioned emails, text messages, messaging app, web push notifications, and beacons. They’re all viable channels right now. But we haven’t even talked about wearables, augmented reality, or the Internet of Things. (Hint: real-time, personalized messaging is part of why the Internet of Things is such a massive opportunity for marketers.)

The wildly popular Pokemon Go is a very fun game. But it’s also another example of real-time messaging. The game isn’t tied to a business or a transaction per say, but it definitely sends people messages in real time, and it personalizes those messages based on their location and their scores.

For those of us still getting control of the common content marketing formats (blog posts, videos, podcasts), the idea of creating messaging for cars and Google Glass feels daunting.

But the technology exists that will make it easier. Technology like marketing automation and more specifically Act-On’s Adaptive JourneysTM vision – technology sophisticated enough to not only know which channels a particular prospect uses, but to know when the prospect uses them ― and on which channel they’re most likely to respond to your particular message.

So none of this is out of reach. And the people who can get it to work best, and first, will have a pronounced advantage.

Is that going to be you?