The Future is Swift: How Real Time Impacts ROI

Posted on by Wayne St. Amand

The concept of real time in the advertising industry is still a relatively new concept. Advertisers had a handful of TV stations and print options to choose from, and each would reach a significant portion of the population. Campaigns were planned on a quarterly (or even annual) basis, and because of that, advertisers didn’t have much flexibility when it came to media spend.

But the media industry has evolved significantly since then. With a boom in online marketing, an explosion of television stations, and an array of different devices to view content, the media landscape has become incredibly fragmented. At the same time, highly connected consumers expect brands to put their needs and desires first. Anticipating needs and responding quickly is now a core part of any marketer’s job. In fact, research shows that a whopping 71 percent of online leads are lost because companies didn’t respond fast enough.

The good news? Marketers can address this need for speed, now more than ever before. By leveraging data about who consumers are and how marketing and advertising performs for each audience, marketers can provide the content and experiences that consumers want (and expect), ultimately improving ROI.

The Power of Real-Time

Today’s consumer journeys are increasingly complex. Customers and prospects interact with brands across multiple digital and physical channels, and their journeys increasingly involve multiple devices. Moreover, consumers want brands to know them and deliver relevant, convenient experiences. Research from Wunderman showed that nearly all (88 percent) of U.S. consumers want to engage with brands that are setting new standards in meeting their expectations.

Understanding consumers and their journey is just one piece of the puzzle, however. The length of the journey is also critical: the shorter it takes to turn a prospect into a customer, the better. This means marketers must be able to act on the touchpoints along a prospect’s journey as quickly as possible. The companies who have a holistic view of their complex journey and can respond faster with the right contextual messages, offers and frequency of marketing tactics are the ones who are set up to succeed.

Advanced digital measurement techniques enable marketers to do this by tracking and measuring individuals’ journeys in a way that simply wasn’t possible a short time ago. Multi-touch attribution provides granular insight into the effectiveness of marketing tactics in near real-time. This real-time monitoring gives marketers the power to make adjustments based on how various channels, campaigns and tactics are performing. If something is working, teams can dedicate more resources to it; if something is going wrong, marketers can pull the campaign and reallocate money and resources to the channels and tactics that are delivering value.

Getting data about what’s happening quickly, and being able to mine that data in an efficient way, is critical for improving overall performance. Real-time is no longer a pipe dream: it’s a realistic possibility and key capability for any marketer who wants to move from reactive efforts to proactive optimization. By helping marketers make quicker decisions that influence consumer behavior, these real-time insights and optimizations can have a significant impact on marketing efficiency and ROI.

Forging the Future

Most marketers acknowledge that the annual or quarterly planning practices of twenty years ago are no longer effective, yet some believe that real-time shouldn’t be a priority. Those nay-sayers argue that the length of time before each channel drives behavior can vary dramatically. While there is no disputing that every channel works at its own pace, the importance of real-time data shouldn’t be up for debate. Instead, marketers should simply optimize based on the cadence of each channel, and the only way this can happen is if marketers have the data they need to optimize at the right time and frequency.

For instance, programmatic channels such as display and paid social need to be optimized rapidly and frequently, with continuous adjustments to creative messages, offers and content in real-time. Channels like TV, on the other hand, may not have an impact until days or weeks after a spot airs. Having access to the right data ensures you’re ready when the time comes to negotiate TV buys or optimize your creative rotations.

Today, it may take time for certain channels to deliver ROI, but in the future, this process will be much quicker. The digital and mobile marketing worlds are increasingly becoming programmatic, with channels such as TV also moving in the same direction. Building an organization that is set up for the future, where everything will be faster and have greater opportunities for optimization, is crucial.

The bottom line? The successful brands of tomorrow are the ones that develop the capability to learn from their data today. In the future, right time will be real time and real time will be the only time that matters.

Wayne St. Amand is CMO of Visual IQ, a Nielsen company.


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