Real-time personalization for improved customer engagement


According to statistics from Google Trends, the term ‘real-time marketing’ started to gain serious interest in the middle of 2009 and conversations around it have steadily increased since. One point of debate being about what real-time marketing actually is.

There are some who consider it a rapid response to mainstream events, or timely retorts to customers through social media channels: think Oreo’s now legendary ‘Dunk in the Dark’ Twitter campaign that capitalized on a Super Bowl power cut, or Greenpeace quoting Leonardo DiCaprio’s climate change speech the 2016 Oscars.

However, a more popular opinion is that real-time marketing is the dynamic personalization of content across channels. Essentially, providing your customers with a web experience that has been adapted to suit their needs, tastes and behavioral browsing actions.

Assuming you agree with the latter, how are marketers using real-time personalization tactics and what are the benefits of doing so?


Personalizing emails is more than adding the name of the recipient to a message. Today, marketers could use geographical data to tailor messages around their distance from a new store or nearby events. Or, they could include an offer on new products based on a customer’s demographic data, or recommend new items based on their browsing habits.

For example, an email from your favorite restaurant might suggest you enjoy an evening with your preferred takeaway dish on a cold and wet Friday night. By combining your customer data with the local weather forecast, you’ve received a personalized message that is far more likely to connect than a generic email sent randomly in the day.

Another method for boosting conversions includes abandonment recovery emails. If a customer leaves a site before completing their checkout, this can trigger a real-time message to entice them back. Using customer data, these emails can be personalized to offer a solution to the possible reasons for their abandonment, such as offering alternatives to out-of-stock items, a discount on delivery charges, or reviews of the item they have contemplating buying to reinforce confidence in their purchase. From our real-time marketing technology, we've seen that well-timed triggered email campaign can increase conversions by 20%.

Websites and on-demand services

When you think of dynamic personalization, there are several organizations that use it as the core of their service. On-demand sites like Spotify and Netflix offer up media based on your viewing and listening habits, sharing recommendations that correlate with your tastes in genre, actor or artist.

This tactic of using your previous behavior to tailor your shopping experience is also used by countless e-commerce site. According to a report from SmartInsights, Amazon’s personalized product recommendations account for as much as 35% of its conversions. 

Real-time website personalization can be more subtle than this, though – at least, as perceived by the visitor. Take a US-based clothing site with a global customer base as an example:

  • Customer A is female and from the UK, viewing the site in November: her tailored landing page shows a banner highlighting the brand’s most popular items for women. Information in the sidebars tell her products ship worldwide, while a quick link directs her to the winter clothes category.
  • Customer B is male, from the US and a returning visitor but hasn’t yet purchased from the site: he arrives on the same landing page but it has been personalized to highlight products he has viewed before, offers him a discount on his first purchase and a message that postage within the US is free.

Display adverts

Dynamic ad sequencing can automatically generate different variations of an advert based on a customer’s past interactions with your site. These can use browsing data to alter the color, photography, pricing and call-to-action message of the advert, as well as retargeting customers with the contents of an abandoned cart or showcasing products they have previously browsed.

Such adverts may collect anonymous customer data, but this technique can be used to serve highly relevant campaigns, with a personalized message that should lead to an uplift in performance.

The benefits of real-time marketing

For customers, real-time marketing tactics demonstrate that a brand is making an effort to understand their needs. They also want to see their loyalty rewarded with relevant promotions and to be identified as an individual. In fact, O2’s ‘The Rise of Me-Tail’ study revealed that 56% of consumers would be more inclined to use a retailer if it offered a good personalized experience.

Of course, real-time marketing techniques require good judgment and a degree of caution to be successful. Using bad data to form a picture of your customer will see your efforts backfire spectacularly, but worse still is crossing the line from ‘convenient’ to ‘creepy’. Just because you have information about your customers, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to use it all the time. If a customer starts to feel like your brand is stalking them at every turn, or you demonstrate an inappropriate level of over familiarity, alarm bells are going to ring – just as they would in real life.

Get the balance right, though, and real-time personalization has demonstrated its effectiveness not just at driving traffic, increasing conversion rates and helping to engage indecisive customers, but encouraging retention and improving response rates, too.

Importantly, having more satisfied customers spending more time on your site also mean the one thing all businesses strive for: a boost to the bottom line. 

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