The Future of Marketing Is Real-Time Engagement

Real-Time Marketing

There are certain cliches in marketing technology these days. One is definitely about delivering the right message at the right time. Like most cliches, there’s definitely some truth in this. What the cliche misses, is the right time these days, more often than not, is now.

Raising the Relevance Bar

The most basic problem: Marketers need to deliver relevance, but their customers’ attention spans are increasingly short. A tailored marketing communication, focused on the most interesting offers at the time users are looking, outperforms a generic message every time. Over the years, marketers have gotten better at this, with everything from web customization to personalized emails to ad retargeting.

However, recent years have tightened the timeframe for customer interactions. In truth, we just don’t have the attention span we once did. A generation ago, people listened to full albums, watched full baseball games, and sat down to read the newspaper. Today, we stream songs on Spotify, watch the crack-cocaine of NFL RedZone, and snack on articles in our Google news feed.

People now lack the attention span to… wait, what was I talking about again?

Real Time Marketing

This same basic shift in our behavior is impacting how we buy and sell. The moment a message is sent affects how relevant it is. Let’s say you’re searching for something to watch in a media app. An in-app message suggesting a new show based on your viewing history would strike the perfect chord. But sent even a moment too late, the relevance is gone — because we either found something else or got distracted.

Despite this shift in buyer behavior, marketers are constantly lagging their customers.

Existing Marketing Practices Are Holding Us Back

In spite of the lip service to relevance and engaging at the right time, most marketing campaigns still follow a set pattern.

Traditionally, marketers build a segment of users — let’s say men in New York between the ages of 35-55 who have previously purchased athletic shoes. They then batch and blast a message targeted to those shoppers. In essence, this takes the practices of direct mail and applies them to modern communication.

In a more sophisticated use case, marketers might run a cart abandonment campaign. In this case, the segment is people who added an item to their cart in the last day. The approach would push them to purchase through multiple channels: like emailing the customer, then retargeting them with ads to get them to complete the purchase.

That’s better — but is that the best marketers can do? And at that point, is it too late?

These practices have become ingrained in the marketers’ toolkit, and more to the point, in their marketing technology stack. They’ve adopted systems and technologies that capture historic data, segment, and then build campaigns based on that historic data.

Real-Time Marketing Construct

However, the key word is “history.” There’s less to really understand not just the historic behavior of our customers, but what they doing this very moment and what external context might drive their next behavior right now. Unfortunately, our decade of systems is little help in addressing that challenge.

Mobile Shows the Way

In recent years, many mobile apps have shown a new way to engage users. Here’s why:

  • Because the mobile app ecosystem is so crowded, it’s required to stand out
  • Because users are notoriously twitchy in their mobile usage patterns — switching between different tasks in a manic fashion — apps need to move fast to keep their attention
  • Because apps have access to additional context like location and real-time behavior, they need to build campaigns based on relevance.
  • Finally, because many innovators started from scratch trying to disrupt existing industries, they were unencumbered by a decade of existing process and technologies

Today, leading mobile brands deliver a more real-time, more contextual experience and accompanying marketing than anyone has before. Based on the behavior of mobile users, the most successful apps trigger highly personalized campaigns, rather than batching and blasting.

The special offer can pop up on your phone the moment you pass a brick-and-mortar store. And a cart abandonment campaign of old (sent a day or two after you leave the app) now can happen the moment you abandon the cart.

Real-Time Marketing cart abandonment

In other words, the tailored campaign can start the moment you’ve shown an interest in a new piece of content.

Great mobile marketers move fast. Part of the reason they’ve been so successful is they get out ahead of everyone else, closing the sale with customers before more traditional marketers even make their first touch.

A Coming Wave of New Engagement Points

While mobile marketing may be the first frontier of real-time engagement, it certainly isn’t the last. Our shortening attention spans didn’t start with the smartphone and they won’t end there.

Increasingly, people consum content on over-the-top (OTT) devices like Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire. These will be the next platforms for real-time engagement, resembling smartphone users — giving numerous real-time signals of interest, while maintaining a shorter attention span.

Furthermore, a new wave of engagement points are emerging, like the rise of voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. And conversational interfaces on platforms like WeChat in China are increasingly popular.

In the future, people will increasingly have a conversation with your brand and you will be expected to respond immediately to their needs or they will move on. Real-time engagement will be less of an option and more of an imperative.

Your Existing MarTech Stack Won’t Cut It

Overall, the number of channels available to marketers that fit the batch and blast model are beginning to stagnate and customers are moving elsewhere. While the transition will not be immediate, the time to prepare is now.

At Leanplum, we’re building an engagement platform designed to meet the demands of today’s customers. Born in the mobile world, our platform transforms customers’ real-time data into an understanding of their needs and wants. Where others batch and blast, we help brands respond in the moment, so they can get ahead of the competition. We’d love to discuss how you can make the shift from batch and blast to true real-time marketing.


Leanplum is the mobile marketing platform built for engagement. We help brands like Tinder, Grab, Tesco, and Zynga orchestrate multi-channel campaigns — from messaging to the in-app experience — all from a single, integrated platform. Schedule your personalized demo here.