Entire marketing careers have been spent trying to reach the right audience at the right time and get them to convert.
Television, print and outdoor advertising had too much spillage in terms of audience and were never cost-effective enough for traditional marketers. Radio was too local. PR was expensive and often unreliable. Early digital ads were a hit or miss proposition — no one really knew whether they worked or not.
The last few years have seen all of that change drastically. With the entry of real-time marketing (RTM), nearly every medium is now poised to speak to users at the right place and the right time.
Why is timing so key, you ask?
A study by GolinHarris delved into the impact of real-time marketing on consumers and their buying behavior.
- The study shows that real-time marketing leads to a 21% increase in positive brand perceptions.
- It also results in a 19% growth in product interest and an 18% upswing in likelihood of purchase.
- Consumers exposed to real-time marketing are also 22% more likely to recommend the brand to others than otherwise.
Not only does RTM help brands become stronger in consumers’ minds, GolinHarris’ research showed that the effect also exists the other way around. When strong brands engage in real-time marketing, the impact on consumers becomes even more pronounced.
- Consumers are 45% more likely to buy products of well-known brands engaged in RTM than lesser-known rivals.
RTM bolsters other marketing methods. Consumers are not used to receiving marketing messages in real time. When they encounter such an RTM event, it leaves behind an impression on their minds that lingers and positively impacts any further communication from the same brand.
- Consumers become 25% more likely to seek out and pay attention to other brand related communication than before being exposed to RTM.
Let’s now take a tour of how real time marketing rolls out in the real world.
We’ve been hearing of Bluetooth-enabled, location-driven marketing for years now. However, not too many people keep the Bluetooth service on in their mobile devices all the time, especially when they are in a mall. Consequently, those nascent attempts died a silent death.
However, beacon technology that rides on apps installed on users’ smartphones is now a viable and real option for marketers looking to serve meaningful and real-time communications to users at the store level.
Lord & Taylor experimented with beacon technology across a handful of its stores in July 2014 in collaboration with the Swirl Audience Network and the SnipSnap app. SnipSnap is a coupons and deals app that incorporates the Swirl SDK. Users who had this app installed on their phones and had location services switched on automatically received hyper-targeted messages when they entered Lord & Taylor stores that were equipped with Swirl’s beacon technology. Each shopper received customized messages based on their shopping history, time spent in various departments within the store, etc.
The test showed overwhelmingly positive results. Lord & Taylor enjoyed a 60% engagement rate with the beacon-based campaign, accompanied by a 30% redemption rate across the 10 stores where the pilot was carried out. Following the successful test, Lord & Taylor as well as its Canadian holding company Hudson’s Bay rolled out the campaign across all their stores during the 2014 holiday season.
Dynamic Creative Optimization
While most marketers would be familiar with participating in real-time auctions for display ad inventory, making fresh display creatives on the fly is something that not too many would have tried their hand at.
Google showed us how it’s done in real style during the Oscars this year, when they promoted movie downloads via Google Play during the marquee event, based on the insight that users research movies nominated for the Oscars simultaneously while they watched the show on television. Google had search data which showed that this interest only lasts about 15 minutes from the time the winner is announced.
What they did with it was ridiculously simple. Using their in-house creative unit Double-Click Studios, Google developed a series of desktop and mobile creatives for movies that were in the running for the Oscars in 2015. As soon as the winner was announced the right creative was rolled out across 650,000 apps that formed AdMob’s app network as well as Google’s very own massive ad network.
According to Google, “Before the winners made it to the stage to accept their awards, ads about the films were in the hands of fans.” Clearly Google’s bet on dynamic creatives proved to be a success. They saw a 59% lift in searches for movies on Google Play among users who saw these ads. CTRs for the real-time ads too were 19% higher than otherwise.
While the concept itself is simple, the technology behind such highly targeted messaging isn’t if you aren’t Google. This is where real-time bidding comes in.
Typically, a company or a marketer enters their budgets, ad copy and targeted personas or customer profiles into a demand-side platform (or more simply, bid management tool such as Bidable or SiteScout). The DSP gives them access to real-time ad inventory on publisher sites using an ad exchange (other than Google, Microsoft and Facebook, OpenX is one). The DSP then automatically bids with the intent of displaying your ad copy to viewers who fit your profile and who are currently browsing a chosen publisher site.
Find me somebody who does not own a smartphone today and I’ll find you a blue cow. Just kidding.
But smartphone penetration has reached a level that mobile advertising is no longer an option for marketers; it’s a necessity. In 2014, Americans spent 2 hours and 51 minutes per day on their smartphones on non-voice activities, which makes mobile browsing take second place after television in the priority of entertainment options in this country.
Taking a cue from the explosive growth in mobile, Griffin & Reed Eye Care — a laser vision correction facility based in Northern California — ditched their traditional radio spends in favor of targeting their audience via mobile.
Griffin & Reed regular radio advertising showed a 5-7% drop in results YOY. As a last-ditch effort to revive flagging sales, the company opted to use Pandora’s mobile radio app in lieu of one of their usual ad strategies. Since Pandora’s users share their basic information including location with the service, Griffin & Reed could laser target the exact demographic and geographic segments that mattered to them.
This precise targeting bore results, and the campaign surpassed expectations with a 2608% increase in engagement via mobile and 107% increase via tablets. Fifty percent more patients found Griffin & Reed online, and surgeries grew by 13% YOY.
Real-time marketing is the fastest growing ad segment within digital marketing. According to data from IDC, it is set to account for $13.9 billion in ad spends by 2016.
Within RTM, mobile will lead the charge. Just as Google and its AdWords transformed the way search marketing happens, real time marketing has the potential to change display advertising in a very fundamental way.
The question is no more if. It’s all about when.