The ability to capture and then effectively respond to specific events from key consumer buying decisions and online shopping behaviours to worldwide events and milestones in the customer journey, has never been more essential. 

Customer expectations are at an all-time high and so brand marketers need to ensure they rise to the challenge and fulfil these needs in a meaningful manner. Adopting a personalised approach has been increasing in prominence over the past few years. Missguided is just one of a number of brands who have seen revenue increases this year thanks to a heavy investment in personalisation strategies. However, much like myths around the health of email, interpretations of personalisation can vary wildly from an email addressed to an individual by name, to a highly-targeted message taking into account specific behaviours. On both counts, personalised messages are being sent, but the extent to which they are effective is very different. 

Enter individualisation. It’s no longer enough for brands to employ personalisation tactics, they need to go much further if they are to pinpoint specific needs and add value to their customers’ lives. Whilst the content of the message is essential, it has to be received in the right place and at the right time. Email is perhaps one of the best ways of capturing specific moments when customers are either on the brink of making a purchase or at least demonstrating key buying signals, because it can be directly addressed to the individual recipient and created based on an adaptable set of parameters. The ability to capture these moments when they are likely to have the most impact requires an effective real-time strategy.

So how can brands employ real-time personalisation techniques in their email marketing? 

Increasingly, consumers are expecting to receive messages in real-time as they interact with any given brand. Brands therefore need to analyse their available data sets to unlock rich and powerful insights which can then be used to pinpoint individual requirements. The days of focusing on a purely data-driven approach are behind us. It’s no longer enough to use data to create and send out messages, brands need to take a holistic view and understand what the data they hold actually means. Understanding the why, just as much as the what, is therefore critical to success. Preferences will change, so a knowledge of what is motivating individual decisions from changing circumstances to other life milestones will enable a more effective real-time personalisation strategy to be deployed.

According to figures released by Movable Ink in November last year, 73% of all email opens now occur through mobile. This clearly shows that there is a real opportunity for brands to use real-time marketing techniques to capture the attention of consumers on the go, especially if they display key buying signals. If leveraged in the right way this approach can be immensely lucrative and cement meaningful relationships between brands and customers. However, for this to truly work, the way brands understand and interact with these customers has to change and become more sophisticated. 

Let’s be clear, real-time interactions and communications have been around for a while. Twitter after all is just one example of how brands can interact with consumers in the moment. Email though is perhaps the most direct form of communication that can be used to communicate with consumers, but it’s important to remember that real-time personalisation is not just about timing. It’s about knowing what to send to whom and the reasons why it should be sent. Brands that understand the power of their data and how it can shape richer more meaningful conversations will therefore be in a far better position to capitalise on the opportunities available to them. 

So what do brands need to do?

Brands need to look at how they can enhance their current infrastructure in a manner which will allow these valuable insights to be effectively extracted and then deployed into highly-targeted campaigns. This may sound like a daunting prospect but it all starts with the internal systems within the business. If individual departments operate in silos and different aspects of the marketing team are working within silos the ebb and flow of data throughout the department and, in many respects, the rest of the business will be severely thwarted. 

If all aspects of the business have clarity on what data is available, how it is being used and how the communications that are being sent are being received then organisations can streamline activity and ensure a consistent message is formulated. Over time, this process breeds a much more detailed level of insight, which when matched with the objectives of the business, allows for the precision with which messages are sent to be increased. It’s this which enables real-time activity to take place which is highly relevant. In an age where one message can sway a consumer’s perception, getting it right at the right time is vital.