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Importance of Timeliness in Digital Messaging

Posted by Alyssa Zingaro

Tags: Marketing

  • You’re researching online to compare options for a phone upgrade. Every time you open your laptop over the next few days, ads for the same phones catch your eye …
  • Or you’re shopping for hi-spec running shoes online, but when a friend calls with a favor you leave the site without clicking ‘buy’. Within an hour an email alert pops up with a friendly reminder that you’ve forgotten something …
  • Maybe your annoyance at discovering your flight’s been delayed is eased somewhat by a text from the airline just minutes later, offering a big apology and free wifi on a later flight. 

All these are examples of timely digital messaging—reaching customers at exactly the right moment in their value journey, with precisely the right stimulus, to help them engage with your brand in the ways you want.

For years, marketers have used advanced data analytics to identify and target ideal customers, but the sheer proliferation of marketing messages now means that when you reach out is becoming just as vital as who you reach out to. 
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Timely, relevant messaging is crucial for grabbing attention for the immediate purchase and for strengthening customer relationships and building your brand equity in the longer term. This means responding swiftly to specific customer behavior—for example, ‘abandoning cart’ without completing a smart thermostat purchase—and also to external triggers, like relevant news stories, outages or extreme weather warnings. 

Responding to customer behavior

By taking control of your marketing data, you can better understand the phases of your customer’s value journey, and release tailored messages when certain signals arise. For instance, you can deliver super-relevant digital ads exactly when a prospect’s search data suggest she’s in the market for a product—generating more business with fewer, more efficient ads and massively hiking your marketing ROI. 

Here’s a great example. In mapping its customers’ past search and purchase behavior, a leading over-the-counter drug brand worked out that people taking their medication within two days of showing symptoms were more likely to get relief, and become greater brand advocates. So they worked with Google and WebMD to reach consumers whose search terms suggested they had just started getting symptoms. The result? Conversions of searches to sales rose dramatically, and brand equity grew at the same time.

Using timely data is also critical for valid message testing. A new survey focusing on nearly 1700 companies globally showed that in North America the best-performing marketers are 1.7 times more likely to refresh data at least weekly and 1.4 times more likely to use data to directly inform messaging decisions, often in near real time.

Perhaps it goes without saying that faster reaction times make for more effective marketing—for example, in replying to consumer queries on social apps. The longer a user has to wait for an answer, beyond even a few minutes, the more likely he is to bounce for good.

Rapid response is also key in negative targeting to avoid wasted spend on irrelevant messages. For example, once a prospect has taken advantage of your offer, that conversion data must be updated quickly across all buying platforms, so that the customer immediately stops receiving pointless and possibly irritating offer messaging that could harm your brand.

Instead, capitalize on the opportunity to segment customers based on their most recent interactions with your brand. Target them with ideas for complementary products or services, to make their experience exceptional and build brand loyalty.

Reacting to outside events

Timely responses to external triggers, arising not from customers themselves but from their relevant environment, can also be hugely effective in building brand engagement.

Arby’s restaurant chain did a memorable job of this just after the 2014 Grammy Awards, where the musician Pharrell Williams was sporting a hat seemingly emulating their famous logo. They tweeted:

“Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back? #GRAMMYs

To which Pharrell replied:

“Y'all tryna start a roast beef? ;D”

Those two messages were retweeted tens of thousands of times in a couple of days, bringing Arby’s a tidal wave of publicity. Keeping on top of relevant happenings in your customers’ world and joining the conversation at the right moment builds connections that turn those customers into loyal brand advocates.

Wrapping up

Better targeting brings better results. Now that consumers are bombarded constantly with digital messaging, across multiple channels, better targeting means focusing not just on who your customers are, but on what they are doing, thinking and feeling in real time.

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