Marketers have not yet settled on the definition for real-time marketing, but they're already applying the principle liberally across campaigns.

Brands agree that real-time marketing is the key to success in a fast-paced world where social media posts are chased out of news feeds and hot trends fade quickly out of mind. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and Neolane recently surveyed marketers and found 77 percent say real-time strategies are highly important in their practices. However, there seems to be some confusion about what this buzz term actually means.

More than half of polled internet marketing professionals think real-time marketing is dynamic personalized content across channels, while 12 percent perceive it as developing quick response to mainstream events and 11 percent say it’s timely social media responses. Another 3 percent understand real-time marketing as offer management.

“Marketers are making email and web communications more real time … because they see a measurable impact from creating cohesive, cross-channel customer experiences.” 

The variance in these definitions suggests there is still uncertainty across the industry that could be steering brands down different paths. DMA’s data supports this idea, approximately 55 percent are currently taking a real-time approach with their email marketing campaigns, while 35 percent use the idea in web content, 30 percent in call centers, 29 percent across channels and 21 percent over social networks.

“Marketers are making email and web communications more real time, too … [and] not just because the technology is available, but because they see a measurable impact from creating cohesive, cross-channel customer experiences,” said Linda Woolley, president and CEO of DMA.

Companies that have a short sales funnel might particularly benefit from real-time tactics in outbound marketing channels such as social and email. Brafton‘s recent social analytics Twitter chat polled professionals on the value of using audiences’ real-time activities to generate responsive social content (an initiative we support with our latest Sprinklr partnership).

Cited benefits of real-time listening and content production included gauging and addressing buyers’ want and needs, acting on brand reputation insights that impact the bottom line and strengthening control in industry conversations. Real-time content is decidedly more than buzz – but marketers need to come to terms with what this means in their organizations, and find tools and partners to achieve it.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.