For decades the mantra of getting the right message, to the right person, at the right time has echoed down the halls of marketing agencies and clients alike. Are we now closer than ever to turning this honourable goal into a reality?

In this series of four posts, we explore the reality behind real time customer intelligence and what it actually means for businesses struggling to keep up with today's ‘Smart Customers’.

real time guruThis isn’t the first time that businesses have achieved such nirvana in their communications, however. One just needs to observe a friendly local shopkeeper in action (if you can still find one).

These unsung heroes are the Zen masters of real time customer intelligence, watch closely as they quickly make child’s play of today’s hot data topics, turning:

‘hot triggers’ into ‘live personalised offers’, bringing together ‘customer insight’ with ‘purchase history’ and ‘live browsing behaviour’ … all in real time.

For them, recognising valuable customers and anticipating their live needs is second nature:
“Hello Mr.Smith

 How's the family?

 Going on holiday? 

 Shall I stop the newspapers?

 Need anything else for your trip?”
So what can we learn from these Gurus? Plenty, and not a minute too soon as today we don’t just have customers, we’ve got Smart Customers and there are millions of them.

As this infographic from avalaunch media demonstrates, we are in the midst of an absolute explosion of marketing channels.

History of Marketing Channels Revisited

Today’s multichannel ‘shopkeepers’ are faced with an exponential challenge:
“How can we balance the convenience of all these channels, yet still personalise each customer experience?”
“How can we join up customer behaviour across different channels and devices?"

"How can I use it to influence what customers are doing right now?”

The answers lie in real time customer intelligence, and with it come the keys to:

  • Delight & retain customers.
  • Increase revenues.
  • Gain competitive advantage.

But let’s be clear, whilst technology is no longer the barrier here (it’s getting easier and cheaper to operate in real time) knowing where to start and what to focus on is absolutely critical.

Unfortunately, far too much focus is being given to the technology involved instead of thinking about the end game. Organisations looking at real time would do well to think of their business as a shop, and first ask themselves:

“If I was the shopkeeper, what customer behaviour would interest me?"

"What would I actually do with that information as a result?“
One thing is clear, the real time customer intelligence race is now well and truly on, with companies scrambling to operate intelligently in the 'live contact zone' – but be warned, success won’t be about who’s got the biggest or fastest car in town, it will be about who’s got the best drivers and best navigators.

In our next post, we will delve further into the world of the Smart Customer and why real-time customer intelligence holds the key to competitive advantage, and may not be just for the reserve of big companies with big data and big budgets.

Finally, In case you are in any doubt as to the speed of change we are facing, we’ll leave you with this utterly fabulous video from relatively recent history.

I wonder what predictions we'll be looking back on with quite such nostalgia?

Perhaps the quaint idea that 'in the future' we'll actually talk to our customers intelligently before they've left the 'shop'?

Daniel Guest

Published 16 July, 2013 by Daniel Guest

Daniel Guest is Director at R-cubed and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can connect on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google  Plus.  

5 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (2)


Hans Willems

Great blog post. You are right Daniel: The driver is more important than the car.

Anyhow. Real-time customer intelligence doesn't have that much value if you can't combine it with real-time decisions, real-time delivery and real-time feedback. Think about the local shopkeeper. He listens, decides what to say, says it and listens to the response before he decides what to say next. And so on. Most customer technology is far to slow to support all elements of a real-time dialogue.

In 2009 we started to build a customer engagement platform based on this idea. With an individual live customer profile in the middle, real-time relevant dialogues take place. But also here, the driver is still important. The car just helps out. There is one big advantage: You now can communicate with thousands and thousands of anonymous and known customers in real-time and simultaneously. Something what a local shopkeeper wouldn't even think off.

about 5 years ago


Edward Weatherall

Hi Daniel,

Check out Why Analytics -

The challenge that most marketers face is that most analytics platforms only really act to test and deploy optimum user journeys, although this is obviously useful it does not help you understand the motivations, aspirations, attitudes and values of your customers - The human element.

As people we do not necessarily search or browse for a logical reason we may start on one journey get distracted, start another before returning to our initial intention - The only piece that stays constant is the driver.

This is something we are trying to change at VisualDNA

about 5 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.