There's a big difference between real-time and “right-time” email, according to “The Right-Time Email Marketing Playbook,” a white paper released on May 10 from StrongMail Systems, a provider of online marketing solutions for email and social media.
Real-time email marketing, also known as triggered email marketing, is based on a customer event or action, such as a purchase, shopping cart abandonment or product renewal anniversary, said Ryan Deutsch, StrongMail's VP-strategic services. Right-time email marketing takes triggered messaging to the next level, he said. “Right-time says, "Here are opportunities to create new email streams that are promotional but don't feel like it because they are multidimensional.' It's based on multiple data attributes,” he said.
One example, Deutsch said, is a hotel chain that in the past may have sent out an email to a business traveler getting ready to check in. A real-time or triggered email might contain a simple reminder; a right-time email opportunity might be a message that includes weather data and other variables that could enhance the businessperson's stay.
The use of additional data points, Deutsch said, can provide a boost in conversion rates because the messages are more relevant. Research validates this theory: According to an April 2011 Gartner report, “Top Seven CRM Marketing Processes for 2011,” event-triggered email campaigns can generate response rates that are 600% higher than other outbound campaigns. The key, he said, is making sure that data can be accessed and used effectively. “You need the right building blocks,” he said.
Deutsch said there are four steps that marketers must take to make this happen. The first is identification. “You need to know what someone owns, how long they've owned it, what they shop for, and other profile information,” he said. This data is often wrong, which is why he suggested marketers do an audit of their data as part of the overall right-time push. Having the wrong data and using it can be as detrimental as not having data at all.
Once marketers know which data they have and that it is accurate, they need to centralize it, Deutsch said. This is the step where most marketers are lacking. “You've got data owned by different parts of the business—in the CRM system, in loyalty program databases, in a campaign management system, in a separate Oracle database,” he explained. Get buy-in from every department to centralize that data so that everyone can gain access to it, he said.
The final component is integration—taking the accurate, centralized data and bringing it into the communications platform. “Once your data is integrated and automated, it requires fewer resources to do a great job with your email marketing,” Deutsch said. “In many cases, you'll spend less time on email marketing.”