AOL Summit: You Don't Need Real Time All The Time

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real time cheetahReaching the holy grail of real-time, one-to-one interaction may sound like a marketer’s utopia, but a number of execs gathered Thursday at a Thought Leadership Summit hosted by AOL felt this importance was overstated. In some instances, real-time processes aren’t the be-all and end-all.

“I think real-time (marketing) is only a part of a bigger process of relationship management,” said Rob Leon, VP of business development at Gravity, a content personalization startup AOL acquired in January. “Sometimes you want to wait, process that data … and do something more meaningful” with it in the long run.

For a company like 1-800-Flowers, real time matters most during high-traffic times like Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day, when the company accesses data hourly to quickly alter creative and messaging.

But in other verticals such as consumer packaged goods or finance, customer life-cycle management takes priority over time-sensitive transactions. “You will have a very different framework where it’s not ‘get as much data as you can quickly’ as it is testing and learning against (solving key business problems),” said Chris Scoggins, SVP and GM of Datalogix’s DLX Platform.

Offline purchases often have longer intent cycles with longer-term signals to measure. Bob Rupczynski, VP of media, data and CRM for Kraft Foods, called this phenomenon “media with memory.”

With Kraft increasing its investment in programmatic, the company is using data on 17 years' worth of magazine subscriptions, 100 million site visitors and $20 billion worth of transactions to surface creative chronologically by impression in a way that harnesses past interactions. “We didn’t build a system to optimize digital,” Rupczynski said. “We built a system to predict need.”

By constrast, subscription ecommerce startup Birchbox doesn’t have years of historical data or in-store records, so it buckets based on three categories: customer-supplied data, transactional data and behavioral data. The latter includes time on site, articles read or whether the customer commonly refers friends. This structure plays a key role in its customer-retention, user-acquisition and targeting strategies.

This data helps inform “what we give back to brand partners to say, ‘This is what the consumer thinks of you,'” said Birchbox CMO Deena Bahri.

For Birchbox, real-time data is not as important as relevant data. “It’s a balance between instinct and feedback data vs. purchase data, but the conversion ultimately tells the story,” Bahri said.

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One Response to “AOL Summit: You Don't Need Real Time All The Time”


  1. Kelly - It's a worthy point to make that real-time is not the panacea for digital marketing.

    That said, vendors who dismiss real-time often have an admixture of motives: (i) their clients lack use cases for it and (ii) they aren't capable of delivering it.

    The former is a good reason to offer: technology investment should be driven by what's needed, not by what's neat. But the latter motive is rarely admitted to: real-time systems are expensive and difficult to build, compared to slower alternatives.

    Yet marketing organizations require real-time reflexes in addition to long-term reasoning abilities. (We've been evolving our own brains' parallel systems for millions of years, as Daniel Kahneman describes in his book "Thinking, Fast and Slow.")

    In short, real-time action and long-term modeling are complementary strategies. The most successful marketers will employ both.

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