Data, analytics, and listening capabilities confront businesses with unprecedented risks and opportunities. Chief among these in the marketing world is ‘real-time marketing’ (RTM). In our latest research report, “Real-Time Marketing; The Agility to Leverage ‘Now,’ Altimeter Group defines RTM as Altimeter Group defines real-time marketing a:

The strategy and practice of responding with immediacy to external events and triggers. It’s arguably the most relevant form of marketing, achieved by listening to and/or anticipating consumer interests and needs.

In the face of infinite data streaming in from channels that are increasingly operating in the ‘now’—and consumers expectation for immediate response to digital inquiries— companies must define the degree to which they will function in real-time, and what real-time means for them.

RTM carries with it a host of advantages and challenges, but more importantly, paves a path towards the proverbial Marketing Holy Grail: Being at the right place, at the right time, with the right content, for the right person.

Benefits of RTM support the consumer experience through hyper personalization, customization, surprise and delight. It also serves the brand, as companies themselves can appear present, informed, dynamic, dare we say—more human, and can enjoy tremendous media buzz and notoriety, increased following, and positive sentiment.

In speaking with a variety of brands, agencies and vendors who run real-time marketing programs, Altimeter identified the 6 most common use cases in which brands can leverage the ‘now.’ These use cases are organized by quadrants of ‘planned vs. unplanned,’ and ‘reactive vs. proactive.’


For a deeper dive into these use case, including real-life examples of brands executing in each, please download the full research report here, at no cost.

While the advantages and applications of RTM are clear, it can be rife with challenges without the proper measures of preparedness in place. Given the (near) immediate nature of interactions and posts, a brand misstep risks mass backlash, negative media attention, or at best, angry customers. From an organizational standpoint, RTM can be confusing, planning and resource-intensive, and requires immense preparation and coordination.

In numerous interviews with agency and brand-side practitioners, we found all successful RTM requires enormous strategic and tactical preparation, beginning with a strong, clear and well-defined content strategy. Altimeter outlines how companies can achieve ‘the agility to leverage ‘now’’ in the following 12 steps to success, organized by planning for strategy and planning for execution:


How companies will prepare for real-time will dictate the effectiveness of RTM programs, across all use cases. Companies must begin with open ears, listening to what and how their audiences are saying, interacting with, and behaving. They must define business goals as related to RTM and the business at large, and integrate the RTM program with the larger content and channel strategies. Another important early step is defining what “real-time” or “now” means for the brand, including the expectations for response and timeliness. Finally, before deploying, clear guardrails and trust must be established from the top down and bottom up; managers must trust those executing in real-time as much as those executing trust themselves to speak on behalf of the brand. Diligence in the ‘planning strategy’ phase also requires consideration of the risks and anticipation of negative RTM and how to avoid its fallout.

Our research found that, when planning execution, it is having the necessary people, processes, and tools in place that can make or break the agility needed for RTM. Part of designing workflow across multiple teams and departments means establishing triages and other protocols employees can follow to execute in real-time. When planning, marketers must build confidence and trust through training and scenario testing so that employees are armed with the appropriate actions in the heat of the moment. Finally, analysis of KPIs and other metrics help optimize RTM programs to be as smart and efficient as possible, which in turn, enable scale over time.

This report provides marketers with a detailed checklist of steps to take, questions to ask, training elements, and numerous brand examples of RTM across use cases. As with all of Altimeter’s research, Real-Time Marketing: The Agility to Leverage ‘Now is available at no cost under Creative Commons. Open research at its best requires your input, so give it a read and let us know your thoughts, or even how your company has activated RTM to leverage the moving target of ‘now.’

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