Marketing technology, call it “martech” for short, continues to improve. The combination of real-time communications (RTC) with martech promises more creativity and innovation for companies to interact with and improve service to customers. Expect to see many companies to go “real” with voice and video as a key part of how they work with the customer to deliver the best experience.
The marketing community as a whole has had to deal with a shift from print (advertising) dollars to digital pennies. Money has dramatically shifted from hard-copy newspapers and magazines to online advertising with the much-loathed, yet dirt-cheap banner ads, pop up ads, and insert ads we now find cluttering web pages. Email, much maligned of late, provides a different avenue for advertisers to reach customers.
At first, digital advertising was effectively blind. Advertisers focused on selling page views, touting value in the sheer number of visitors to a web site with the best value being the total number of ad impressions shown, regardless of who viewed it. People began to get annoyed with seeing ads they had no interest in.
A second generation of digital advertising became a little more nuanced, keeping track of what items consumers were interested in and then happily displaying related ads across multiple channels from generic web pages to side ads on Facebook. The consumer was getting more of the same ad that he or she was interested in at different places, but there was an annoying, almost creepy aspect to process.
Enter Big Data. Businesses want to know more about who is on the other end of an ad, including demographic information based on location and IP address, interferences based on viewing and purchasing habits, and the ability to deliver more ads and other interactions based upon the profile built up around the viewer. Sophisticated analytics can provide a best guess snapshot of a particular user.
At the same time as the shift from print to digital advertising, companies began incorporating customer relationship management (CRM) systems into their call centers. Businesses could now keep track of all the interactions made with a particular household or customer, tying those interactions back into Big Data for analyzing what customers want and which customers want specific items.
Contextual engagement is the latest wave of martech, being able to interact with consumers in an environment they are comfortably with and enjoy. For example, software developers tend to like magic and comic books. Placing the right ads around their topics of interests will get better traction than either randomly spewing ads across websites or delivering a shotgun blast of advertising across multiple forums as the person moves from online place to place during the course of the day.
Real-time communications adds deeper interactions to contextual engagement, providing more ways to work with the customer in support and sales matters. For far too long, the contact center agent has been a faceless voice on the phone. With video, customers can see who they are actually talking to and choose to show themselves if they wish. With video, call center agents have a better mechanism with to build more human relationships with customers. The agent become someone real, not just a faceless IM chat robot or an anonymous voice on the phone.
Still pictures and video can provide more information to the call center agent. Problems with devices can be documented and addressed quickly, rather than having to have the customer verbally explain what has gone wrong and the call center agent have to translate that into something actionable. A shipping problem with a smashed box or a broken part can be quickly resolved via video.
Video also provides real time one-to-one and one-to-many opportunities for interaction. People no longer have to drop everything to go into the store a la Apple’s Genius Bar to get advice or problems solved, but can do so in the home on their own schedules. A customer agent can provide live demonstration and instruction via video, moving away from static, slumber-causing PowerPoint to spontaneous, more free-wheeling presentations.
And those are just the things that come to mind in a short discussion. Developers and businesses are just starting to integrate and work with real-time communications into their sales and marketing processes. Some will discover unique and, well, cool applications that we haven’t discovered yet.