Data-driven marketing is a hot topic right now, and many marketers are either in the middle of, or just getting started on, their data journey. However, one of the data concepts that is often misconceived is ‘real-time data’.
“The importance of real-time data needs to be determined by your organisation’s ability to actually consume that information in real time,” Qrious general manager Simon Conroy told Stoppress recently in a discussion about the intersection of marketing and analytics.
“Real-time is an overused term,” he says. “It was always held up as the panacea – getting real time information on your customers and the resulting insights fundamentally changing the cadence of your organisation. However, it is organisational culture that drives speed of execution, which in my experience typically sees a lot of money invested in producing real-time dashboards which get printed out and read a week later.”
Conroy prefers the term “right time”, which in his mind is anywhere from instantaneous to weeks later – making the information available when its impact is the greatest. Another distinction Conroy likes to make is the difference between real-time calculation vs. real-time delivery of insights.
Calculating the next best offer for a customer will typically be the culmination of a number of different changes in behaviour over time, such as previous purchase history or product feedback. Clearly, this calculation doesn’t have to happen in real time. However, capitalising on this insight via a website to make a recommendation would require real-time delivery capability. Conversely adding context to a pre-calculated recommendation and altering the product suggestion based on current behaviour would also be an example of real-time calculation.
Conroy’s role at Qrious is one that has a specific focus on marketing and customer behaviour. The definition of customer is fairly broad as this can include a lot of work with government departments, with citizens as the subject rather than customers.
“The beauty of data science,” he says, “is that the application is agnostic to what you’re measuring. For example, airlines optimising rosters and plane schedules, or a retailer targeting products is based on the same underlying maths as that used by government to predict social behavior. It’s just a different application. In the public sector, departmental interactions with citizens, can trigger a recommended action in real time. What we know about someone based on historical behaviour might be very different to current circumstances that may require some immediate intervention.”
The analytics is based on data-lake technology – holding people’s information, and using real-time analytics to help decide what actions need to be taken. This is an area that Qrious is investing heavily in.
Prime Minister, Bill English, has always been a big proponent of analytics and its use in Government, as demonstrated by his involvement in the Data Futures Partnership Forum. Conroy is hopeful that the Prime Minister’s influence will lead to a greater focus on cross-departmental coordination, which is one of the most exciting opportunities for data in New Zealand.
As Conroy puts it, “If you can identify from a number of data points that someone is at risk, for whatever reason, and this next action is one that could trigger some better outcome, then identifying that through data and analytics has to be better than being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Because humans are complex by nature, you need complex ways of understanding those trends and patterns.”
So, while real-time is getting a lot of attention and is enabling marketers to do things previously thought difficult or even impossible, it’s not for everyone – and rightly so. For those organisations that can’t capitalise on real time data, right time will still deliver significant benefit and set the foundation for future advancement.
- Graham Medcalf is a writer and former editor of NZ Marketing Magazine