It’s evident that the acceleration of e-commerce and digital technology over the last two pandemic-stricken years has transformed retail marketing forever — but we are on the cusp of another transformation, an advanced level of personalisation in marketing.

This transformation combines personalisation with an ability to recognise a customer’s context in real-time, where they are, what they’re doing, what’s happening around them at that very moment. It’s what Eagle Eye CEO and Tesco Clubcard Founder Tim Mason calls, “marketing in the moment.”

Advances in both digital technology and customer analytics have led to this dramatic shift in an omnichannel retailer’s ability to personalise promotions to customers. Over the last few years, retailers have kicked off personalisation capabilities, and some leading retailers are now sending customers a one-off personalised set of offers in which both the products and the rewards are customised and reflect each customer’s unique preferences. Retailers that use this model have seen significant increases in both digital engagement and offer redemption, as described in a recent BCG study, “The $70 Billion Prize in Personalized Offers”.

But there’s more to be done. Even the most sophisticated retailers are typically sending out offers through a single context; for example, all customers receive their offers via an email on the same day and at the same time every week. A downside of this approach is that some customers will consistently receive their offers just after they have been to the store and will likely be disappointed to miss out on the offers.

Leveraging “marketing in the moment,” however, recognises that every customer is different in terms of their shopping habits throughout the week. Instead, each customer would be sent offers on the day that best aligns with their individual preferences and behaviours. The offers might even be varied on the day itself, reflecting changes in the weather or timed around a community or sporting event happening in each customer’s neighbourhood.

Enter the matrix

Let’s look closely at a four-quadrant matrix of personalisation that ultimately highlights where different types of offers sit relative to a “marketing in the moment” model.

First, in the bottom left, quadrant no. 1, sit traditional above-the-line offers. These are in-store offers available to all customers and promoted through a mass paper circular. Here, every customer receives the same offer and via the same marketing tool, with no differentiation to reflect the context or the customer’s own preferences.

Moving into more contextual offers, look at quadrant no. 2, which includes offers such as a retailer with a recipe website that promotes ingredients. While the offers for certain ingredients reflects the customer’s context, typically it will not be personalised to reflect the unique preferences of the individual such as ingredients altered to reflect a shopper’s personal diet restrictions, for example.

Retailers that have personalised offers today can be found in quadrant no. 3, offering personalised content based on purchase history and the insights developed about preferences for products and rewards. However, as noted above, almost all retailers still send their personalised offers through a single context, with no variation to reflect the customer’s current situation like whether they are about to shop or have just finished shopping.

In the top right, quadrant no. 4, sits “marketing in the moment,” a model where retailers deliver the most optimal, personalised advertising message to a shopper at the most opportune time via the most relevant channel. It’s delivered by combining several data points, such as purchasing patterns, app usage and demographics, for each customer.  
Individual consumer data is viewed within a larger context, including seasonality, time of day, product availability, and the retailer’s promotional goals. The model enables businesses to deliver customised advertising at the precise moment to best motivate consumers to purchase.   

Imagine that a retailer knows that a certain customer spends more money in the “ready-to-eat meals” category than any other. When that shopper creates a click-and-collect order in the afternoon for an early evening pickup, their propensity for purchasing that product rises even higher. ”Marketing in the moment” could identify and deliver in-app coupons for a prepared meal front and centre when the customer opens the app.

What’s the context?

When looking at a “marketing in the moment” model, retailers have myriad contextual factors to consider when targeting a shopper. Joel Percy of Eagle Eye is the leading authority on Marketing in the moment and he has identified four key contexts:

  • The environment. What’s happening in the world right now for the customer like weather, sporting events and community events.
  • Location. Where the customer is at that moment in time such as at home, in a store, near a store, on the subway, etc.
  • Activity. What is the customer doing right now? Is the customer in the app, browsing recipes, editing a shopping list?
  • System triggers. What just happened in the loyalty platform? For example, did the customer cross a rewards threshold, receive a voucher, or engage over social media?

Although it’s still in its infancy, we believe “marketing in the moment” will allow retailers to reach shoppers at the precise time when it matters most – right when the shopper is making their purchasing decision.

As more consumers make their shopping activity trackable through apps and delivery services, “marketing in the moment” capabilities will naturally increase for all retailers who want to reach shoppers where they want to be noticed – in the moment.

Jonathan Reeve is general manager for Asia Pacific at Eagle Eye Solutions.