Event-Driven & Real-Time Marketing for Retail

Back in 2013, Tom Hiddleston and the Cookie Monster tried to teach us about delayed gratification. Since then, customers’ expectations of personalized experiences and tailor-made solutions for their needs, along with instant gratification, have only grown.

How can you keep such customers happy? The key to their satisfaction hides within event-driven marketing (EDM, trigger or event-based marketing, EBM). If you’re a retailer looking to utilize available data to boost results, keep reading!

Today’s article will explore the peculiar topic of event-driven marketing and its application in the retail industry. With a better understanding of that strategy, you can apply it to unlock the path to enhanced engagement, boosted conversions, and overall brand loyalty improvement.

Let’s get started!

Definition of Event-Driven Marketing for Online Retailers

The EDM approach focuses on key events of the customer’s lifecycle. Once you identify those events, build marketing communications around them. And when they occur, an activity is triggered.

The practice started back in 1995 in the financial sector, but today, thanks to the availability of Customer Data Platforms and CRM software, it’s applicable to virtually any industry that can register events. And that includes retail.

The reason for its success in retail is quite simple. Key events in customers’ lifecycles can influence and sway brand loyalties.

EDM relies on those events in combination with the customer’s behavior to enact personalized interactions that lead to better results. The goal, of course, is to foster stronger customer relationships in an environment that makes a challenge out of acquiring customer loyalty.

But just as with any other instrument, the coin of event-driven marketing for retail has two sides. Even though the ability to offer personalized messages in a timely, near real-time manner is promising, it’s not without drawbacks.

Below, you’ll find the benefits and potential pitfalls to avoid when proceeding with EDM.

Overview of Benefits and Potential Pitfalls of Using Event-Driven Marketing

To create meaningful targeted event-driven campaigns that positively impact your bottom-line results, you must carefully gather and analyze available data, plan thoroughly, and execute and evaluate results. If you do that, you can expect numerous benefits:

A. Benefits of Event-Driven Marketing for Retail

  • Relevant and Timely Campaigns – when building marketing campaigns around key industry events as triggers, you ensure they will be relevant and will stand out from the competition.
  • Enhanced Customer Engagement – targeted campaigns built around specific events can gain traction and enjoy increased engagement because they capitalize on current hype around the event.
  • Improved Customer Lifetime Value – event-driven marketing strategies boost brand recognition and loyalty by staying relevant to customers. That, in turn, increases CLV because people keep purchasing from the brand.
  • Enhanced Personalization by using events as triggers for your campaigns, you can achieve hyper-personalization and deliver tailored content promptly.
  • Maximized Seasonal Campaigns – holidays, festivals, and major sporting and cultural events are pivotal in customer behavior and can change it. Think about the Christmas craze or the Halloween hype. When you plan event-based campaigns, you can make the most out of seasonality.
  • A Data-Backed Competitive Edge – to adopt such a marketing approach, you must analyze the tons of data related to managing a retail business. It is the greatest treasure you might ask for, and when you stop underutilizing it, you’ll gain a competitive edge.
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But you must approach EDM with a cool head. Plenty of pitfalls might ruin your marketing efforts if you’re careless with your activities. Check them out below!

B. Pitfalls of Event-Driven Marketing

  • Limited Engagement & Activity – when you plan ahead and rely too heavily on events as triggers for marketing activities, you risk limited engagement. Strong customer relationships require constant communication, don’t focus too much on events at the expense of uneventful periods.
  • Poor Planning & Preparation – since EBM requires you to pre-plan, you might do an inadequate job. You can’t carry out successful event-driven marketing without a detailed plan, with a clear timeline and polished content. Otherwise, you risk ineffective communication and missed opportunities.
  • Inconsistent Customer Experience – heavy reliance on event-based marketing activities might lead to inconsistent communication during periods without event triggers. If you focus too much on EDM campaigns, you risk inconsistent messaging and an overall confusing experience that will hurt your brand.
  • Limited Budget & Resources – if you don’t have the people or resources to gather data and make quality analyses, you’re better off avoiding such an approach. It’s resource-intensive, and if you can’t provide for it, it will lead to ineffective results and questionable scalability.
  • Privacy Concerns – data is key for successful event-based marketing. The best source, of course, is zero- and first-party data. But that also raises compliance and privacy concerns. Ensure your customers feel like you respect their privacy and that you comply with local regulations.
  • Poor Alignment with Expectations – when done poorly, EDM might hurt your brand. Customers require hyper-personalization and want to know brands are paying attention. If you don’t invest the effort to do it, you might damage your brand engagement.

Keep those in mind when deciding whether to apply event-driven marketing in your retail business.

Before you start crafting creatives for the summer vacation promos or write Halloween-inspired punchlines, think twice about using this approach in the first place.

Below, we’ll help you evaluate your retail business and consider whether that’s the best moment to start relying on events as triggers.

How to Decide if Your Business is Ready for Event-Driven Marketing?

When evaluating your business readiness, you must consider several aspects of successful EDM. Those include:

  • Knowing Your Customer – do you understand your customers? Are you capable of gathering enough data on them? If you don’t know your customers, you won’t be able to choose key events and personalize communications effectively.
  • Content Creation & Resources – event-based marketing requires content to align with those events. If you don’t have the resources and ability to create the necessary content with quality in mind, you’re not ready for this approach.
  • Available Data & Insights – do you have the instruments to help you with data collection and analysis? Can you use a customer data platform to help with customer profile creation and segmenting data?
  • Available Automation Capabilities – are you using a robust tool like VibeTrace to automate the repetitive tasks associated with EDM? If you lack the necessary technology, you won’t be able to scale your campaigns since you’ll be preoccupied with doing everything manually.
  • Stakeholders & Participants – EBM requires cross-team collaboration. Marketing, sales, CRM – everyone needs to be on board. Decision makers also need to green-light the approach since there’s resource allocation involved.
  • Competition & Growth – evaluate the competition. Are they using event-based marketing, and if not – why? How does it impact their results? Check out their approach and tactics and give yourself a competitive edge.

Once you evaluate those aspects of your retail business, you can take meaningful steps forward. Remember that event-driven marketing isn’t suitable for every situation or every business model, even though it’s huge in retail.

Sometimes, it’s enough to stick to good old reactive real-time marketing. How do they differ? Let’s see in the next section!

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Difference Between Real-Time and Event-Driven Marketing

Real-time and event-driven marketing are two closely related concepts. They both rely on personalization and cross-channel communication, but there are several key differences you can explore below:

  1. Purpose of the Campaigns – real-time marketing focuses on capturing the attention and inspiring immediate action through relevant and urgent messages you’d send regularly. Event-driven marketing aims at inspiring action during specific events.
  2. Impact of the Campaigns real-time marketing often is reactive, with campaigns launched in the spur of the moment as a response to a trend or specific real-time customer behavior on the store or social media channels. When you build your campaigns around events, you plan ahead based on predetermined factors.
  3. Triggers – as the name suggests, you want to have near real-time reactions to customer behavior, interactions, and feedback in real-time marketing. Event-based campaigns focus on anticipated events you assume would occur and plan for.

Those aspects sum up the key differences between the two. A retailer can execute both. Consider a long-time planned major sale dedicated to a store’s 5th birthday combined with a real-time marketing event like live shopping.

If you have the tools and data, you don’t have to choose between the two types of approach. Instead, leverage both to make the most out of specific situations.

In the next section, we’ll cover some key event types that will help navigate an event-driven marketing strategy – don’t miss it out.

Type of Events that Drive this Marketing Strategy

Customer journeys are a string of events and micro-moments that guide someone toward a purchase. As a retailer, you can enable the whole process by anticipating those events and providing relevant messages and timely offers when they occur.

For that to be possible, you must know your customer well. Gathering data and building buyer personas are a must if you want to apply EDM successfully. That’s because you must first identify the most relevant key events. In a retail context, those can be:

  • Simple Anticipated (Predicted) Events – something that has already occurred once. Let’s say a customer’s birthday or a subscription anniversary.
  • Significant Events – rarely applicable to retail since you can’t predict things like a lottery win or a promotion. But you can assign significant events relevant to your context. For example, a significant event might be amassing an X amount of loyalty points and the ability to redeem them as a big discount.
  • Lifecycle Events – those are life-altering events like marriage, having a child, or getting a mortgage that might sway brand loyalties.
  • Super Events also known as behavioral, those are a sequence or combination of different events that can reveal the customer’s current situation and circumstances.

As you can see for yourself, not all events are within the scope and knowledge of retail businesses. You can’t be sure someone’s having a child if they purchase baby shoes – that might be a gift.

That’s why it’s of the utmost importance to select suitable events. Always make this the first step of your event-driven marketing strategy. Below, you’ll get a step-by-step blueprint on how to build one.

How to Build an Event-Driven Marketing Strategy?

A successful marketing strategy built around events has several aspects. Our blueprint will help you come up with and execute meaningful campaigns that generate significant results. Here are the key steps to consider:

1. Choose Your Events

Start by identifying events relevant to your industry or of interest to your target audience. When you build your buyer persona and make assumptions about their customer journey and micro-moments, you can easily anticipate such events.

Some of the most popular events in retail revolve around buying behavior, personal events, and general holidays. You can plan targeted event-based campaigns according to people abandoning their carts, browsing specific categories, shopping exclusively with discounts, etc. Or you can plan for their birthday and the most recent holiday.

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Either way, you must track and record activity, preferences, and transactional data. Interactions with marketing campaigns provide additional insights into customer behavior and interests.

Leverage a powerful CDP to break down and thoroughly analyze the information you can access. That way, you can change the impact of marketing campaigns – they’ll be relevant and timely.

2. Analyze Brand Performance

Historical performance is a key indicator. If you want to make accurate forecasts for future results from event-driven marketing, analyze past results from past event-based campaigns. Did last year’s Black Friday achieve the desired results, and why not? Did last year’s customers with birthdays in Q1 take advantage of their discounts?

Historical performance will inform you of what worked and what didn’t so that you can optimize your future event-based campaigns. It will reveal patterns and actionable insights that can guide the decision-making process and the specific execution of future campaigns.

3. Plan Ahead

Event-driven marketing is a cross-channel communication activity. Since you’ll want to be present across multiple channels for the specific event, you must plan ahead. That includes:

  • preparing all the creatives;
  • testing out the entire funnel;
  • executing key activities leading up to the event itself.

When you plan ahead, you can support event-driven with real-time marketing activities, be present and engage with customers in real or near real-time. The result, of course, will be the seamless execution of a promising campaign.

4. Create Compelling Content

When you know your audience, and you’re clear on the events you’ll be creating targeted campaigns for, you can align both and develop impactful creatives. That includes the visual elements, pictures, and the copy of a campaign.

To achieve the desired results, tailor the necessary content to the context of the event that triggers the activity. For example, develop creatives for summer promo ads with flip-flops and sandy beaches. Use language corresponding to the event context – e.g., festive words and emotions if the trigger is the customer’s birthday, and so on.

The goal of creatives aligned with the event context is to keep customers engaged by showing them relevant and up-to-date content. No one wants to see Christmas ads in the middle of June. That won’t resonate with your target audience in its most current circumstances.

5. Engage & Monitor Performance

Once an event-based marketing campaign launches, enter real-time mode, especially if the campaign requires it (let’s say, flash sales or single-day events).

The continuous monitoring of KPIs like CTR, store traffic, and conversions helps you stay on top of events.

That way, you can react immediately to changes in customer behavior. Additionally, continuous monitoring allows you to make real-time adjustments and campaign optimization if necessary. Staying active across real-time communication channels like social media allows you to keep customers engaged for the campaign duration.

And after it’s over – rinse and repeat. Plan again, plan better for the next event. And improve!

Now that you know how to craft your EBM strategy, let’s explore some ways you can implement it.

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How to Implement Event-Driven Marketing?

Once you craft your strategy, it’s time to implement it. To achieve the desired results, there are several ways to enhance customer interactions. Let’s have a look:

A. Personalizing Event-Driven Messages

People are more likely to become loyal to brands if they receive a personalized experience aligned with their needs and interests. You must know how your customers differentiate – do that with the help of your CRM software and sales team.

That way, you’ll know where every customer is in their journey. That allows you to craft relevant event-driven messages capable of moving people to the next stage.

B. Automating Processes

Email marketing automation and workflows help remove repetitive operational tasks from your workload. That way:

  • You can provide timely reactions to triggers;
  • And focus on strategic activities that boost growth.

Events like cart abandonment, email subscriptions, and placing a new order can act as triggers for automated workflows. You can create them around other specific events, like birthdays, or create workflows for your upcoming summer sale.

Retail offers you lots of opportunities to automate processes – use them and focus your efforts and energy on high-impact tasks that can’t be automated.

C. Integrating with Other Platforms and Systems

The ability to tailor messages and automate processes is closely related to the use and integration of robust platforms and systems like VibeTrace. Such solutions come with several advantages. The most notable of them are:

  1. A customer data platform that tracks and logs customer activity and characteristics. That’s data you can segment, analyze, and draw actionable insights.
  2. Product recommendations engine that uses complex algorithms to help with tailor-made recommendations aligned with customers’ specific needs, purchasing behavior, preferences, and interests. As a result, you can execute highly personalized event-based marketing campaigns.
  3. Automation capabilities that allow you to set up automated workflows such as the ones we discussed.

When you make the most out of your CRM, available data, and sophisticated tools, you can further enhance the user experience. As a result, you’ll have fruitful interactions with customers based on behavior-forming events that guide your marketing campaigns.

D. Implementing Real-Time Marketing

As mentioned above, event-based and real-time marketing don’t have to exist separately. On the contrary – once it’s time to execute your pre-planned campaign, turn reactive. Monitor real-time campaign performance, adjust as necessary, and boost engagement.

Real-time customer behavior provides actionable insights on how to optimize your campaign as it unfolds. Let’s say you planned a week-long campaign for Halloween with discounts, promotions, and different vouchers unlocking for loyal customers every day.

You might notice people flowing through the funnel but not converting. You can use targeted messages in near real-time to move people along depending on how they act and engage with your pre-planned campaign.

That’s key for optimizing your event-driven marketing strategy. Below, we’ll discuss several aspects to consider and optimize when executing such campaigns for even better results!

Optimization Strategies for Event-Driven Marketing

Event-based marketing offers some of the best opportunities for retail growth. Using events to build your campaigns significantly boosts their quality and potential to convert.

Whenever relying on user behavior to craft and execute campaigns, you might record dozens of events. Let’s consider a cart abandonment campaign.

Before the “Hey, you left something in your cart” email, the system might record the user adding an item, viewing the cart, viewing another product, viewing a similar product, initiating the checkout process, confirming the shipping address, and etc.

That means the user’s circumstances and the stage in their journey shift. The last event that’s been recorded before the user activity stops determines their final state. To optimize your campaigns based on user behavior, pay attention to the following aspects:

1. Defining Goals and Objectives

We can’t predict every aspect of user behavior. What we can do as marketers is define clear goals and objectives and align our messages with them, as well. That way, we can appeal to customers’ need for personalization while simultaneously serving our own purposes.

2. Measuring ROI

How much does it cost you to craft event-based marketing campaigns? Often, retailers give up on tailoring their campaigns to specific customers and for their particular stage of the customer journey because it requires time and effort to analyze the available data.

Yet, in the long run, it’s much more profitable and cheaper to keep existing customers engaged and loyal than to constantly acquire new ones.

3. Creating Relevant Content & Delivering it in Real-Time

When you collect data and use powerful algorithms to make highly personalized recommendations, event-driven marketing becomes much more relevant. That helps you craft and serve near real-time content and responses that move customers to the next stage in their buyer’s journey.

4. Retargeting Strategies

Once you measure the ROI and analyze the KPIs corresponding to your goals and objectives, you can proceed with retargeting strategies. Today’s tools and advertising platforms allow you to reach customers across the web.

Just use the acquired data to create specific audiences and lists of people to retarget after an event-based campaign.

5. Reaching Out to Lapsed Customers

EBM and the available data make it easier to reach out to lapsed customers. It’s also cheaper to try to reactivate people who have been interested in your brand than to attract new visitors and convince them to become paying customers.

Additionally, when you rely on event-based marketing, you can easily detect people who are at risk of lapsing and abandoning your brand. You’ll be able to detect telltale signs like unopened communication, missed dedicated discounts, abandoned carts and checkout processes, and unsubscriptions.

Why Rely on Event-Driven Marketing?

The average response rate for event-driven marketing varies between 20% and 50%. In comparison, the traditional marketing approach reaches about 3%. That massive difference comes from the fact that people prefer to buy something when they want to, not when you force it on them.

The “when” in retail is defined by key industry events that change customer circumstances. Those might be customer birthdays, subscription anniversaries, or major holidays for which you prepare campaigns often months in advance.

That’s because people “start looking for something” when their circumstances change. 80% of people become receptive to marketing communication at that moment, and up to 20% will act on the need created by the event.

If you want to be there for the 20% that decided to proceed with a purchase, you need to apply event-based marketing. Start today and plot a path to prosperity for your business!

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