EXPERT ADVICE

Continuous Intelligence: Where Message Meets Moment

Online measurement has become increasingly focused on the integration of online behavior with customer marketing touch-points. Taking a complete view of the customer acquisition life cycle will often generate numerous potential integration points that can be profitably exploited.

The goal of every marketing organization should be to achieve consistent relevance around both “message” and “moment.” To achieve this, an organization must pay attention to every identifiable pattern of activity that signals a contact opportunity and match that to an optimal message.

This doesn’t just happen. It requires an online measurement integration strategy based on creating information-driven contacts at EVERY state in the customer life cycle — a strategy we call “full touch-point marketing.” To achieve this, a new breed of software, Complex Event Processing, and Continuous Intelligence provide a cost-effective and superior technology for implementing a full touch-point marketing strategy.

Achieving Full Touch-Point Marketing

When should you able to reach out and communicate to your customers? When is it necessary to be able to refine your communications with what you know about each customer? The answers to these two questions are, respectively, often and always.

The core requirement for good communication is relevance, and relevance is driven by knowledge: “What does this consumer care about?”, “What does this consumer need to know?”, and “What is top-of-mind for this consumer right now?” These are questions that every single communication should take into account.

To be able to do that, an organization has to be able to collect data from all its various touch-points. It has to be able to combine that data into a view of the consumer. It has to be able to make sense of that data in ways that answer the key questions that drive communications relevance. Of course, it has to be able to do all that in something close to real time so that the right message is delivered at the right time. This combination of “message” and “moment” is the key to fully effective touch-point marketing.

If this sounds really hard, that’s because it is. To realize this vision will take a fundamental change in the way most organizations collect, process and analyze information. Complex Event Processing (CEP) software provides the sort of Continuous Intelligence (CI) that touch-point marketing demands. CEP provides a real-time engine for identifying key customer behaviors within the very large amounts of data typically generated by today’s Web sites. It also provides essential capabilities to tie those patterns to key customer information and then push that information to the core systems used to generate and personalize emails, offline communications, and dynamic Web site content.

Full Touch-Point Marketing

The more you message your audience, the more relevant your messages have to be. Full Touch-Point Marketing is about opening as many conversations as you can with your customers — from the beginning of their product interest to after they place an order — and making each of those conversations valuable and relevant to both sides.

In the classic customer acquisition model, people move from suspects (fitting the potential audience profile for a customer) to prospects (engaged in some way with marketing messages) to shoppers (in an actual sales funnel or process) to customers.

When we look at patterns of web site behavior, however, it is easier to shift this model slightly to focus on the acquisition stage a visitor is in. When we look for patterns that identify a new product interest, the pattern is as likely to apply to an existing customer as it is to a prospect.

Instead of focusing on the type of visitor, organizations interested in finding touch-point opportunities need to shift their thinking to a focus on the type of pattern. When they do that, several major categories of behavioral patterns tend to emerge.

We classify these patterns as “early-stage marketing” (activities designed to capture interest in a customer before “hard” shopping behaviors begin), “at-point marketing” (activities designed to maximize conversion when the customer is actively shopping and at point-of-sale), and “re-marketing” (activities designed to re-engage visitors who fall-out of our other marketing efforts).

Identifying these patterns is just the first step in full touch-point marketing. The identification of a promising visitor pattern must be accompanied by a method for messaging that visitor with relevant information or offers. This message must be delivered while the visitor’s window of attention is still opened. The longer you wait to deliver a message, the higher the likelihood that this window has slammed shut and your message will hit a glass wall. Message and moment are both critical.

Software to Achieve Full Touch-Point Marketing

Unfortunately, the IT infrastructure to achieve this “right message at the right moment” level of touch-point marketing isn’t easy. The volumes of data are large. The requirement for near real-time processing and response is daunting and outside of what has typically been delivered within traditional corporate IT.

CEP software and the Continuous Intelligence solutions they support are designed for just this sort of task. CEP software is designed to seek out patterns in the way events occur and are optimized for analyzing large volumes of events in real-time. Because of this, CEP engines have traditionally been deployed in applications like automated stock trading, credit card fraud detection, and real-time networks to monitor telecom services or energy grids.

In the online world, every time a visitor interacts with the Web site, an event is triggered. Tracking a large volume of visitors and responding to behavior patterns in real time is no easy task. An effective monitoring system needs to be able to rapidly identify these events, determine appropriate responses and communicate with outbound systems. These requirements place a premium on three factors.

  • Performance: Web sites often have many, many thousands of visitors active, each of which of needs to be tracked across a continuous stream of clicks, checked against their existing profile, and monitored across potentially hundreds of behavior patterns. A CEP platform provides the performance to analyze visitor activity in real time and the scalability to run many diverse analytic queries across thousands of active visitors.
  • Flexibility: The fluid nature of Web site content, products and services catalogs, and visitor behavior could create an application management nightmare for a hard-wired customer monitoring system. A CEP engine provides a powerful, easy to use SQL-like language that allows developers to rapidly build visitor monitoring and event recognition rules. Since the logic is run external to the core online commerce applications, new logic can be deployed as needed without changes to the core online applications.
  • Integration: To drive real action from the data, you need to design a messaging and contact strategy that takes advantage of ALL the information you have about your customers. A CEP engine is designed to work with real-time data streams and integrate with SQL data stores, which contain customer and reference data to deliver truly personalized messages and offers.

In Summary

The goal of every marketing organization should be to achieve consistent relevance around both “message” and “moment.” The core capabilities to do this — whether the opportunity be in pre-marketing, at-point marketing or re-marketing — are essentially identical. They include the ability to

  • seamlessly integrate real-time data from the online channel with your customer and product data stores,
  • identify important patterns or events in that data,
  • update and monitor those events with business rules without having to rebuild or re-write complex applications, and
  • take all of that intelligence and drive it to out-bound systems, including the Web site, email systems and call centers on a real-time or near real-time basis.

These capabilities form the core of a system that can dramatically transform the effectiveness of your Web marketing: moving it from a siloed customer touch-point to an integrated, full-touch-point marketing system admirably adapted to the future of online customer marketing.

Using traditional technologies, building this core system is a daunting task. However, the capabilities inherent in CEP systems and Continuous Intelligence are quite well-adapted to exactly this class of problem. They deliver the necessary real-time performance, adaptability and integration to make this system work.

Paying attention to every stage of the marketing process and each part of the contact strategy is the best way to ensure that your messaging is about the right offer at the right time. That combination adds up to relevance and relevance is the key to making magic moments truly magical.


Gary Angel is president and CTO of Semphonic. John Morrell is VP of product marketing at Aleri.


Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

Related Stories

E-Commerce Times Channels