For centuries, business advantage has been created by the ability to fulfill needs faster than one’s competitors. But soon, marketing strategies driven by rapid response—even real-time response—won’t be good enough.
Welcome to the world of clairvoyant marketing, where soon, brands won’t wait even a microsecond for buyers to raise their hands. In this new, connected economy, customer-obsessed brands won’t be battling it out in the competitive landscape—they’ll be avoiding it altogether.
In this piece from Razorfish, we explore how and why the real-time marketer is naturally evolving to the clairvoyant marketer, highlighting:
- The rise and quick fall of real-time marketing
- The emergence of clairvoyant marketing
As the economy becomes increasingly connected, several emerging technologies are joining to create an entirely new definition of “customer experience.” Consider these not-too-far-in-the-future scenarios:
- An Uber car pulls up to your door anticipatorily (because the system knows you’ve got a flight in two hours).
- Your Nike+ app ships you a new pair of running shoes (because the app senses you’ve put too many miles on your existing pair).
- Your Trunk Club app sees a friend’s wedding on your calendar (and automatically lets your stylist know you might be needing a new suit).
- Your vehicle automatically plots a traffic-free route home (knowing you’re likely headed there after a day at the office) and alerts you to the location of the nearest gas station (given the pending snowstorm).
The transformation of sense and respond
When Jack Welch made his famous observation—that competitive advantage lies in the ability to respond to needs faster than competitors—he was looking through a 1980s lens and living in an era when concepts like smart machines and artificial intelligence resided exclusively in ivory towers and science fiction films.
But then came the Nexus of Forces, which introduced social media, mobile platforms, big data and the cloud, and created a sort of electronic looking glass that today provides previously unimaginable visibility into the buyer’s context—one in which people share where they are, whom they are with and what they are doing. The breadth and depth of the information available to marketers today empowers them to make offers that are far more intelligent and relevant than ever before.
The rise of real-time marketing
The initial triangulation of keen buyer insight, informed by data from the cloud, social media and mobile platforms, launched a movement (albeit one not heralded by a great deal of thunder) known as “RTM,” or real-time marketing. RTM’s fundamental assumption was that deep analysis of past and present behavior, combined with such techniques as location awareness, would award a brand with the ability to respond faster than its competitors.
Many times, this race to respond isn’t even necessarily won by the brand offering the superior product. In their eagerness to have their needs fulfilled instantly, buyers frequently show us just how much value they place on time and convenience. “Solve my problem, and solve it fast,” has become a common rallying cry of the digital customer (and especially of those who identify time poverty as one of life’s leading constraints).
But now, “Solve my problem fast” is giving way to “Solve my problem before it ever even exists.”
The quick fall of real-time marketing
It’s been said the best way to win the game is to not play the game. By changing the game’s fundamental rules or by altering—even crushing—the game’s working parameters, clever entrepreneurs in the connected economy joyfully watch established, century-old players lose market share to their disruptive, game-changing ideas.
It’s this type of thinking that led Uber founders to respond to “I need a ride,” instead of “I need a taxi.” Or Airbnb’s game changer, “I need a place to stay,” instead of “I need a hotel room.” Zocdoc makes doctors’ appointments that are cancelled at the last minute available to those willing to pay a premium for immediate care. In all these cases, entrepreneurs took a page from Clay Christensen’s jobs-to-be-done playbook: “Address the problem to be solved and nothing more,” using data (digitally visible for the first time) to form irresistible value propositions.
But even these disruptive examples rest on the model of using rapid response as a primary differentiator.