Despite real-time data, customers increasingly disaffected by brands

Nearly 60 per cent of UK organisations believe that real-time customer engagement can deliver a 10 to 40 per cent increase in revenue – yet most are failing to harness customer data to full effect.

According to The Age of Now report launched by SAS, brands are collecting less than a third of relevant personal data on their customers, while only 25 per cent of that data set is being used in segmentation for real-time customer engagement. The report revealed a stark difference between understanding of customer identity and being able to use the information available to drive customer intimacy in real time.

The report revealed that only 16 per cent of UK organisations can adjust their marketing communication in real-time based on customer behaviour, 17 per cent in a few hours, and 25 per cent within a day. Worryingly, only a quarter can halt or retract communications in reaction to unexpected socio-political events, and just a third claim to be able to switch communication channels in response to customer behaviour or external events. Moreover, 60 per cent of UK organisations said they are unable to communicate with customers via multiple channels in an integrated manner.

Tiffany Carpenter, Head of Customer Intelligence at SAS UK & Ireland, explains: “The Age of Now is dividing consumer-facing organisations. There is a small segment of organisations leading the charge to capture the imagination and needs of consumers. But most organisations are struggling to embrace real time. As consumers become ever more demanding of personalised experiences, organisations must bridge the gap by truly harnessing real-time customer engagement strategies. The strive for real-time communication is really focused on delivering at the right time.”

Creating meaningful customer-centric, real-time communication requires organisations to first have context around external offline factors – the environmental, political and economic context – to inform real-time interactions with their customers.  UK organisations have already taken the first step and are monitoring many factors including financial market movements (55 per cent), Government policy (48 per cent), major political events (34 per cent), retail price wars (33 per cent), consumer injustice (27 per cent), weather (26 per cent) and major attacks on the public (23 per cent).

The Age of Now report explored the major barriers to real-time customer engagement. Just over half claim budget constraints are a key obstacle, suggesting there may be willingness among many brands to undertake more real-time customer engagement initiatives. Other barriers include data security (40 per cent), legacy IT systems (30 per cent) and regulation (30 per cent). With GDPR fast approaching, a third of respondents believe this could be a positive trigger point to overhauling their data governance and improving their ability to analyse customer data in real-time.

The report also explored the rise in Artificial Intelligence (AI) usage. Interestingly, only a minority of organisations have implemented the necessary AI technology to communicate via the appropriate channel in real-time, and many still require human intervention. Nearly eight out of 10 (77 per cent) of organisations claimed to have deployed some form of AI technology but most admitted they were not fully exploiting it due to lack of skills (66 per cent), inability to provide ROI (55 per cent) and marketing not ready to embrace its use for real-time customer engagement (46 per cent).