Interacting with customers in real time is a priority for marketers, but it’s also a major challenge. Customers now have nuanced and sophisticated expectations for real time engagement from brands, which go far beyond timely social media replies. For marketers to engage customers in real time, they must use personalized messaging to seamlessly connect customers' online and offline experiences.

To create powerfully personalized real time customer experiences, marketers need to share relevant customer data across platforms and align company teams to engage customers. Beyond this, they must also be responsive to social media and should scale customer interactions with artificial intelligence (AI).

Unify customer data

Instantaneous interactions with hundreds or thousands of individual customers require a lot of data. Marketers today use more data sources than ever before and the numbers are rapidly increasing. According to the most recent State of Marketing report from Salesforce, the average number of data sources used by marketers rose 25% from 2018 to 2019!



Unfortunately, many marketers can’t access all of their data at the same time, or from the same place. This is because data is often siloed in multiple departments. When companies juggle multiple data sources, marketing is hard. To access the information they need for ongoing interactions with customers, marketers need to have unified data across every company department and messaging platform.

Among marketers who have unified customer data, many have begun to use their data management platforms (DMPs) to do even more. DMPs were created to deliver personalized digital ads, but now they’re being used to surface insights, segment audiences, and manage customer identities. Many marketers also plan to use their DMPs for media buying and digital advertising optimization. When customer data is unified, it unlocks new innovative opportunities for real time engagement.

Align your teams

Customers view brands as single units. They don’t see a company’s marketing, sales, commerce, and service teams differently — they simply see the brand, and they expect unified experiences across that brand. To deliver those experiences, it’s essential for all of a company’s teams to be aligned around data so that they can proactively engage customers in real time.



Imagine that a customer has a frustrating conversation with a brand’s service representative. In that moment, that customer isn’t just unhappy with the service representative — they’re unhappy with the whole brand. To create a relevant customer journey that improves the relationship, other brand teams need to take this information into account as quickly as possible. For example, the marketing team should change the tone of the customer’s email pipeline, to avoid sending happy marketing emails to an unhappy customer with an unresolved service issue.

Get social

There’s one digital forum in particular where brands can achieve huge real time success: social media.

It’s clear that social media is now a core component of all brand activities, from brand building and product announcements, to lead generation and customer acquisition, and beyond. It’s also the ultimate place to publicly engage customers in real time.

In many ways, social media’ is virtually synonymous with ‘real time’! When data is unified and teams are aligned, brands can use social media to interact with customers in relevant ways — to share jokes and product tips, resolve complaints, and technical issues, have conversations and follow-up after purchases, and more.

Scale with artificial intelligence

Beyond unified data and aligned teams, AI is the ultimate secret to personalizing customer experiences in real time. By using data to automate content creation and set publishing schedules, AI can save your teams time and effort, and scale your marketing to create meaningful experiences for specific audiences at exactly the right moments.



As marketers unleash AI on ever-growing data sets, they must also balance the scale of their personalized interactions with customer concerns about privacy. Earning and keeping customer trust may be the main reason why engaging with customers in real time can be such a challenge for marketers. Responsible use of customer data and AI is the key to success in delivering personalized, real time customer experiences.

Today’s customer demands powerfully personalized real time experiences. That means modern marketers are venturing into uncharted territory — but with the right data and sparks of inspiration, they can blaze new and successful trails.

To ignite your spark, read the new State of Marketing report.