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5 Contextual Marketing Best Practices To Drive Retail Success

Real-time contextual marketing isn’t just one thing; there are five main real-time pillars on which real-time content can be triggered, and within each of these categories, real-time content can be used in multiple ways.

Geographic locations: (live weather forecasts, temperature maps, and location-based promotions)

Timer (countdowns, time-of-day/week/month alerts, expiring offers and discounts, social feeds, breaking news)

Device: (embedded video, location aware app download buttons, and deep linking for mobile devices)

Multilingual (headline images, articles, and ads in alternate languages)

Functionality (Based on the number of clicks or conversion metrics, creative/offer testing is conducted in real-time)

Having access to this type of content is a great way to connect with your prospects and customers based on their current context. To help make your contextual marketing program more successful, here are five best practices:

1. Testing Iteratively and Identifying the Quick Wins

The best starting point is usually a real-time content solution that is easy to deploy and delivers the most value for the business. Good partners can often point out these “quick win” candidates.

Plan multiple campaigns for testing. In a contextual marketing campaign, even when A/B is tested, testing on a single campaign is insufficient since context depends on continuously changing real-time conditions of your openers, and your messaging is constantly shifting. Typically, real-time content should be tested over multiple deployments over at least 15-20 days.

2. Identify limitations and respond to them

In some cases, it isn’t possible to use real-time content. The geo-targeting of Gmail openings on the web and in the Gmail app can be a good example. For B2Cmarketers, this typically amounts to about 50% of open rates, which is about 10% to 20% of all marketable databases. This restriction does not apply to accounts using the native iOS or Android mail client.

If recipients open emails through a VPN, geo-targeting is not possible. It is still possible to target based on time, language, and device. Since not all mail clients support embedded video when device targeting, fallback thumbnails will appear instead when this does not happen.

Partner with an email provider who can detect these situations and facilitate dynamically displaying fallback content, ensuring all recipients get the appropriate messages.

3. Automate your process

It is possible to set real-time content and forget about it. Retailers can reuse live inventory availability or pricing, social feeds, real-time news updates, personalized countdown timers, and live maps without building new creativity. With this type of content, emails remain relevant and engaging.

Plan the workflow for real-time content in the first four to five campaigns. Despite the ease of implementing real-time content, adding an extra day or two to the production schedule is a good idea if issues arise. Embedded video and live web content, which can be somewhat more complex to implement than other types of real-time content, are examples of this.

4. Performance is the key

Content that is updated in real-time may seem intuitive, but it has to be measured and validated. By real-time testing, call to action, timers, maps, and feeds can be dynamically customized to reflect up-to-the-minute click activity.

The real-time A/B testing process does not require a split between groups, and a winner is selected, unlike standard A/B testing, which requires sending the email twice and selecting a winner, streamlining workflow. You must run tests using variable frequency for at least 90 days with both a real-time and control group if you intend to use real-time content as a lever to enable lower frequency. Analyze unsubscribes and aggregate performance data (revenue, impressions, clicks) for each group to get a clear picture of effectiveness.

5. Utilize Real-Time Data for Maximum Value

Retail marketers can personalize emails for everyone in their database, even if they lack information on recipients ahead of time, because real-time content can reach everyone. Real-time content is extremely powerful when a marketer knows something about the recipient.

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