A Matter of Time: New Research from Bain & Company

July 2018

Recently, Google published a new series of articles based on a global study in partnership with Bain & Company. The study surveyed nearly 1,700 marketing decision makers around the world to produce a deeper understanding of how marketers are using audience insights and technology to drive growth. The research suggests that time has new meaning in marketing today. It’s no longer enough for companies to know their audience – knowing when to capture consumers’ attention and change their minds is the next frontier.

Match Messages to the Right Moments 

As technology evolves, people are changing how they search. With consumers looking for answers from the palm of their hand or using their voice, time is of the essence. They are more curious, impatient and likely to make decisions on the fly. So the biggest challenge for marketers in the emerging age of assistance is knowing when to act.

While customers continue to grow more time-sensitive and demanding, technology is essential if companies want to keep pace. According to Bain’s research, marketers who use rich insights, cross-functional collaboration and integrated technology are the ones that are capable of making successful customer connections right on time.

Want to learn more? Read “Time Is of The Essence: How Leading Marketers Match Messages to the Right Moments”.

Customer Understanding: The When Factor

Laura Beaudin, Bain partner and lead for the firm’s global marketing excellence work, says that when it comes to getting ahead in a data-driven world, a single trend stands out in the research across North America, Europe, Australia and Japan. “The one thing that was consistent around the world was that the top priority for marketers was gaining a better understanding of their customers and an improved ability to reach them,” she explains.

Although knowing the customer has long been a priority for marketers, the game has changed in crucial ways. “We are entering an era when you need to incorporate not only an audience profile based on demographic attributes or expected behaviours,” she says. “But you need to start playing with the element of time – when you’re talking to consumers – in order to ensure your marketing is reaching them in the right moment. While timing has always been key to marketing, today’s technology helps marketers redefine time by being able to act on insights in real time.”

Right Place, Wrong Time?

Many companies are making use of advanced data analytics to identify the right customers to market to, but message timing remains an underappreciated variable. The technology now exists for marketers to learn when to communicate and in what order, and to do so in near real time. Getting smart about message timing can help companies to generate more business with fewer or more efficient ads, or expand their audience to find unexpected wins.

Bain’s research found three areas where leading companies are getting message timing right. By identifying and using signals to understand consumer intent, marketers can identify the right moments in the customer journey where ads will be most relevant. Once a company spots the crucial signals, it can deliver a sequence of messages tailored to each customer. And speed is critical, because faster reaction times go a long way toward more effective marketing.

See “Is Your Marketing in the Right Place but at the Wrong TimeIs Your Marketing in the Right Place but at the Wrong Time?” for further insights.

Case in Point: How Adidas Uses Consumer Insights to Grow

With marketers competing for consumer attention in the moment, Adidas offers an example of how to get it right. Embracing digital has enabled the brand to be faster and smarter. “With the right approach to data and technology, you can continuously monitor the pulse of the consumer and how they respond”, says Joseph Godsey, Adidas Global Head of Digital Brand Commerce.

Digital information and consumer insights help Adidas tell more relevant, meaningful stories and ensure the stories they’re telling are resonating. Beyond marketing strategy, insights also help the brand uncover new, efficient ways of working to build better products and consumer experiences.

Read the full story of the brand’s transformation in “How Consumer Insights and Digital Have Led to Adidas’ Growth”.

How to Get Time on Your Side

What are the operational factors that enable companies to put these kinds of savvy marketing strategies into place? The research showed that marketers making the biggest leaps forward share several ways of working in common. They tend to have a stronger understanding of their tech stack and its importance to their success. They work faster and smarter by reviewing fresh information regularly to turn insights into action. And because they’re closer to the source of insights, they can easily understand their media investments to drive future performance gains.

If you’d like to see these concepts brought to life, view the infographic “How Leading Marketers Get Time On Their Side”.

A version of the articles above first appeared as sponsor content on HBR.org in May 2018.

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