Last Updated: November 26, 2020

Consumers around the world today expect instant gratification. Smart phones, tablets, and laptops keep us entertained, updated, and informed almost every second of the day. As such, people are becoming increasingly proficient at using technology. According to a John Hopkins University study, individuals check e-mail or change online windows 37 times an hour while at work.

Because of this increasing need for immediate gratification and information, the way that companies market to consumers has changed as well.

In the past, marketing consisted of carefully constructed campaigns that followed schedules and deadlines and usually launched weeks after the inception of the campaign. Now customers expect real-time marketing, constructed on the spot to create instant and short-term value specific to their spending personalities and preferences. (See also Computational Marketing)

For example, website visitors may see a pop-up ad that corresponds to the product he or she is looking at online — a real-time offer based on the users’ preferences and web history.

For those with any doubt about the power of real-time marketing on purchase decisions, consider this: According to an e-commerce white paper by the company User Interface Engineering, approximately 40 percent of all consumer spending online is based on impulse buys. What’s more, according to recent marketing surveys, about 75 percent of survey participants agreed that a special sale price would encourage an impulse buy.

What is real-time marketing?

Real-time marketing captures online user information and data, including personal trends and spending history, to provide instant, individual advertisements to that user. Online data collection gives companies the ability to offer immediate online advertising that responds to what individuals are doing, such as what the individual buys, searches for, and looks at when online.

What is the Impact of Real-Time Marketing?

The possibilities of real-time marketing seem almost unlimited when online consumer trends are considered and evaluated. According to Forrester Research Inc., online shoppers will spend $226 billion online in 2012, and spending is projected to grow to $327 billion in 2016. This represents a compound annual growth rate of over 10 percent in five years. Individuals who focus on real-time, online marketing will find a promising career ripe with opportunity and salary potential.

For example, consider Google AdWords, an advertising program that offers pay-per-click ads in response to online searches. When an individual goes online and searches on Google for various keywords, specific ads, texts, and banners appear on the page from related companies, encouraging that individual to visit their website for information or products.

It is important to note that real-time marketing is both a technology and a marketing tool. Companies gather customer intelligence data such as online searches, demographics, shopping history, and what topics or products the customer clicks on while surfing the net. Once gathered, this information is used to create ads that appear nearly instantly to the customer and are directly related to the customer’s interests and preferences. (See also Analytical Marketing)

This consumer intelligence data includes anything from emails to blog posts to podcasts, website visits, online searches and instant messaging. All of this information helps companies predict customer trends and choices, allowing them to create instant marketing messages that appeal to specific customer preferences. In addition, real-time marketing messages encourage consumers to spend both more time and money with that company.

This may be as simple as an email sent to customers who leave a website before making a purchase, offering them a special deal to bring them back to the site. One example of this is, a company that offers discount certificates for restaurants at a set price. When customers visit the site and select one or more discount certificates but do not purchase the certificate(s), the customer automatically receives an email encouraging them to return to the site and make the purchase.

Another form of real-time marketing includes banner ads that display items that a customer previously looked at during a former visit or searched for online. For example, if a consumer looks for vacuum cleaners online, the next time the consumer goes online, he or she is likely to see banner ads from different vacuum cleaner manufacturers and retailers. (See also Inbound Marketing)

Companies can also use real-time marketing to predict how likely a consumer is to actually purchase items online. Tracking the consumer as he or she shops online informs the company whether or not that person is likely to spend money and purchase items or not. Customers identified as less likely to buy are presented with more steps on the site before reaching a purchase point, while likely-to-buy customers are presented with prompt opportunities to buy. The real-time data also uses customer information to offer location-specific offers and deals, so a consumer in Denver sees local Denver restaurants and specials instead of Seattle businesses.

Who implements real-time marketing?

Online retailers primarily use real-time marketing, monitoring the searches, choices, purchases and comments provided by consumers to generate specific deals, ads, text messages, emails and specials for that individual customer.

For example, consider Urban Outfitters, which gathers information as a visitor browses through the site, such as what items the visitor looks at, keywords the visitor uses, as well as purchases made. As the visitor moves through the site, banner ads appear that are specifically related to those keywords, product views and purchases.

Other industries that are affected by real-time marketing include online news and entertainment publications, reacting and responding to news as it happens. This includes updated stories on the website and “Breaking News” emails and texts to subscribers. Organizations that utilize real-time information and data include everything from CNN News to the entertainment website TMZ. Often referred to as real-time web, this system pushes information to users instantly upon publication instead of requiring users to download updates or software in order to get the latest news.

Real-Time Marketing Styles and Strategies

  • Social Media – Post comments, news, deals, coupons, specials and information about exclusive deals on social media websites such as Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter just for followers or those who “like” the company page or profile. Individuals who receive these specials are encouraged to forward them on to others who may sign up or participate as well. One example is an online offer to Facebook fans of the Colorado car dealership Alpine Buick GMC. They entered people in a drawing for tickets to an upcoming Broncos game in return for “Liking” the dealership’s page on Facebook.
  • Search Engine Ads – Advertisements that appear on major search engines such as Google, Yahoo! or Bing in response to specific keywords or topics. For example, search “flower dresses” and advertisements from DressBarn, Nordstrom, and David’s Bridal appear with customized content about flower dresses and flower girl dresses.
  • Banner Ads – Banner ads appear online in response to specific search engine keywords, which is called real-time bidding. For example, if someone searches for a specific person’s name, an advertisement from is likely to appear with that specific name in the ad, urging the searcher to click on to search for that person on the site.
  • Email Campaigns – Emails sent to clients or members on a regular basis about news, information or promotions. For example, in 2010, the coffee company and retailer Starbucks sent out an email to members of the Starbucks Gold Card club, celebrating the company’s 40th anniversary. The email offered the recipient a free ceramic tasting cup with the famous Starbucks logo on it if the individual purchased a one-pound bag of coffee.
  • Text Messages – Send real-time text messages for customers who “opt in” for these special text messages on a company’s website. This may include location-based advertising or “Breaking News”. For example, if a customer moves within a five-mile radius of a company or store’s location, the customer might receive a text message encouraging them to stop in and receive a special, time-limited discount.

How is a real-time marketing plan developed?

In order to develop a real-time marketing plan, marketing departments start by determining the parameters of the desired data. For example, data might include demographic information, time spent on various websites, keywords searched, products an individual clicked on to see additional information, items placed in the individual’s cart, and whether or not the purchase was made.

Other information might include online searches, keywords used in emails or instant messages and topics discussed by the individual on social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter.

As this information is collected, a marketing department creates instant marketing messages that respond to these factors, such as specific product advertisements, keyword banner ads, and text messages. This may also include emails that offer customers an exclusive invitation to shop or view the website and receive something in return, such as a deal or promotion.

Part of a real-time marketing plan could include an “opt-in” feature on the company website for customers to join a membership or club. Members of this club might receive special text messages and emails with breaking news, important information, and exclusive offers..

Social media networks are also an important element in real-time marketing deployment. A social media manager can create a business profile page on sites such as Twitter and Facebook and then send an email or text to customers, encouraging them to “Like” or “Follow” the business. Once a following is established, the social media manager posts regular updates, news and special offers on their pages.

What types of careers employ real-time marketing strategies?

Marketing Manager

What do they do?

Salaries of Real-Time Marketers

  • Marketing Manager
    Starting: $50,000
    Top Earners: $90,000+
  • Social Media Manager
    Starting: $40,000
    Top Earners: $90,000+
  • Interactive Designer
    Entry Level: $40,000
    Highest Earners: $120,000


A marketing manager understands how to design and execute strategic real-time marketing plans as well as traditional marketing campaigns. In addition, a marketing manager has the ability to perform and understand both quantitative and qualitative research and data in order to gather and use this information to create real-time marketing advertising.

Education and Skills

A marketing manager needs a bachelor’s degree in marketing. Experience with traditional and real-time marketing as well as an in-depth understanding of automatic data collection and reporting are necessary in order to create a cutting-edge online marketing program.

Social Media Manager

What do they do?

These days, many companies are hiring a Social Media Manager to spend time establishing and maintaining a presence on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. In this position, the social media manager is responsible for creating a business profile page on the major social media sites. Once created, the social media manager posts regular comments, posts, tweets and other information and special deals to encourage clients or customers to “Like” or “Follow” the company on the social media sites.

Education and Skills

Since this is a relatively new field for many companies, the ideal candidate will have extensive experience on the various social media websites in a business context and know how to use the sites effectively for marketing purposes. Many companies require a degree in marketing for this position.

Interactive Designer

What do they do?

An interactive designer is someone who helps create the company website as well as banner ads, text messages, and other customer-facing elements. An interactive designer typically works with the marketing department to establish and maintain the desired look, brand, and message of the service or company. Ideally, an interactive designer will have a computer science education as well as marketing.

Education and Skills

A degree in computer science or web design is necessary in order to have the skills to design the elements of real-time marketing campaign, such as banner ads, texts, emails, newsletters, and online ads. While experience is useful in this position, a bachelor’s degree along with a solid understanding of the technology and an ability to create an appealing, easy-to-navigate website is important.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

While many people have personal experience online, understanding how to use this information to create targeted marketing is a special skill that usually requires a degree in marketing. Real-time marketing requires an understanding of the necessary data collection and analysis that drives the real-time marketing towards customers.

In addition, a subsequent knowledge of effective marketing techniques, both traditional and novel, is necessary for a successful career in marketing. This includes branding, market research, and implementation of real-time marketing techniques.

To learn more about how a marketing degree can help you build a successful real-time marketing career, request information from schools offering marketing degrees today.