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The "real-time" revolution and what it means for businesses

Published March 17, 2021

Digital consumers want to know where their purchases are from the moment they click “buy” to when they magically appear on their doorstep—with almost 70 percent thinking that real-time tracking is a must-have. But real-time tech goes beyond shipping, and businesses can lean into this trend of transparency to better serve customers. 

Real-time tech lets people use connected devices to monitor where their products are at any time. Thanks to the precision of today's satellite and GPS technology, consumers can easily pinpoint the location of their packages, food orders, delivery vehicles and more.

Consumers consider real-time tracking to be a necessary part of their post-purchase experience, and businesses should keep this top of mind to deliver better satisfaction and foster loyalty in their customers.

Real-time tech is already part of our daily lives

Customers and businesses already use real-time technology to make the fulfillment of goods and services more convenient. The real-time experience is so common that it's become normalized—many people don't think twice about it.

Take Domino’s Pizza, for example.

Domino’s pioneered real-time order tracking in 2008 when they introduced a feature that let customers know when their pizza order was received, when the pizza was in the oven, and when the order was on its way to their home. Though still very limited at the time, customers loved the transparency, and this groundbreaking feature set the stage for the real-time expectations of today.

Related: The digital innovations that took Domino’s from pizza place to tech titan

Now customers enjoy real-time convenience almost everywhere they go. On the one hand, Uber gives users visibility on rides and food deliveries layered onto familiar Google maps. On the other, financial institutions ramp up real-time payment technology, giving customers the ability to complete low-value online transactions in the blink of an eye.

“85 percent of consumers will buy from a retailer again if they can track their purchases throughout the delivery process.”

Ecommerce is another industry that’s taken to real-time technology. In 2016, global shipping service UPS—among the top providers for ecommerce order fulfillment—began offering real-time delivery tracking. Today, the company’s technology has evolved to let customers monitor the location of applicable packages on a live map. Ecommerce titan Amazon was quick to catch on, rolling out Amazon Logistics in 2018, which also features real-time package tracking within the U.S. 

This is a serious prospect for online merchants, too, as “85 percent of consumers will buy from a retailer again if they can track their purchases throughout the delivery process.”

Related: The best retail loyalty programs turn customer activity data into powerful personalization

Customers are eager, and brands are innovating to keep up

Now that real-time is essentially the status quo, customers want more, and big brands are innovating to keep up.

Domino’s expanded upon its tracking feature a decade after it first appeared by adding GPS tracking on all vehicles in the U.S. and other major markets. Their mission now goes beyond convenience and transparency, though. Domino’s now prioritizes safety by monitoring driver’s’ speed and harshness of driving

GPS tracking also offers benefits on the business side. “The operational benefits of the GPS delivery tracking technology allow store managers to view where their delivery experts are out on the road.” This makes logistics easier and allows for better communicate with customers on the go.

Uber also puts the spotlight on safety with its “Follow My Ride” feature. This feature lets users share their real-time location with friends or family during their ride, ensuring loved ones know where they are at all times.

Grab—a ridesharing platform founded in Malaysia and extremely popular throughout Southeast Asia—is putting its own twist on real-time delivery as well. The brand has added to the capabilities of their fleet, allowing person-to-person shipping and grocery delivery. The person-to-person service can include anything, from documents between businesses to a smartphone that someone forgot at their friend's house.

Your business can offer amazing real-time experiences, too

Businesses can study the advances in real-time technology and use it to better serve their customers. It can even be used to improve marketing efficiency and customer support, for example.

Adding real-time service to your business doesn’t have to involve massive upfront costs. SaaS brands like OptimoRoute have paved the way for practical real-time applications for any business. Their product enables brands to automate route planning, offer real-time order tracking and even collect data for insights into how to improve.

Real-time data integration helps businesses keep things running smoothly. Hotel booking sites use this to avoid multiple bookings of the same room, for example. ATMs also use real-time data integration: when you make a cash withdrawal, your bank account immediately reflects the change in the balance. 

Real-time marketing is a relatively new concept but is highly relevant to brands that want to stay on the cutting edge and engage their customers more efficiently. As Ashley Brucker-Stepien with Webflow writes, “Real time marketing is the process of monitoring consumer responses to marketing messaging and materials ... and then adapting in real time.” This lets businesses optimize marketing efforts “on the fly” to how their audience is responding at that very moment. 

Offering real-time support brings customers and businesses closer together. Giving customers confidence that they can have their questions answered and receive assistance with issues immediately provides an unmatched level of trust and loyalty. Real-time support reduces churn, and “once you build trust with your customers by showing them your face (sometimes even literally!), 82% of them are more likely to stay with your business and recommend it to others as well.”

Related: Delivering personalized experiences in a digital-first world

Real-time technology builds more transparent relationships with customers

Effective real-time technology eases the waiting pains that customers go through while anxiously expecting a delivery. It also builds trust and loyalty through transparency, and all businesses need to focus on retention nowadays. 

There’s no doubt that the real-time revolution has upended customer expectations and how businesses respond to their needs. Learn from innovators and apply real-time to your brand at scale to consistently deliver rewarding experiences and form closer relationships with your customers.

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