By Jason Cromack, CEO, DST Global Insight Group

The traditional method of processing data overnight is looking to become a thing of the past. This is the age of real-time, data driven customer engagement – the ability to target your customers on-the-spot and react to their actions using real-time business intelligence.

Effectively utilising data has been part of the business agenda for some time now. The ability to predict and understand customers through data is vital knowledge for any organisation. However, traditionally dealing with data and transferring it into something useful has been relatively slow. Data has been collected, then sorted and analysed overnight in batches – truly a laborious process. However, the evolving landscape of social media and a constant access to information means customers have the potential for continuous engagement with a brand. For example, Twitter generates on average 500 million tweets every day – a truly astonishing amount.

The sheer quantity of real-time data being produced, highlights the need for smart businesses to think about gathering and processing their data at a real-time speed, allowing them to react more appropriately.

Being able to effectively utilise real-time data however, is not something that can happen overnight. Businesses first need a wholesale re-evaluation of their data agenda. Data has long been held in silos, without any real interplay between the specialists and other teams that use the insight to inform their activity. This is a serious barrier to real-time analysis. Without this insight, marketing and sales teams will not have the tools necessary to take advantage of real-time data in a creative and effective way. This is why a return to the business basics is essential. A business should have a definite data strategy in place and all activity should be clearly road-mapped across all divisions within the organisation.

In itself, this can be a logistical issue. It is not, however, an impossible task. Certainly major investment is needed in systems and processes if real-time data harvesting is going to be a viable option. However, the initial input of both time and money can result in significant return on investment. For instance, investment in an automated system able to collect and process the data as it happens is a noteworthy step forward in the journey to real-time customer dialogue but is also one that requires a certain amount of outlay.

This is where a customer engagement agency can be of benefit. A good agency will have dedicated data-scientists on hand to gather, process and analyse real-time data. They will also be able to provide a creative team that will transform the data into actionable insight, informing eye-catching engagement. Hiring an agency also eliminates any isolation between teams as the entire organisation is integrated. This blending of disciplines means that creative and data will at last be in synch, offering massive benefit to any organisation.

Without this insight, many businesses will find themselves being left behind by competitors taking advantage of this new technology. Implementing effective customer engagement through real-time data will enable businesses to attract more customers, maximise sales and realise further growth – something that is surely to be aimed for.