I’ve been to a couple of conferences recently where there’s been a lot of chat – both on and off stage – about real-time data.

I’ve got to get my data delivered in real-time (apparently), because it’s super-duper important.

I agree – it is super-duper important. What’s much less clear from all the seminars, keynotes and conversations, is why exactly.

Real-time analytics?

Nah, not for me.

A bunch of people spoke about real-time analytics; how they instigated expensive (and expansive) initiatives to get data into the hands of analysts instantly.

That feels like spending a million quid on a super-car just to sit in rush-hour traffic.

Real-time data does not equate to real-time analytics. In fact, I think “real-time analytics” is an oxymoron. Once we give data to a human to analyse, it’s not real-time anymore. Even machines are trained on historic data sets.

What’s it all for then?

It comes to a more fundamental point: why collect data at all? Hopefully, so we can take action from it.

So why would that data need to be real-time? Logically, because the action needs to be taken in real-time too.

For example?…

At Loop Horizon, we help brands deliver real-time one-to-one personalisation. By that I mean; what we know about an individual at a given moment and how that informs the experience we deliver for them in the same moment.

Ok, perhaps I’ve fallen into a fog of vague buzz-wordery there.

What about a hypothetical corner shop? A tin of baked beans gets scanned; we’re now down to our last 10 tins out front, and our last 30 tins in the back. The scan triggers an automatic prompt to tell the shop keeper to put more tins out front, and orders more beans from the wholesaler.

What’s your point?

A lot of the conferences, seminars and keynotes I’ve seen recently (at best) make things seem much more confusing than they are, and (at worst) give what I consider to be bad advice.

“Real-time one-to-one personalisation” is great, but we might actually be talking about baked beans.

At its most basic level, what action do I want to take in real-time, and what data do I need to do it? That’s my real-time data initiative.