Segmenting customer groups in real time is the Holy Grail for marketers. “Every brand wants fast segmentation, the ability to get to consumers in real time, or even to be predictive of what they’re doing next,” commented Shenan Reed, president of digital at media planning agency MEC Global, at this year’s SXSW festival.

Bill Clifford, chief revenue officer at Boston-based mobile marketing agency SessionM, described a future where close-to-real-time segmentation is a reality. Many brands may have data dumps of current consumer information or historical data that isn’t being used in any meaningful way, which they try to harvest for a specific campaign months in advance. In contrast to this slow, outdated model, SessionM’s mission is “to take that down to [a matter of] hours, so segmentation is always happening as consumer behaviour changes”.

What does real-time segmentation look like in practice? For Clifford, it comes down to identifying mobile moments. “[Brands need to understand] what the consumer is doing in that moment,” he explained. “Most people are in entertainment or utility mode. Put fun in front of them when they’re looking for something specific? That’s going to go wrong. Context is really important.”

For brands to understand context, they need to be harvesting data. Reed pointed to US sports clothing brand Under Armour as a brand that builds customer insight around multiple data touchpoints. Thanks to its acquisition of fitness apps Endomondo and MyFitnessPal in 2015, “they know where I’m going, what city I’m in, how many times I’m going to the gym”, said Reed. “The data they’re capturing is interesting – how can I tap into this understanding of human behaviour and use that?”

Under Armour is currently looking beyond apps to connected clothing to make it much easier for consumers to capture performance data.