Ask any trader--the ones who work in capital markets--about low-latency trading, and they will provide a very eloquent explanation of what it is and what it is not.
If you are not a trader, like me, then simply put low-latency trading uses computer algorithms and computing horsepower to identify and capitalize on arbitrage opportunities faster than the competition. And since some arbitrage opportunities lasts less than a few milliseconds, one needs super fast (or low-latency) opportunity-identification and trading capabilities. In fact, traders have been using what they call ultra-low-latency trading systems for some time.
So what does the world of trading have to do with the world of marketing? Traders have, over the years, gained the sophistication to profit from the smallest of the smallest window of opportunity by building and using the right algorithmic and computing prowess. This was necessary because the arbitrage opportunities were extremely transient–if one did not act on it at the right moment, then the opportunity might be lost forever. Latency or delay in identification and execution of a trade can be expensive–sometimes very expensive.
Consumer attention on a marketing message is equally, if not more, transient. Proliferation of digital touch points has resulted in the amplification of this transience. Good digital marketers have responded to this by building capabilities to understand consumer profiles, predict their behaviors, put together the right content for the predicted behaviors, and deliver the right messages through the right channels.
High-performing digital marketers do all of that within milliseconds. In fact, they do it at the millisecond when the visitor/consumer interacts with their digital touch points (Web site, app, email, etc.). These marketers understand the price of latency and the attention that visitors/consumers display during online interactions. They not only work toward building their consumer profiles, creating decisioning algorithms, and gaining dynamic content assembly and delivery capabilities, but they also actively work toward reducing any delay or offline activities that might come between their consumers and the experience that they aspire to deliver.
And just as traders leverage technology for low-latency trading, these marketers use technology for low-latency marketing.
Of course, not all industries require this kind of marketing attitude. Unfortunately, in industries where it is is required, not all marketers are responding in kind. However, it is also true that a critical mass of marketers is, in fact, actively practicing low-latency marketing. They are the ones who are increasing the gap between themselves and their competitors with each passing millisecond.
They are the true low-latency marketers.