An introduction to mobile personalization

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An introduction to mobile personalization

A recent study has manages to exposed the staggering gap between mobile users’ expectations of app personalization, and mobile marketers’ ability to deliver customised experiences. Not only that, but while an incredibly high percentage of marketers believed they were actually doing a great job - users were far from being impressed with the results. It seems that there’s still a long way to go when it comes to customizable apps. As an industry, we stopped asking “what is personalization?” and began pretending to know the answer.

That being said, some congratulations are still in order, particularly when it comes to realizing just how important personalization is. As the mobile industry matures, many professionals have rightfully come to learn that the main focal point should not be app installs. This realization did not appear out of nowhere. It is the result of countless mobile media campaigns that have manages to acquire an impressive amount of downloads - but failed to bring a sufficient number of loyal users.

With that new point of view in mind, marketers pay more and more attention to the issue of app personalization, which is the key to mobile retention. Since it is easy for us to sometimes forget why a certain trend had become so popular, we will attempt to explain in the following lines exactly what is personalization, what makes it a mobile must, what should be the goals when embracing it, and how to better use this wonderful and powerful tool. If you are looking to personalize the mobile experience for users - here is your first step.

Two types of mobile personalized marketing

Before we dive into the reasoning behind personalization, we must first distinguish between its two types: One is incredibly obvious and easy to detect, as it lets users know they have been using data provided by them in order to create a customised app. In this case, users are presented with text that includes their name or other personal details, they are greeted when important dates or events occur, and are given a distinctive sense that the app has been studying their moves.

It’s important that those who use this type of personalized marketing find the right balance. Too much of a good thing can make users feel haunted, not cared for. Marketers must pay attention to the type of information they flaunt in order to avoid appearing creepy and invasive. It’s good to remember that while users are, in most cases, okay with the notion of apps gathering data, they still value their privacy and are alarmed to learn just how much mobile companies seem to know about them. The right amount of personalized marketing will increase mobile retention, but too much will do the exact opposite.

A second form of personalization is far more subtle and can sometimes take place without users even knowing the app has been customized to their needs. Users will be presented with a selection of options within the product that are more relevant for them, without announcing the personalization at all. These “hidden” personalizations simply eliminate elements that are irrelevant, and highlights the right content at the right time. You can personalize an app without letting users know. They will still experience it.

Both types share a lot in common, especially when it comes to the many good reasons mobile marketers should be implementing them:

Build stronger relationships with users

Todays’ mobile industry understands that in order to convert downloads to loyal users, mobile developers and marketers must invest in building and nurturing a deeper relationship with prospective and existing users. We must begin to see users for what they are: people. This is the true meaning of a personalized app. It is the foundation for a strong relationship with users, by conveying the message that each user is unique and important and providing a personal experience based on the individual's’ behaviour, environment, and background. Mobile is a personal, customizable device, and as such, its users expect a certain level of a personalized touch. For users to consider your app an inseparable part of their daily routine and give you a nice boost in mobile retention, your product must send them the same message and let them know how crucial each one of them is.

There are, of course, different levels to mobile personalization. The most obvious, and perhaps less impressive ones include approaching users using their name, in sync with their local time, etc. More advanced approaches to mobile personalizations include studying and drawing conclusions from the same data, in order to paint a more complete picture and deliver meaningful moments to users. In this scenario, knowing where a user lives means that we not only avoid sending push notification when he or she is most probably asleep, but we look into what is currently going on in that area; Is there a local holiday that we should mention? Does the weather call for a specific offer or push notification? The basic level of customizing an app will only prevent us from making embarrassing mistakes, but when we move forward and offer a deeper, more connected experience - that’s when we are able to turn the casual mobile user into an active and engaged participant.

One of the best things about becoming a regular part of users’ lives, is that a mobile app that has managed to create an emotional connection can enjoy the benefit of mobile ambassadors. These are users who will bring their relationship with the app into other circles in their lives, and introduce your product to more relevant audiences. Since there is no better marketing tool than the recommendation of a close contact, it is yet another reason to invest and personalize your app.

Answer immediate needs with customizable apps

Mobile users are a tough crowd. They are swamped with information and have very little time or patience. For your product to grab their attention, it must give them something they need, exactly when they actually need it. Many mobile products can be explained or used in a variety of ways, as different aspects of the same mobile product can influence different people to act a certain way. By identifying users’ unique desires, mobile marketers are able to send the right message to users and give them the version of a product they would be more likely to respond to. If instead you opt for a generic message, you risk missing your only chance to interact with users before they lose patience and walk away. Personalizing your product allows you to make the most out of a very narrow window of opportunity.

This obviously has a lot to do with building a strong relationship with users, but in this case we are able to put the more “hidden” form of personalized marketing to the test. Giving users the answers they were looking for in a moment’s notice can be very subtle. It has less to do with the app’s content and more with the structure and flow of the product itself. If the weather is cold, we will build relationships by sending a relevant message, and answer an immediate need by placing suggestions for soup recipes at the top of our cooking app.


The low number of mobile marketers who manage to bring personalized apps to the high standard that users demand should be a strong enough indicator as to what a challenge this task is. In order to find immediate solutions and build real connections with users, mobile marketers should focus on finding the right moments. Meaning, the importance of real-time personalizations is growing by the minute. This is a more difficult obstacle to pass, as it requires a higher level of agility than most are used to. But as studies repeatedly show, there is a strong tie between real-time personalization and the bottom line. The more effective and relevant your product is - the more tuned in and dependant users will become.

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