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Personalization in your mobile app marketing strategy for happy customers and rapid app growth

If there’s one thing that we’re asked on almost a daily basis here at KHQ, it’s how to hang onto existing customers in a world where every other business is vying for their attention. Thing is, even though the world of mobile marketing moves at an astounding pace, our answer is always the samepersonalization

Not convinced? The top bugbears that app users cite again and again in just about every app survey ever done – inconsistent messaging; irrelevant content; not enough – or too many – notifications, and failure to ‘remember’ personal preferences – all boil down to a mobile marketer’s failure to build their marketing strategy around the individual needs of their customer No more! In 2022, the marketers that understand their customers and who put customer insights at the core of their user journeys will be the ones that succeed in an increasingly cutthroat space. Reader, It’s time to get personal.

What Is Mobile App Personalization?

Mobile app personalization is simply the process of utilizing customer insights (demographics, interests, behaviors, life stage, location, time, etc.) as powerful tools for both elevating and customizing  mobile marketing. It enables marketers to build deeper relationships with their app users, instead of merely paying customers. For instance, when you drive up to the window at Domino’s and order your  14” stuffed crust pizza with extra cheese, light on the jalapenos, and heavy on the pineapple (what do you mean you don’t do pineapple on pizza?), that’s customization. But when the guy at the window already knows what kind of pizza you like, and is already keying your order into the machine, that’s personalization. Think of it as knowing what your customer wants before they do and you’re heading in the right direction.

OK – what’s so special about personalization?

The thing we need to remember about our customers is that we want to feel special. We want to be confident that the brands we choose to spend our hard-earned cash with understand us; that they can meet our needs without us having to tell them what these needs might be – and that means way more than simply inserting their name into a push notification, email or SMS. 

Feeling special is why, as customers, we love personalization. We like it when, for example, Starbucks send us money-off coupons for our favorite hot drink, or when Dominos send us an invite to try out a new pizza  (with pineapple)  at a promotional rate that they know that we’ll use, and we love it when Nike remembers the trainers we bought last month and ping us a notification recommending a discounted accessory to complete the look… All that love is what keeps us close to you, and it’s what keeps us coming back for more. 

But there’s more – a lot more – to personalization than happy customers. Research tells us that there’s close to $400 billion at stake in U.S. retail when it comes to personalization, most of which will go to the mere 15% of companies that do the hard work and nail marketing personalization across their campaigns:

  • Personalization can increase the performance of advertising spend by up to 30% (Adweek).
  • 89% of U.S. marketers reported that personalization on websites or apps resulted in increased revenues
  • 58% of us want personalized marketing from the companies we do business with (Salesforce)
  • 79% of smartphone users are more likely to purchase from companies whose apps offer them discounts or promotions on products and services based on past purchases.
  • 72% of consumers say they’ll only engage with personalized messages (SmarterHQ)
  • 63% of smartphone users are more likely to purchase from companies whose apps offer them relevant recommendations on products they may be interested in.
  • And 84% of businesses report that customer experience is the key personalization factor (Evergage).

And if you’re still not persuaded? Customers are more than twice as likely to add items to their basket and 40% more likely to spend more than planned when their shopping experience is deeply personalized. What’s more these customers rate retailers that provide highly personalized experiences over 20% higher on net promoter score (how likely it is that they’ll recommend a product or service to a friend or colleague).

For mobile marketers like yourself, all of these translate to far greater efficacy and success  by:

  1. Driving greater awareness
  2. Boosting retention rates
  3. An enhanced CX
  4. Greater engagement
  5. Supercharged in-app purchases
  6. Increased conversion rates
  7. Strengthened brand loyalty
  8. And far, far better overall financial performance in both the short and long term.

Now that we’ve got your attention, let’s take a look at how to get started with personalization (note: it’s not plugging ‘‘brilliant personalization campaigns’ into Google) … 

How to get started with personalization

First things first. Most businesses already have the insight they need to improve customer experiences and drive loyalty through app personalization — they just don’t always know it. Every time someone interacts with your brand, from app clicks to email opens, to SMS engagement, they’re giving you invaluable first-party data points that will take your mobile marketing strategy to another level. The trick is harnessing the power of that data to drive personalization and tangible, profitable results.

1. Start collecting data

Back in days of yore, most customer data was collected across infinite outdated and disparate systems, and was mostly (though not always) pooled by call centers and point-of-sale – and everyone’s love-to-hate favorite, Excel. In the 21st century, however, global digitization coupled with advanced data technologies has provided us with opportunities to utilize both our own and third-party data to build detailed pictures of customers and gain a deeper understanding of their preferences and behaviors. 

A robust, powerful mobile analytics platform will sift through vast amounts of that data in real-time, and make insight-driven decisions to deliver personalization for each of your customers. For external data (think social media posts, product/service reviews, industry research and statistics, etc) establish what you’re looking for and how you’ll obtain it – in 2022, many brands will be utilizing the services of a DaaS provider (Data-as-a-Service); others still will utilize in-house resources. How you approach this side of things will depend on how far you want to go with personalization – and your budget – but there are plenty of opportunities.

2. Create your personalization roadmap

Personalization isn’t just a single piece of technology. Doing it right involves a  well-thought-through strategy that will touch many elements across an entire business. It’s critical that the enterprise embarking on personalization develops a roadmap to identify the elements that should be implemented – along with when, and how. There are a ton of powerful personalization techniques that can be deployed across the entire customer journey but not all of them will be relevant to your business and not all of them will be equally important; you’ll want to weigh the impact of each on your business and on the customer experience. If, for example, you’re looking to build customer loyalty, focusing on a seamless cross-platform shopping experience would be one strategy to consider. On the other hand, if you’re looking to drive greater engagement and retention then valuable, relevant personalized offers and discounts would be your preferred route. 

3. Then plan to get personal!

There are a ton of methods you can use throughout your personalization strategy – Customer profiles, behavior, and transactions –  some of the data you’ll use throughout your marketing comms – delivers a veritable banquet of ways in which you can personalize your mobile marketing campaigns, driving a more personalized, relevant and valuable customer experience that customer will love and competitors will covet. Here are the top four strategies that we see work time and again… 

Personalize Onboarding

True onboarding begins at the point of activation – that moment when your future customers are presented with your app’s core value, and start plugging in their personal information. Lose them at this point and you’re unlikely to get them back, but keep them engaged and you’ve got a very real shot at nurturing a long and fruitful relationship. Keep it simple, seamless, and personal – and do it as quickly as possible. Perfecting the balance between delivering an onboarding experience that both educates and engages and captures the data points that will allow you to offer an optimal personalized user experience is the sweet spot you’re aiming for.

Who’s doing it well? 

There’s one app that consistently stands out as a stellar example of personalization throughout its onboarding process, and that’s the music streaming behemoth, Spotify. 

Example of personalization in onboarding from Spotify

Using data points like name, age, preferred genres, and favorite artists, the app curates a first-class personalized list of music recommendations on their app’s home screen instantly, keeping new users engaged, and coming back for more. And it doesn’t end there. The brand has recently launched the dedicated personalized in-app feature, ‘Only You’, which focuses on users’ favorite music and how they listen. They’ve also recently debuted Blend, a new feature that users can use to create a personalized playlist with a friend. 

Start capitalizing on location-based marketing

From geo-targeting to geo-fencing to beaconing to geo-conquesting, location-based marketing has rapidly gained traction over the past 18 months. The good news? Using location data gained from a robust analytics platform,  mobile marketers can be wherever their customers are. Do it right and you’ll:

  • Reach your target audience when they’re ready for you
  • Increase footfall across your brick and mortar stores
  • Power customer engagement
  • Deliver tangible a-ha moments that keep customers close to you

The key to profitable location-based marketing is to deliver both a contextual and personalized customer experience. As we mentioned above, your customers expect you to anticipate their needs and offer valuable solutions to their needs so think alerts for a product they’ve been looking at in your app or online and which is in-stock in the store they’re passing, or a coupon for an item they’re price-checking in-store … 

Who’s doing it well?

One of the most well-known brands capitalizing on location-based marketing is the foodie brand WholeFoods. Setting up geofences around each of its stores, when a customer is identified nearby via their smartphone, they’ll automatically receive targeted ads and relevant offers based on their purchasing history; it’s simple, but it’s highly effective. What’s more, the brand also utilizes geo-conquesting, the practice of enticing customers away from competitors with timely, personalized content – and to great effect. 

Setting up a geofence around their competitor stores, their customers are delivered with an offer too good to miss. One geo-conquesting campaign, in particular, yielded a rather impressive 4.69% post-click conversion rate – more than three times the national average of 1.43%. (If you’re thinking about location-based marketing, talk to us beforehand – we’ve got form!)

Highlight real-time recommendations

Everyone wants a piece of your customer’s attention – which is why aiming for instant gratification can yield dividends for the smart mobile marketer. Fail to grab user attention quickly and your competition is waiting in the wings to step in and meet their needs wherever you fall short. Near-instant product discovery and visibility can be crucial to engagement and conversion.

Who’s doing it well

Pretty much everything streaming giant Netflix does is driven by data and the insights gleaned – if you’ve ever wondered why you can’t quite manage to tear yourself away from the screen despite your best intentions, that’s why. 

Taking the data pulled from your watching and browsing habits, the resulting algorithms powered by machine learning and AI ensure you’re delivered content that you actually want to watch, while you’re already engaged. The result?  80% of views come from these real-time personalized recommendations – and today net the brand over $1 billion a year in value from customer retention. 

Personalize app navigation

The more personalized the navigation journey is for your app users, the greater the chance of them finding exactly what they want, and by default, enjoying a seamless customer experience that they’ll thank you for. Leveraging data and the resulting insights, such as location, time of day, weather, gender, etc, marketers have at their fingertips a veritable banquet of tools to deliver an exceptional personalized experience – think timely offers, recommendations, trending products, and highlights that keep users engaged, and primed to purchase.

Who’s doing it well

If there’s one brand that absolutely crushes a personalized navigation experience, it’s Amazon. Not only does their app homepage highlight products inspired by customer shopping behavior with their ‘Keep Browsing’, ‘Explore more items’, and ‘Buy it Again’, they also have ‘Your Exclusive Offers’, ‘Top Deals’, and ‘Popular Subscriptions’ based on previous purchases …. 

The bottom line – the entire navigation journey is the customer’s, and not the brand’s, and is maximized not only for a highly engaging customer experience but a profitable one for Amazon.


Personalization is more than just a timely message or a push notification with a name – it’s become a must that needs to be at the heart of every 2022 mobile marketing strategy. We live in the age of connection and the way we connect with our customers is no exception. Whatever business you’re in, you’re now expected to not just meet the needs of your customers, but to know what these needs are before they do – and then to exceed them. Harnessing the power of your analytics platform to adapt to this brave new world is to survive and succeed where many others won’t… 

With the right analytics platform, a robust roadmap, and personalization at the heart of your strategy, you’ll start to see your app stand out in the sea of sameness. If you’re looking to get started with personalization and need a steer, let’s get the conversation started!