The value of personalization cannot be overstated in today’s mobile landscape. There are countless statistics that show how tailored communications resonate favorably with users.  For example, 65 percent of consumers say that personalization directly influences their brand loyalty — a metric of infinite importance to today’s app publishers. But what does personalization really mean in the context of today’s app users? And are publishers up to the challenge? 

There are two common ways of personalizing messages to users: by using the in-app journey pattern (e.g., purchase stage or time of the day when the user logs in) or by using demographic data (age, gender, occupation, location, customer type) and integrating it with user actions (behavioral data). Let’s take a look at the main aspects of personalization, as well as strategies publishers can employ when looking to build more-personalized experiences within their apps.

How Apps Get User Data

When it comes to mobile apps, collecting user data begins with the app installation. At this point, the publisher gets introduced to the installer (i.e., the user) and receives important data, such as the source from which they came, what they were previously viewing, and what triggered the user to install the app. 

By asking installers to share more info about themselves, publishers can build a profile of first-party data that they can use to personalize in-app content and messaging. They can also share some of this data with advertisers so that they can leverage it for audience targeting. In addition, publishers can customize app offers by taking users’ preferences into consideration. And with push notifications implemented, publishers can maintain interaction with their users, grab their attention, and bring them back to the app for another session.

Levels of Personalization

In 2018, the company Instapage released an advertising personalization classification system, breaking down personalization efforts into categories based on the granularity with which publishers can target their audiences of interest. The classification system looks like this: 

  • Level 0: Targeting according to need, want, and broad geography (e.g., country, state level).
  • Level 1: Targeting by need or want and more-specific geography (e.g., city).
  • Level 2: Targeting by need or want, specific geography (e.g., ZIP code), and demographics such as age, gender, and income.
  • Level 3: Targeting by need or want, specific geography, demographics, and general interests (e.g., sports, travel, or technology).
  • Level 4: Targeting by need or want, specific geography, sophisticated demographics (e.g., political preference, brand loyalty, vehicle driven), specific interests (e.g., types of music, celebrities, hobbies), and buying intent (i.e., based on search keywords).
  • Level 5: Targeting by need or want, exact geographic location, sophisticated demographics, specific interests, buying intent, and historical behavioral patterns (e.g., purchase history, voting record, websites visited).

For publishers, this system represents a useful tool for understanding how sophisticated their current efforts are, and where they have opportunities to improve. As time passes, consumer expectations for personalization, both in terms of app experiences as well as advertising within those apps, will continue to move up the scale — with some consumers today already expecting their apps to operate at Level 5. 

The Future of Personalization

From better usage of existing data to customization that meets consumers’ needs with increased precision, the advantages of personalization in mobile are numerous. When publishers enhance users’ in-app experience with personalized recommendations, or by using push notifications combined with geo-targeting, they are meeting their needs and expectations with razor-sharp precision. 

These days, more businesses are realizing the importance of jumping on the personalization bandwagon. Gartner predicts that by 2020, companies implementing personalization that recognizes behavioral intent could increase profits by 15 percent. 

From a consumer perspective, the benefits of personalization include increasingly relevant content, a more effective way of discovering new products, and an effortless purchasing process. With this in mind, a growing number of consumers are agreeing to share their data with publishers in exchange for these benefits. This trend clears the way for publishers to deploy personalization on a more extensive scale than ever before, thus building deeper, longer-lasting consumer relationships that will deliver value for years to come.