The Why and How of Meaningful App Personalization

by Sean Ogino |

The Why and How of Meaningful App Personalization

When you order a latte with a dollop of whipped cream at a coffeehouse, that’s customization. But when you reach the coffeehouse and the server puts options in front of you, remembering that you like your latte with whipped cream, then that’s personalization. In that sense, personalization is a step ahead of customization, as it doesn’t demand any activity from customers. It’s a proactive method of providing state-of-the-art customer experience with the minimum efforts from the customer’s side. This is the prime reason why the concept of customization, which is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, is getting superimposed by personalization.

The consequence of this trend is getting reflected in whatever the retailers as well as etailers are doing. They are trying to add a dash of personalization at all possible avenues through which customers may interact with them. But, when you look at the study that found that mobile app transactions accounted for 54% of all mobile transactions for the fourth quarter of 2015, while app shoppers spent more per order on average ($102) than both mobile Web ($92) and desktop shoppers ($100), the value and significance of mobile apps get highlighted. The only reading that retailers/etailers can draw from this is that the time of mobile app personalization has arrived!

Why Mobile App Personalization?

A) Customers Demand It

According to a Merkle survey, 67% of shoppers under the age of 50 stated that they want retailers to offer a totally mobile path for purchases, while 46% of that age cohort want personalized offers for in-store purchases on their mobile phones, resulting in an urgency to make deals specific to the store as well as urgency.

There is absolutely no doubt that there is a need among customers to get relevant and personalized communication. Indeed, TimeTrade Systems just released a survey estimating that retailers lose out on $150 billion through a lack of personalization. In fact, the question that marketers need to think upon is this: Does it really help to send a generic communication to a bunch of customers who have different needs, tastes and mindsets? It generally fails, as one communication cannot fit to all. And unfortunately, most of the mobile apps have made this mistake. This is one of the main reasons why even though average person will have about 65 apps on their device, but only actually use about 15 of them each week. They find nothing new or useful in it. They fail to make the sense why they should keep the battery eating app in the limited storage device. Mobile app personalization can give them a logical reason to stay with you.

B) It Affects Your Bottom Line

The problem with many older ways of marketing communication is that they are pretty far removed from the bottom line at many organizations. It is visible from the structure of their funnel that marketing is two to three times removed from the point at which a customer makes a purchase and drives revenue for the company. A well-oiled and thought-out personalized mobile app can help in stretching a pall over this bleak reality.

Remember that most of the basic offers that customers will get through mobile apps won’t be drastically different than what they will see in other marketing campaigns. But what differentiates the two is the fact that the same offer becomes “immediately actionable” within the app. It’s like you are standing in front of the gas station with your car and someone hand you a special discount coupon for filling up your tank. It makes benefits easily, and most importantly, quickly accessible. You can look at it as an outlet to ensure instant gratification. Note that millennials, the most important customer segment, have a weak spot for instant gratification.

Moreover, mobile app personalization is a handy tool in informing the customer when a product that he wanted is back in stock and he just has to tap to alert the store to hold the item for him. It doesn’t just delight and surprise the customers- the key building blocks of any good customer experience. It is enabling you to fill out the missing possibilities of sales. It will become even more impactful if that one tap leads directly to adding the item to the mobile app shopping cart.

The Right Approach for Mobile App Personalization

The changing times and incredible product awareness that consumers have has changed their psyches. Even though 50% of customers want mobile app personalization to deliver notifications about discount offers, the scope of demand has expanded voraciously. Many customers expect a lot more than discount offers from mobile app personalization.

The limitations of mobile devices have made it difficult to stay true to those demands in the past largely because of screen size and gesture-heavy interfaces. But now such limitations have been stripped away due to arrival of technologies such as Flash and Ajax alongside web interfaces. Customers are aware of this fact. And who are not aware of it are seeing that someone else has made a mobile experience very personal . Before building an app, thus, it’s of a high importance to know what customers expect when they have an image of a personalized mobile app in their minds.

As per the February 2016 survey, people want a high level of mobile app personalization. They want apps to adapt as per their needs.

mobile app personalization

As you can see, they want their apps to enable faster payment methods. They also want the ability to order on the go with faster delivery, instant real-time online customer service and seamless product offerings across different channels. Delivering meaningful personalization takes data and good segmentation. This blog of ours discusses innovative ways to segment shoppers, while this one talks about valuable but underused consumer research tools that give you actionable data.

It’s quite affirming that customers want their apps to cover everything that generally happens between a buyer and a seller. They are viewing them as a one stop destination which will actually take care of everything. Starting from the product discovery to payment, they want everything to be embroidered by the personalized app. And many have taken a clue from these findings and have tried to reach closer to the enormity of customer’s expectations.

Note: We understand how valuable mobile experience has become in the modern business world. To further enhance your understanding of the topic, I suggest you to dive into this blog where we have discussed how mobile wallets can be used beyond the normal payment functionality. In this blog, we have listed the issues with mobile payments.

A) Samsung:

Samsung, the Korean giant of  consumer electronics, debuted a heap of products that incorporate IoT, data analytics and mobile technologies at the National Retail Federation Big Show in New York. Samsung created a clothing shop that blurs the lines between online and offline shopping, while synchronizing backend systems for an omnichannel shopping experience.


With the help of store app on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, a shopper can order products at home. As soon as he arrives at the store, the app sets off a beacon on a large digital signage display to show the personalized content based on his prior purchases, and suggesting items that can be browsed via a touchscreen display. If he fails to find a desired product in the store, he can get assistance via the store app on their mobile device by pressing a ‘Help’ button on the app. Through Samsung wireless triangulation, the assistant will get to know the customer’s store location, He can help the customer in finding the item in the store.

The most striking thing about Samsung’s app is that it has created an integrated ecosystem by linking the app with beacons and other technologies like Samsung wireless triangulation. Samsung has not viewed the app as an isolated entity, as they’ve rightly guessed that people need an assistant at every stage of buying. This is a prototype of future apps. We will see more of such integration in the wake of other technical tools like Wi-Fi login and wayfinding.

B) Nordstrom:

Nordstrom gave a different meaning altogether to the ordering system by making it hyper-personal through its mobile app. It created an app, TextStyle, which was essentially a personal link between customers and sales associate to help them through the buying journey. It allows sales people to send a description or photo of a product in a form of a private message. Once the customer is convinced by the information that he has received through the app, he just has to reply “buy”, enter in a unique code to complete the transaction. It’s like an encapsulation of the entire buying journey in one single app!

nordstrom app

C) Flipkart:

As customers get exposed to thousands of products on an ecommerce site, the chances are high that he may get stuck in indecision and may abandon the process. Though personalized onboarding can help in pacifying his nerves and notorious “buyer’s anxiety”, personalized In-app features can enhance his interactions with the app to make him stay a bit more with your app, and thus, with you. Flipkart, a major Indian ecommerce player, guessed that and decided to insert In-app chat function.

The direct benefit of In-app chat function is that it makes simpler for customers to take buying decision,as they can connect with their friends and family for an opinion instantly. The green signal by friends and family can push them closer to the checkout page. Flipkart Ping is designed with the same philosophy. Have a look at how this feature can help millions of customers.

All these three examples as well as the analysis of the customers’ expectations show that personalized apps should do more than just sending relevant content and information. Of course, it will hold its importance, as relevance will always get reverence. But that’s standard for this era. The need is to superlatively heighten the customer experience by generating a bird’s eye view of customer behavior, preferences, buying journey, needs and future possibilities. A shopping app should become a trusted virtual adviser. Otherwise, it’s far too easy for an app to tip over to the land of oblivion. This is especially true when customers are surrounded by 4.4 million apps!

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