The Personalization Principle: How Technology Is Humanizing Mobile Marketing

By Mark Ghermezian Dec 15, 2015

Think back—way back—to a time before mobile. You bought clothes, booked trips, followed driving directions, found lost items, snapped photos, discovered music, kept up with old friends, and made new ones—all without the help of apps, social media and other mobile technology. Even more incredible? This period in ancient history was less than a decade ago.

Fast forward to right now, and it’s clear that mobile really has changed everything. Most of us couldn’t imagine getting through the hour, let alone an entire day, without interacting with our tablets, smartphones, and wearable devices. In fact, two thirds of us check our phones for messages alerts or calls, even when they’re not ringing or vibrating. Seventy-one percent of us sleep next to our phones (that’s up from 44 percent just three years ago), and three percent have it in hand all night. You could say that we’re literally in a relationship with our devices.

The bond we have with mobile can be an intensely personal one. And it’s this strong emotional connection that really lights a fire under marketers: no other channel has such untapped potential to engage customers and guide their decision making process at exactly the right time, and in the right place.

Of course, recognizing the potential is the easy part. Understanding exactly who your customer is, what will influence them at any given moment, then customizing your messaging to match, well, that’s the holy grail.

Fortunately, just as mobile has evolved, so have the tools designed to support marketers in the pursuit of more relevant, intelligent interactions. Personalization is one of the industry’s most important breakthroughs; with it comes three ways technology is redefining how long-term relationships with customers are forged.

Personalization is recasting “users” as real people

Today’s fully integrated CRMs can take something inherently impersonal—massive amounts of data from several different sources—and assemble it in a way that creates a vivid, humanized picture of a real person. And they can do it for every single one of your customers.

Tapping the full potential of your CRM means using it to go beyond identifying a heavy user versus a lapsed user, or a single male 18 to 34 versus a mom 25 to 54. It means cultivating and curating data to understand the subtle nuances of each person’s daily lifestyle and routine. It means learning everything you can about your customer’s personal preferences, from which sports teams and music she loves, to the websites she visits frequently, to what she shares on social media, to the time of day she’s most open to reading and responding to messages on her smartphone.

Our potential to really know our customers is growing by the day. While 77 percent of Americans already own and use smartphones, the rapid proliferation of wearable tech and other smart devices means the amount of data you’ll have access to is almost unimaginable.

By 2017, 82 percent of companies will be connected to their customers through the Internet of Things, and marketers will pull data from everything from smart locks to smart packaging to smart jewelry. This is all the pursuit of wrapping your marketing around what’s now being called the “pattern of life,” for each of your customers—so you can develop hyper-personalized campaigns that serve to make their everyday experience better.

Personalization is creating meaningful conversations

In the past, the best way for retail brands to engage and interact directly with people was to station a solicitous salesperson at the front of a brick and mortar store and hope for the best. The potential for interaction ended the moment the customer left the building.

That’s all changed, thanks to mobile CRM technology. Marketers now have the ability to lead open-ended dialogues with their customers at any given time, interactions that are contextually relevant, and focused around the individual customer’s needs and wants (rather than the brand’s). And they can do it in a variety of digitally driven ways including email, push notifications, and in-app messaging.

While the process may be automated on the back end, the messages that the customer receives can feel like they were created specifically for them. This is an approach that works both for customers are marketers: Our research at Appboy has shown that campaigns featuring personalization have at least a 27% higher conversion rate than those not using a personalized approach. This number is consistent across both email and push campaigns.

Features like Appboy’s Intelligent Delivery take the approach one step further by delivering those personalized messaging to each customer at the exact time when they’re most likely to react to the conversation, further increasing the odds of success. That means marketers see higher engagement and conversion (app use, purchases, and other custom events) when they use Intelligent Delivery.

Because the relationship customers have with their mobile devices is such an intimate one, any messaging sent without a personal stamp will now be met with serious head scratch (“Why would they send that to me?”) or be dismissed immediately. Going forward, non-personalized campaigns may do more harm to your brand’s reputation than good.

Personalization is extending the customer lifecycle

Once someone takes that first big step toward engaging with your brand by downloading your app, there’s a specific transaction that has to take place within the first 14 days if you’re going to have a chance of keeping that customer. Customers who don’t take action early on are far more likely to disappear within three months. More than 80 percent of them, for good.

What that action is differs for every brand. If you’re Skype, you want customers to connect with other users that they already know. USA Today Sports want you to choose your favorite sports teams. SoundCloud encourages you to like and follow artists.

Personalization advancements allow you to differentiate your messaging very early on, so that you can encourage further opt-in by the less active group, and start sending customized outreach to customers who’ve already made that all-important first transaction. Hyper targeting and personalizing your messaging seriously ups the odds that your user will stay with you for the long haul. Our research shows that if customers consistently engage with your app during the first four weeks, you’re 90 percent more likely to retain them.

Using data and technology to create a more personalized, mutually beneficial user experience isn’t just a goal for marketers, it’s what customers actually want. Rise to the challenge, and your brand could become almost as essential to your users as their mobile devices.

Mark Ghermezian

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