It’s 2016, and marketers still have trouble personalizing their outreach to customers. Only five percent of marketers have a predictive understanding of the customer journey, and only 31 percent say they use customer data to provide better experiences.
Just 19 percent of marketers personalize their app strategy, and yet personalization is life or death to brand apps trying to engage new users with high expectations.
But that may be ready to change. I sat down with several leading mobile brands, including Lyft, Shopkick, Poshmark, Smule, and an ex-Walmart executive, at the 2016 Mobile Resolutions conference last week, and the core takeaway was that these companies spent 2015 ramping up in order to embrace personalization in 2016. Here are some of the insights they shared on how they plan to conquer personalization in manageable, scientific ways.
Let data tell you where to meet customers in the app life cycle
Shopkick’s VP of Growth and Data Science, Manu Sharma, described 2015 as a year of testing hypotheses about users and refining those hypotheses through experimentation. For Shopkick, a shopping rewards app, that meant refining repeatable metrics that measure engagement. After much testing, it realized one of its most important engagement metrics was in-store app use within the first week of downloading.
Other brands can learn from Shopkick: Opening up A/B testing to variables you might not have considered will help you access better data and make mobile a science. Identify your own unique key performance indicators (KPIs) rather than canned ones.
Lyft, for instance, tested dozens of variables to reduce the 70 percent industry-wide rate of user churn and app abandonment. Lyft realized if it didn’t get the experience right on the first try, a user would delete the app, according to Peter Morelli, VP of engineering for Lyft. And, Lyft has two user groups to please: drivers and riders. As such, it tested not only basic factors like time, location, and demographics, but also details like the placement of information in the user flow (an important lesson for all utility apps).
Take cues from A/B testing to make personalized moments matter
Poshmark, a fashion marketplace app, realized the importance of identifying milestones in the customer journey and plans to use them to increase engagement by 10-20 percent. Poshmark founder and CEO Manish Chandra saw that an important milestone for Poshmark users is when friends join the app, for example, so the company has developed social graphs to notify users when their friends join. In another instance of simple personalization, Poshmark learned onboarding was a key engagement period and decided to get users’ clothing sizes up front in order to fill their “store” with tailored options immediately.
For Shopkick, personalization is about context. As Sharma pointed out, “Increasing engagement is contextual. Notify users in moments that matter, in real-time.” Accordingly, Shopkick is getting smarter about push, especially geo-targeting. Location targeting is still rudimentary for many, but marketers can contextualize by more than GPS. For instance, Shopkick realized pinging someone as they drive by Macy’s on the highway distracts and annoys them, while pinging them as they walk through a mall is helpful.
Personalization in the moment yields bigger engagements
Mobile brands can set high standards for themselves and actually meet those standards if they use the data at hand to meet users personally in ideal moments. Smule, the social music app developer, aims to be as personal and effective with push as Google Maps is, according to Director of Marketing Alessandra Sales. She wakes up and Google tells her the best route and expected time to get to work that day – a valuable exchange during a moment that matters – and she wants to provide that level of service to her own customers.
The sky’s the limit for mobile personalization. Brands and consumers alike will reap the rewards of the more scientific age of mobile we’re entering this year, in which data empowers marketers to personalize and create better experiences every day.
Momchil Kyurkchiev is CEO and cofounder of Leanplum.