Why It’s Time to Get Personal in Mobile Apps

by Kollin Killian

posted on 12-07-2016

Mobile isn’t just about mobile anymore. Today, mobile offers actionable insights for the entire customer journey. It is the most direct, most consistent, and most up-close and personal access point you have with your audience. They’re not pulling out their laptops or desktops hundreds of times each day. Consumers aren’t flipping on their TVs repeatedly throughout the day. They aren’t keeping their newspapers within arm’s reach. No, consumers are reaching for their smartphones more and more often — and that’s why getting this platform right matters most. You want to be with your customers every day in every way, delivering the kind of rock-solid relevance your consumers crave.

Why You Should Master This Next Frontier Now
Marriott is a great example of a brand that “gets” it and is, hands down, getting it right. The hotel brand pulls relevant customer data — search history, member level, and previous stays, for instance — to shape experiences across all channels, including mobile and mobile app. These different experiences, touchpoints, and data points feed directly into user stories, each being another variable that paints a picture of who each person is and what separates him or her from the pack. Each variable — such as platinum status or location preferences — has the power to become a specific persona. The possibilities are endless.

Then, this data integrates with real-time interactions happening on the Marriott app, which is a thing of beauty. Guests can chat with the hotel and request everything from reserved parking to champagne and chocolates in their room upon arrival. In most cases, they don’t wait more than a few minutes for their requests to be flawlessly fulfilled with just a few quick clicks. Visitors receive what they want, and Marriott gains even more touchpoints to unpack — a definite win-win situation.

But, the real value lies in the personalization potential the app creates. Because Marriott knows and understands guest preferences and priorities — both historically and in the moment — they can create fully immersive, fully relevant experiences in and out of the mobile universe. Again, mobile informs the entire brand experience from start to finish.

Three Steps to Achieving Mobile App Personalization
Whether it’s an email to help with trip planning, a pre-check-in call to confirm preferences, or a seamless personalized check-in upon arrival, Marriott is using the data from all those mobile interactions to delight customers. Marriott’s customer-satisfaction scores remain at the very top of the hospitality industry — and why wouldn’t they be? If someone calls you before a trip to ask what kind of pillow you like, then greets you by name at check-in, and offers up a host of experiences that you love during your stay, wouldn’t you be all in?

Marriott understands the role of mobile in the customer journey. Now, it’s your turn to follow suit. The following steps will help you take a refreshing plunge into mobile app personalization.

Step One: Break Down the Data Silos.
Even if you’re just getting started with mobile personalization — or even with personalization itself — you can learn a lot from the Marriott example. For starters, the brand culls from seemingly endless data to get those experiences just right. To be able to do that — even on a small scale — you will first need to break down the data silos impacting your team.

More often than not, sky-high silos exist within organizations — even in some of the most sophisticated and most mobile-mature companies. Typically, companies have a dedicated mobile team whose focus is just that — mobile, mobile, mobile. The optimization and personalization team is on another side of the organization and has been handling all the testing, optimizing, and personalizing for web, email, and a host of other touchpoints. It’s like a Venn diagram — a lot tends to fall into the outer circles with only a few things (if any) touching both departments. What’s worse, those tasks that are covered by both departments are often duplicated instead of integrated and built upon for deeper insights.

And that’s a problem, especially with mobile now being king of the experience castle. To be successful and create these tremendous customer experiences, your brand must overcome internal silos to allow personalization and mobile teams to work together toward deeper insights and personalization.

That’s one of the keys to Marriott’s success. The organization pulls a lot of first-party data from multiple sources, including their web, email, and app touchpoints and even their backend booking system. Despite coming from a host of different sources, the data is always shared in real time, enabling them to best manage experiences across channels. Web, mobile web, and mobile apps all have different marketing leads — the difference being that the user stories emerging from these experiences are fed from the marketing team to the optimization team who then translates them into meaningful customer-led experiences.

Step Two: Build Cross-Functional Teams.
Once the silos come down, the next step is to build cross-functional teams. To ensure your organization has a complete view of the customer and — of equal importance — can act on that complete view, it’s important to structure teams around all aspects of the journey. Isolating one group of marketers to only see and act on your customers’ mobile moments, and another group to follow those same customers as they access your website or step into your store, simply doesn’t make sense. They are the same customers — customers who expect you to recognize them and deliver relevant experiences no matter where they pop up or what they want once they arrive. If Marketer A can only see and react to what’s happening in this part of the customer journey, it will be difficult (if not impossible) for Marketer B to effectively engage and deliver when that customer arrives on his doorstep — even if the silos have been torn down.

Now, the big question is, “How do you do that?” We’ve seen companies take many different approaches such as hiring marketers with broader experience bases — they aren’t just mobile marketers, in other words. But, we’ve also seen many companies tear down the silos and, afterward, blend teams into one bigger, better, totally cross-functional marketing team that represents all interests. This requires heavy teamwork as well as a commitment to this integrated approach that permeates all corners of the business — and that requires heavy institutional buy-in. By advocating your cross-functional successes — both the small wins and the big victories that come from collaborating with and working across departments — you’ll most likely be able to gain the traction you need to keep pushing and integrating. From there, the wins tend to keep coming.

Step Three: Create Content — Quickly!
And, let’s not forget content in the mobile-personalization equation. Platforms like Adobe Audience Manager collect all of the traits and data points your cross-functional teams are gathering from across all channels, using these individual traits to create segments within Adobe Target. Once in place, marketers and brands can push out content to each of their relevant channels.

Nike is the master. During the in-app onboarding experience, users tell Nike exactly what they’re interested in and what they want to see through a series of questions and prompts. Are you male or female? Are you interested in these business lines? Are you interested in Jordans? Running? Lifestyle wear? Users select the categories and then pick their clothing or shoe size. That intel is then used to deliver and promote relevant content within the app each time the user accesses it.

It’s an interesting example because Nike doesn’t wait for data to appear at their door — they literally ask for it and then act accordingly. It’s something any business can do whether they’re optimization pros or just getting their feet wet. The promise of value — relevant content, experiences, and offers — is enough to incentivize consumers to reveal personal information. If you can make it worth their time and sense of privacy, they’ll happily tell you exactly what you want to know — precisely what you need to deliver the right content at the right time.

The Final Step: Get Started!
Start by breaking down silos, sharing real-time intel, and then personalizing something simple with your mobile app experience. It could be a homepage hero running to 10 different personas — something as small as that will help you start moving the needle. Keep a close eye on consistency as you grow and scale and make sure teams and goals are always aligned. Ultimately, it’s all that stands between your brand and a serious customer relationship — a relationship that has the potential to deliver massive engagement and conversion — now and in the future.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Personalization