What Do Mobile Apps Mean For Brands’ Personalization Strategies?

We already know why brands should focus on mobile; it’s one of the fastest growing marketing channels. Yet, when Sailthru analyzed more than 250 brands for our second Retail Personalization Index, we were surprised to see that many top global retailers and ecommerce companies struggle with their mobile apps. Worse, many don’t have one at all.

During our research, we quickly learned what users don’t want from apps: too many push notifications, personalized or not; and constant crashes and glitches.  The latter is true for a shocking amount of successful brands. Many seem to have created a (dysfunctional) mobile app just to check that box.

To offer their customers a useful experience, brands’ apps must be separate from the product. They must perform a unique service, offering a highly personalized, relevant and shareable experience.

A Smart Personalization and Segmentation Strategy

According to comScore, mobile has officially outpaced the number of global desktop consumers. Brands can’t simply create a mobile app or translate their website into a mobile API. Instead, they must target their audience and reward app users, rather than pushing them the same content and web retargeting that they receive in emails. Integrated into the brand’s app, PacSun’s myGSOM Rewards program incentivizes user behavior in this way. Reading an email is worth 15 points, for examples.

This can be accomplished with a smart personalization and audience segmentation strategy. Examples include:

  • Seamless navigation between online and offline experiences
  • Shared customer cart between platforms
  • Mobile apps that display a shopper’s first name
  • Integration of mobile and in-store experience, such as rewarding a customer with points or incentives whenever they enter a store
  • Personalized offers and discounts in mobile messaging or an app’s inbox, which feel more intimate than an email offer
  • Retargeted ads that extend from web to the app with curated products and previously browsed items sprinkled in throughout

How Urban Outfitters and Chairish Nail It

Urban Outfitters had the largest year-to-year leap in Index scores. Compared to 2017, the brand improved by 36 points, largely because of its app improvements. With a 4.9-star rating, Urban Outfitters’ app is currently the number 54 shopping app in the iOS App Store.

Mobile apps: Urban Outfitters

Features like a curated feed and ‘discover’ section, as well as a built-in ‘most liked’ social component, give the app more user-friendly feel. From streamlined product reviews to deliberately curated items, everything feels like a referral. When brands learn to intelligently leverage personalization, every suggestion will seem as if it’s from your best friend, resulting in increased brand loyalty and the strongest type of referral. When customers reach 100 points in the UO rewards program, they receive $5, resulting in long-term revenue growth that in turn increases customer lifetime value. The push notifications are brilliantly timed, triggered by previous behavior, and increase sales through the personalization of notifications and discounts.

Jumping 31 points on this year’s Index, Chairish is another brand that owes its higher score to to the effectiveness of its app. Chairish offers customers an experience they can’t get on email: the ability to view a piece of furniture or art in your actual space. The app offers an additional service component to its products because it understands its audience and delivers the thoughtful, connected mobile experience they want.

Apps Can Keep Retailers Competitive

Sephora proves how quality products coupled with a useful app can predict the future of mobile apps. Its 4.7-rated app tops the list because shoppers report how easy it is to use. Additionally, the services it offers can’t be found in brick-and-mortar locations.

Mobile apps: Sephora

The app might even be easier than shopping in-store, since customers can virtually try on products and learn new makeup techniques through videos and tutorials. Customers can shop based on skin type and color preference, and honestly, what’s more personalized than that? People with sensitive skin report having an easier time shopping on the app because of its comprehensive customer reviews for each product, something you can’t find offline.

If brands don’t work to personalize on mobile, they will fall behind the curve. Many retailers that scored well on the Index have simplified the buying process for consumers. Still, they aren’t all leveraging their brand on mobile. Mobile apps must supplement strong products through complementing them with a user-friendly, on-brand experience.


Kait Hobson is a former Sailthru intern who worked on the Retail Personalization Index. She is currently a content editor at Kisi.

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