It wasn’t that long ago that the capability to seamlessly add a user’s first name to communications or online experiences was an exciting way to personalize in digital marketing. We’ve come a long way over the years and more advanced mobile marketing automation (MMA) platforms have allowed for personalization to go from this simple first step to more complex—and powerful—possibilities.

Increasingly, customers expect a personalized experience from their products; they want to see recommendations that reflect previous searches or purchases, playlists that track favorite songs, and systems that remember previously entered information. Since the majority of users demand and expect personalized experiences, it’s all the more important to harness the capabilities of your MMA and develop thoughtful campaigns. Careful use can really pay off—Appboy has found that personalizing messages increases conversions by more than 27%.

Since there can be some confusion about what “personalization” in a marketing message or campaign means, mainly because it can mean a lot of different things, we’re laying it all out.

Personalized marketing can include customizing the copy or content of a message based on available information, segmenting campaigns for targeted groups, and guiding customers through lifecycle stages. And it can mean all of these techniques used together, which serve to create a truly unique experience for each user.

Making it personal with user data

With the advent of robust databases integrated with MMA, there are many possible ways to customize your messages and experiences based on the information you have on user events and attributes.

So what does it look like to personalize based on different information?

1. First name

You can always start by including the first name of users (once they’ve given it to you). This allows you to develop a friendly tone and show that you know your user and can be more effective than a generic, “Dear valued customer.”

Message personalization

2. Other events and attributes

Beyond first name, you’ll want to personalize messages with events and attributes that help you reach your goals. If the purpose of a push notification is to encourage a user to open your music app, entice them with a reminder about music they’ve enjoyed in the past. If the goal of a News Feed campaign is to keep a user reading in your media app, provide links to content that matches the preferences they set in their onboarding. The sky’s the limit when it comes to this kind of personalization, but remember the trust implied when a user sets preferences and conveys interests by using your app, and use that information to provide a positive experience.

custom event personalization

3. Location-based

If you have permission to access location information, you can develop some highly relevant campaigns by connecting users to their area—and avoid confusing or bothering those in other cities. This can work very well for companies with brick-and-mortar locations, local events, or other location-specific promotions.

Location-personalized push notification

Dynamic content capabilities can help you take this a step further by integrating with outside APIs like weather or other local details, which you can tie into your messages for greater relevancy.

4. Delivery time

Personalization can also come into play beyond the content of the message. Customizing send times for messages, based on prior engagement periods, can help ensure your message arrives at a time when it’s actually likely to be seen. Users most active during morning transit might receive the same message as the parents who only have time to spend on their devices after kids have gone to bed. With a sophisticated MMA, a marketer can set up a message with send-time optimization and have this done for them, instead of having to set up multiple campaigns.

5. Segmentation to deepen relationships

Personalized marketing can also mean different approaches to content and campaign strategy. Segmentation can help you identify groups that will need unique or overlapping strategies that could lead to different message variants (such as member vs. non-member) or entirely different campaigns for different stages of the user lifecycle (like new, active, lapsing, and power user).

For example, you can send app rating requests to segments of customers who are loyal users, or who have accessed advanced features of your app or site. Members of your loyalty program can receive discount offers that reward and encourage continued engagement, while non-members can receive campaigns that tout the value of signing up.

Different message variants

If your users span the globe, you’ll also want to consider how language can impact your conversion rates. Common Sense Advisory found that 55% of people will only make a purchase if the message they receive about it is in their native language. If you don’t have the capacity to hire employees to help with content in key languages, consider using freelance translators or a service, which can be a worthy investment. Keep in mind that human translation (with an expert) is much safer than leaving things to Google Translate, which could lead to embarrassing or offensive cultural misunderstandings.

What’s next?

What can we look forward to for the next phase of personalization? The answer may lie in AI. Some companies have developed chatbots that aim to feel like a live conversation, and there’s a good chance that artificial intelligence such as this will increase in 2017.

A few final thoughts

All of these personalization techniques work together to help establish you as a helpful expert, guiding the experiences of your users with personally relevant information.

With this broad capability, it’s crucial to personalize the right way by ensuring the value of the personalization is apparent and you have built a trusting relationship with users. By asking for information through signups and opt-ins, you can avoid seeming creepy or making users wonder how you accessed their information.

How can you ensure your personalization is effective? Plan out your key data for collection, focus on the purpose of your messages, and don’t forget to test and improve over time.