Personalization is crucial to a strong user experience on mobile. As UX Mag says, personalization matters because it is the process by which mobile companies deliver “the content users want based on past use, preferences or locations” while “creating a user experience that is both unified and pleasing”. It keeps the mobile experience relevant and engaging, two worthy goals for anyone working within the space.
When it comes to brand advertising, however, publishers have often failed to deliver a truly personalized experience to users. Paying lip service to personalization by using crude demographic targeting, publishers have ended up lumping thousands of users into unhelpfully generic segments. Defining them by imprecise shared traits, it slowly strips users of their individuality and damages advertising performance.
This is why persona targeting can offer an excellent solution for brand advertisers. Created with the help of first party and third party data, supplemented with market research and qualitative analysis, persona targeting gets advertisers to construct personalized profiles that go beyond simple demographics. This helps them to deliver the right adverts to the right people: increasing the effectiveness of brand adverts on mobile and treating users respectfully as a result.
The Evolving Mobile Ecosystem
Although finding the right users for your brand can seem like a challenge on mobile, a glance at the history of mobile advertising suggests that it has never been easier to reach the right audience in the right place.
Between 2009-2011, mobile advertisers had little meaningful user data or means of tracking to ensure a return on their investment. Buying users of unknown quality in bulk and praying that they would gain enough traction to be visible in the free app charts, advertisers regularly risked large amounts of cash on little more than a vague promise of high quality organic users.
Fast forward to the present day, however, and it is clear that mobile advertisers are now better placed than ever to identify, find and track their ideal users from advert into app. This is due to a series of technological and cultural developments that have helped advertisers to measure and track users more effectively than ever.
Advertisers have benefitted in three main areas. First party data collection has improved significantly, with in app solutions like Localytics or Flurry helping advertisers to examine user behaviour.
Third party data provided by advertising networks and Facebook provides a much clearer picture of their audiences, helping advertisers to target more effectively.
Perhaps most importantly, advertisers have benefitted from a developing culture of information sharing in the broader app economy. Trends such as sharing of data between publishers and advertisers and the proliferation of market analysis from the likes of eMarketer, has helped companies to understand their users within the broader market.
Improved data gathering has helped mobile advertisers significantly, but it has been underpinned by another ad tech evolution: development in ad tracking. Since Google and Apple introduced single advertising tracking standards, with Apple’s IDFA the best known of the two, the process of tracking user behaviour from advert to app has simplified in a manner that is advantageous to advertisers.
With third party attribution providers helping to connect the dots between a user who interacts with an advert and how they behave within an app, mobile advertisers have the tools to understand how individual users behave. This should help them to pitch their products and brands more personally, and more successfully, at its user base.
Out Outdated Demographic Focus
Some advertisers are struggling to take advantage of the opportunity to personalize because they are still building their audience profiles with out-dated methods.
Demographic targeting is a good example of this approach. Traditionally used by advertisers to define a potential new audience outside of mobile, demographic targeting uses data such as age, gender, income, geographic location to assume likenesses between people. It has, traditionally, been a powerful tool.
But, in the mobile advertising age, demographic targeting seems reductive because advertisers now have access to qualitative data, such as tastes or hobbies, to create more accurate segments.
For example, the demographic label such as ‘millennial’, which advertisers have applied to people, aged 18-30, is painfully loose. Though they share demographic similarities, a thirty year old woman born before the smartphone age will have significant different tastes, life priorities and interests to an eighteen year old who has grown up in the Snapchat age.
Targeting at a demographic level, then, has problems. And while it might seem like a price worth paying for simpler targeting, modern consumers expect a two way dialogue between themselves and a brand.
The Rise of Persona Targeting
People want to be treated like people. And it’s up to your business to transform its targeting approach to deliver what users want.
This consumer desire is why persona targeting is on the rise. Described by Hubspot as a “semi fictional impression of your ideal customers”, a persona goes beyond a demographic and becomes a representation of a person who would use your app.
Taking into account user demographics, but also examining wider interests and even biographical details, a persona goes beyond a demographic to identify the type of person or people to whom you can make a direct appeal based on their interests.
This can work brilliantly for brands. For example, a productivity app may be looking to establish themselves as the organisation platform for the next generation of entrepreneurs. Instead of simply looking at demographic data for millennials, the company may create a persona of the type of person they’d want to reach.
In this instance, the company creates the persona of a youthful, but busy, entrepreneur to go after. This then helps them when they begin to target their campaign. Rather than hitting millennials, the company targets 25-27 year olds in San Francisco, Berlin or London for their latest campaign. They look for people who have liked co-working spaces, who read entrepreneurial tech sites and whose interests include coffee to hone their audience further.
As a result, this hypothetical productivity app is much better placed to hit the right kind of user. By going beyond the demographics and creating the persona, the advertiser has a much better chance of reaching the right user – meaning an improved opportunity to present a relevant message and acquire their custom in the long run.
A Predominantly Richer Picture
The opportunity to present individual users with relevant advertising is the reason why the use of personas is on the rise. Though we’re still some way off achieving true personalization in mobile advertising, personas are a meaningful step in that direction and one which should improve advertising performance on mobile in general.
It’s important to point out the caveat in all of this: persona targeting is not always possible. While Facebook is benefiting from information that it has been collecting about its users over the last decade, the same cannot be said for most other companies. The truth of the matter is that many companies are only just starting out with the process of collecting insights and utilising first party data that will help them to execute both this new wave of persona targeting and other more original ways of campaign targeting.
Where it is possible, however, persona targeting offers advertisers the best opportunity to, as UX Mag said, “deliver the content users want”. And that is both a worthy goal and a sensible one for any brand looking to advertise to users on mobile.