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In-App Stories for Personalized Marketing Strategies

İrem Isık
Dec 24, 2021
min read

The Age of Mobile Experience

As the consumers of today, we have become experts at navigating through and managing our daily lives through the small screen of smartphones in our pockets. We are living in a world where the pandemic has been going on for more than two years now, and the extraordinary states of restrictions, being remote, and so on has become the norm. As a result, mobile will continue to be our primary channel for shopping, business, leisure, socialization, education, and entertainment.

Post-Pandemic Mobile Device Statistics

  • More than 20% of the global retail sales took place online in 2020.
  • Since the beginning of the pandemic, the food delivery industry has seen significant growth in mature markets (McKinsey, 2020).
  • On Mother’s Day 2021 in the UK, brands have seen an increase in online sales of up to 47% compared to a year before.
  • According to the App Annie Report of Q1 2021, in-app consumer spending overall has broken a record increase of 40% in general.
  • The use of finance, e-wallet, and stock market apps are on a sharp rise, where mobile stock market activity has grown more than 50% compared to last year.
  • 1 out of every 2 Americans states that they’d like to continue shopping online.

In such an isolated world, today’s consumers are in search of building relationships. Whether brands can create a real conversation with their consumers is more critical than ever for the continuity of consumers’ commitment and loyalty to that particular brand. They would like their needs, desires, and wants to be acknowledged and met by their brands. Also, they would like to feel special and have a unique (in other words, personalized) experience.

Due to the changing macro environment and consumer habits, we also see a significant proliferation of brands going digital, creating their own D2C channels and online communities. Now, there is heavy competition to step out of the clutter in that small fragment of a screen. At the same time, the user is bombarded by messages daily. Because today’s mobile users have an attention span shorter than a goldfish, it is even more challenging for brands to grasp that attention to deliver the value proposition.

Why Is Personalization Important?

In the context of changing consumer habits and the fierce competition to grab the attention of end users, brands need to find ways to differentiate themselves from this clutter.

An Accenture survey in 2018 states that 91% of the participants indicated that they have a higher tendency to remember brands and prefer to shop from them when those brands present relevant offers to consumers. So, the answer to the prayers is the concept of personalization. In a data-oriented world, smart and crisp personalization is a lot more possible than ever. An iconic example would be the Wrapped campaign by Spotify, which transforms the user journey into a personalized experience. Additionally,  Spotify encourages users to share this experience within their social circle, converting those users into owned channels for new user acquisition.

Netflix, today’s video streaming giant, has set a whole new bar on personalization by investing in the algorithms to perfect personalized journeys since the early 2000s. The latest addition to the platform, “play something for me,” makes suggestions to users. By getting their feedback on the way, those recommendations become even more smartly personalized. Netflix has set the north star metric as retention and has proven that personalization is the key to achieving that. More than 80% of what Netflix subscribers watch today are the successful results of these personalization algorithms.

So, smart and successful personalization with the continuous reiteration of process by user data is the key to becoming the Netflix and Spotify of tomorrow.

Challenge: Finding the Right Channel to Deliver Personalized Experiences

Personalization is a must-have in the overall user journey for mobile brands, yet still another challenge here resides. Which channels would be most effective to land these personalization experiences? The existing mobile UI elements like banners, pop-ups, in-app notifications, in-app messages, modals, or tooltips have their roots in the web. This, in fact, hinders their effectiveness when it comes to delivering the undisruptive personalized messages we’d like to grab attention with.  Also, they can actually interrupt the user journey and create disturbance. Ideally, a user’s journey in a mobile app should be undisrupted, immersive, and seamless.

The first-ever banner in the digital world was sold by Hotwire to AT&T in 1994. The conversion rate at that time was a shocking 44%, meaning almost every 1 out of 2 people who had seen that banner actually clicked on it. Fast forwarding to today, the conversion rate of banners is less than 1%. Today, mobile users don’t notice any banners, are reluctant to go through more than 3 to 5 carousels, don’t enjoy when their journey is interrupted with a random pop-up, and certainly don’t like to scroll down.

Why Stories for Personalized App Marketing?

In light of the challenges above, a new, fun, engaging, and innovative way to communicate with app users and achieve long-term engagement and retention is essential. Here enters the format of in-app stories, as the new yet familiar, full-screen, immersive, and extra dimension to rescue!

In brief;

We live in a world where the lines between verticals are getting blurry. Social platforms act more like shopping platforms by adding features like “buy on platform.” Likewise, shopping platforms are inspired by social apps’ feature sets. Consequently, with its dynamic, interactive and voluntary nature, stories have become the “extra layer” that the mobile marketers of today are looking for.

Considering it from the end user perspective, the familiarity of the format would assist them at every step of the journey, starting from onboarding to becoming a loyal user.

How? Let’s talk by examples!

How to Use In-App Stories to Personalize the Mobile Experience

1) Make Onboarding Relevant Through Personalization

You can start personalizing the user experience from the very beginning of their journey. They came to your platform through a specific call-to-action from a specific acquisition campaign, which actually is a part of your overall value proposition. Thanks to MMPs, you’d be able to track which creative, with which CTA has brought that particular user. Why not take that one step further and reflect it on their onboarding experience after registration? You can achieve it with a how-to guide or what-is-expecting-you-here guide emphasizing the CTAs that the end user was triggered to come to this platform in the first place. And you can do this through the full-screen experience that stories would provide!

Assume that you have an e-wallet app with various benefits for newcomers, such as a partnership deal with a big brand or a discount on the first transaction. Both can be used in your marketing campaigns separately. For user A, who installs the app for the partnership deal, you can start the onboarding from the details of that deal. On the other hand, you can start user B’s journey by triggering them to their first transaction with a full-screen guide that finishes off with a CTA leading them to that first transaction. All these are possible through in-app stories.

2) Enable Seamless Product Discovery and Reiterate for Better Personalization

For any app, product, or service, discovery is the key starting point for the funnel guiding the user through the desired action decision. The better the recommendations in this initial stage are, the higher the likelihood of any action to happen. At this point, personal recommendations through in-app stories can be great for a seamless, immersive, and successful discovery process.

For instance, let’s imagine a fashion app with numerous product offerings. Instead of the never-ending scroll-down, through personalized in-app stories, users can  navigate within their own virtual stores tailored for their needs, wants, and tastes. Their behavior in these stories can make the recommendations given in the next visit even smarter, because everything that happens on Storyly can also be sent to any third party analytics platform, where eCommerce brands can feed into making new audiences, making new hero lists and feeding it back into Storyly; similar to what Netflix does on their platform from day one.

3) Trigger Action via Personalization

The ultimate goal of all mobile marketers is to make the user proceed with the desired action, whether it be a first purchase, a repeat purchase, an order, an upgrade, or a subscription. And as for the end users ourselves, I believe we can all tell by experience that the flow should be easy to understand, without any disruption, encouraging, and ideally tailored for our wishes. Any interruption through this journey can cause a disappointment on the end user side that would result in them leaving the platform entirely. Again, with its voluntary nature, stories present tremendous opportunities for marketers to enrich this user journey.

Let’s  imagine one of the main pain points of eCommerce platforms: cart abandonment. It is possible to deal with this problem through personalized stories. You can welcome users on their next visits with a story group showing them what they’ve forgotten in their basket and with a simple call to action button or swipe up. In other words, you can guide them to check-out!

One step further would be to facilitate that visit through a push notification that has an embedded deep link to that story. Through that, the user can open the platform through the story itself, which would minimize the possibility of any distraction and ensure the maximization to conversion!

You can think of many other cases like this, such as personal promo code stories, personal limited edition stories, personal price drop stories, and so on. Sky’s the limit!

4) Build relationships through personal experiences for retention and advocacy

As Edelman said on HBR in 2010, the relationship between brands and their customers is no longer a funnel; it is actually a continuous loop with a two-way dialogue always being open and necessary. Therefore, brands should not only consider smart personalization from a performance perspective. It is the strongest capability at their hands to also establish a sincere, intimate, and authentic relationship with their customers.


Based on this approach, it is more than necessary to empower users, acknowledge their wants and needs, and make them feel like part of the community. Similar to the Spotify Wrapped example, you can generate this feeling with personalized and shareable in-app stories. Imagine their impact on the virality of your platform, turning your users into active brand ambassadors spreading the word around the great experience they have with your brand!

5) Shape your user’s journey on your platform individually through in-app stories

In a world where we live and breathe on mobile, having a channel that is fully familiar to users feels like a tremendous yet crystal clear opportunity. In the end, stories are the dominant content form today for onboarding, communication, engagement, relationship building, and retention. The fact that you can personalize the content at every step of the journey is the cherry on top.

So, it is time to get excited, embrace this trend, and start telling your brand story with in-app stories!

What’s a Rich Text element?

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Static and dynamic content editing

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How to customize formatting for each rich text

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İrem Isık

Always excited about new tech that can service next-gen brand building, as a former brand manager. Currently narrating the story of Storyly and its immense capabilities for user engagement as the Head of Marketing. 


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