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What does app personalization mean and why is it important

Team PaperLit


The statement, “there’s an app for everything nowadays”, is usually intended as an overstatement. However, it is somewhat grounded in reality. The sheer number of apps available today means you’ll have to ensure that your app stands out.

As of March 2018, Statista reported that there were 3.6 million apps now available in the Google Play store while Apple apps were at 2 million. The mass oversupply means users aren’t waiting around for you to realise that you have to cater to their needs. In fact, a report in 2016 cited that 1 in 4 users abandon apps after only one use.

There are quite a few reasons for this as well aside from mere oversupply. Mobile storage space is finite and so when making space for new apps, naturally, the most unused ones will be the first to go.


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So how do we fix this? Of course, standing out in app stores is taken care of by app promotion strategies. Examining the key challenges for app retention above, it really just boils down to whether your app fits well with the habits and needs of their users.

What really ensures that your app stays in your users’ phones is applying app personalisation.

So what is app personalisation?

Basically, app personalisation is the development of mobile applications that meets the needs of its specific users as it’s programmed to adapt itself based on the user using it.

When an app recommends quick access to recently used functionalities, that’s already a form of personalisation. When a shopping app recommends similar or related products or accessories to products you last checked before, that’s also app personalisation.

The applications for mobile commerce apps such as Amazon or Ebay’s apps is obvious, but this can be applied to digital magazine apps as well.

App personalisation in digital publishing apps

If you’re thinking about personalising the app of your digital magazine, you’ll have to first understand one thing – what does your reader value the most from you? You need to know whether your publication is read because it’s educational, or it provides instant news or analysis, or it provides the best information source for a particular topic or niche.

If my digital magazine is read because it’s an industry magazine that provides immediate information in my particular sector, do I really want to see ads that talk about a medieval fantasy game?

Remember that when delivering an app, you are delivering an entire set of experiences. It was a lot more controllable with print magazines. You understood everything that should go in every square inch of your magazine – every single page! But an app has a lot of factors to consider – push notifications, ads, the onboarding process, updates, your app structure itself etc.

Three types of information needed to personalise apps

App personalisation requires three types of information. Not necessarily all together, but you have to understand that the more you get to know about your audience, the more you can customise your app and offer personalised experience.

  1. Personal information: can’t have personalisation without personal information from your audience. The types of personal information you want to look include age group, whether they are male or female, languages spoken, etc.
  2. Behavioural information: this type of information can include last functionalities accessed, topics most read, etc. Personalising your app and programming your app to understand this is very powerful as you ingrain your app into the habits of your user.
  3. Contextual information: this information is gathered based on the environment and circumstances where your app is used. It could provide clues as to whether they open your app at certain times of the day or while they are in certain places or vehicles or modes of transportation. Think about how Netflix allowed subscribers to download episodes in advance after recognising that some users want to watch episodes while on a plane without good internet connections.


Adapt or die is the main reason why the entire publishing industry has switched to digital formats and explored digital publishing channels such as apps.

Now that the industry understands this, it’s necessary to stay ahead of the curve. App personalisation is another form of adaptation that allows your publication to be closer to its readers.

To get a bird’s eye view of this topic, download our Starter’s Guide to App Promotion and User Acquisition for Magazine and Newspaper App Publishers.