On the Move: Why Mobile Personalized Video Has Legs


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Last year, Flurry reported that consumers spend at least five hours per day on mobile devices. Furthermore, the percentage of time consumers spend on mobile browsers continues to decline, while the time they spend on mobile apps is rising. As Instagram shows huge gains in video views – and Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube experience growth in video engagement within their apps – it’s imperative for major brands to integrate video into their mobile app environments.

A brand must first evaluate its mobile strategy before undertaking any in-app personalized video initiative. If a brand’s current mobile app experience resembles the norm of brand-to-consumer communications, then it’s likely brand-centric, mostly transactional and not optimized for proper messaging to customers. Such a scenario is the perfect opportunity for in-app mobile video to take advantage of a brand’s mobile app real estate. By turning the customer experience into one that goes beyond transactions into the realm of the personal, brands can establish deeper, more meaningful relationships with customers.

Freed from the constraints of static images and text within a mobile device’s smaller screen, brands can use personalized video to deliver more information in less space. The captivating power of sight, sound and motion enables brands to communicate complex messaging to consumers in a more streamlined and targeted way, while in the process distinguishing themselves from competitors. As a result, personalized video integration enhances the mobile app experience for the viewer.

The inclusion of personalized video means mobile apps must be handled differently than traditional digital delivery channels. It’s crucial for a brand to treat the before, during and after portions of any in-app video as a single and continuous event, seamlessly leading the consumer through a precise set of desired behaviors. For brands, this requires aligning specific techniques and formats to marketing objectives, as no universal technique or format will work for every engagement.

The right invitations to draw customers to personalized videos

One of the first things for a brand to consider when implementing personalized video in a mobile app is how to notify the consumer of a video’s availability. This first notification – or trigger – prefaces the content and often determines whether the video records any views. These triggers tend to be grouped into two categories: pop-up prompts and in-line notifications.

If the content of a video is sophisticated enough to require the full attention of the consumer, then logic dictates using a pop-up prompt as a trigger. A compulsory pop-up prompt, such as a full-screen interstitial that forces the consumer to begin watching the video, is optimal for when the video content is urgent or directly relevant to the consumer’s original intention for logging into the app. This tactic works best for use cases such as onboarding a new customer or notifying an existing customer of a recent change in their account. However, if the video needs to be disruptive — but the content isn’t urgent or is only tangentially related to the customer’s initial intention — then a modal pop-up is preferable. In this format, the video receives context within a parent page; the experience grants the customer the option to access the video or save it for later. The modal pop-up has proven successful for personalized videos involving benefit explanations and service notifications.

Conversely, if the content of a video is meant to be less intrusive, then it makes more sense to use in-line invitations, such as pop-up banners and in-content video placements. These formats ensure that the customer is aware of the video’s availability without forcing an experience that may disrupt the original intention of accessing the app. Personalized videos for promotional offers and bill explanations tend to perform best using these formats. Brands should decide which specific in-line invitation to use depending on the overall user experiences of their apps.

With the exception of auto-playing videos, the first challenge for a video engagement to overcome is convincing the customer to simply play the video. The first step in achieving this goal is properly matching the notification experience with the type of content contained in the video, as stated above, and the second step is ensuring the copy and design of the notification is convincing. This step includes decisions like including a play button versus a simple hyperlink and specifying the personalized nature of a communication versus not. You only get one chance to convince a consumer the video is worth their time, so it’s important to grab their attention immediately and show value from the start.

Purposeful placement and design for in-app video

How consumers interact with videos on their mobile devices is different from how they watch videos on their laptop or desktop computers. When formatting an in-app video, it’s important for a brand to account for the consumer experience prior to the start of the video. For example, a video intended to auto-play in-stream while a consumer scrolls should be formatted differently than a click-to-play, full-screen interstitial video that is meant to be played without distraction.

That said, when an in-app personalized video is set to auto-play, consumers tend to unanimously agree in defaulting the video to “sound off.” Meanwhile, when a video is click-to-play, there tends to be an even split between consumers who prefer “sound off” to “sound on.” Although “sound on” generates higher engagement and retention, consumers tend to say the most important audio feature for them is being able to turn the volume on or off at the click of a button.

As for the video player experience, consumers mostly agree that when a video is click-to-play, they are indifferent as to whether the player is a full-screen pop-up or simply embedded into the page. When the video is auto-play, on the other hand, consumers prefer that the player does not pop up into full screen, due to its intrusive nature. Consumer aspect-ratio preference of horizontal, vertical or square formats also reveals a similar attitude of indifference. Simultaneously, if a video is presented in the traditional format, consumers do not turn their mobile device horizontally to view the video in full screen. In the end, consumers don’t seem to have an aspect-ratio preference, but with regards to the formatting of in-app video, their only preference is to be able to opt in or opt out.

Personalized mobile videos and calls to action (CTAs)

Finally, it’s important for a brand to consider what happens after the video ends. What should viewers do upon finishing the video? According to research, consumers don’t interact with calls-to-action (CTAs) in mobile apps the same way they do on other platforms. In fact, most mobile app consumers say they don’t ever interact with CTAs during videos, or even afterward. Alternatively, most consumers agree that in-app personalized videos increase their likelihood of taking the desired action, as long as they can do it on their own time and as they see fit.

In the end, the most important thing to remember when designing a mobile app personalized video program is that the best practice is to always tie experience design directly to the program goals. Though there are a few best practices that remain true across industry, use case and touchpoint, the majority of decisions don’t have a one-size-fits-all best practice to follow. Instead, brands should consider the in-app experiences they wish to create for customers and build mobile personalized video strategies that support those goals.

Eric Porres
Eric Porres is chief marketing officer of SundaySky. Previously, Eric was the CMO for Sailthru, a provider of personalization software, and CMO for Rocket Fuel, where he helped scale revenue and complete an IPO. He is an active angel investor and adviser to several startup companies.


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