How These 4 Brands Are Using Their Apps to Personalize Customer Experience

Home Depot and Sephora found success with location-based marketing and AR

Mobile apps that use personalization and location-based marketing have paid off for Home Depot, Sephora, Goat and the Sacramento Kings.
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In mobile Darwinism, every app fights for a consumer’s undivided attention and home screen, but the reality is they tend to stick with their go-to apps. And in fact, social media platforms like Facebook and Snapchat are the dominant species, comprising five of the top 10 free apps in the iTunes App Store. But it’s brands that have the toughest time with engagement given their constant need to attract consumers and drive revenue.

“It’s so easy to build an app these days, but there’s a whole ton of money that you need to expend to get people to know the app exists and then use it,” said Michael McGuire, a Gartner analyst. “If you don’t have a really solid handle on what your mobile value app proposition is, you can have a lot of problems.”

Here are four examples of brands, from Sephora to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, that have successfully pivoted to a mobile-first world, implementing strategies that include a range of targeting techniques such as location-based marketing, personalization, push notifications and even augmented reality and artificial intelligence.

Home Depot

The home improvement company uses location in two ways. First, the brand’s app looks at a shopper’s region to tie in localized design trends and products. Consumers in California would receive a different set of recommendations than someone living in Maine. Stores are geofenced, so when a consumer enters the app, which has been downloaded 20 million times, with Home Depot Pro customers making up one-third of monthly visits, it shifts into “store mode” and displays products’ locations. Some select stores even will have Waze-like guided directions to aisles.

Home Depot's app provides suggstions for design trends based on your location.
Home Depot


The beauty brand’s app also uses location technology to morph into a customer’s in-store shopping companion, reminding users of past purchases so they can stock up on favorite items, and it dishes out beauty tips. More impressively, the app also lets customers take control with Sephora Virtual Artist, an AI and AR feature of the company’s app. With it, customers can try on a variety of facial products.

“We pride ourselves on being able to adapt to their needs and be wherever they are, particularly on mobile, and have found that our app is one of the most effective ways of doing that,” said Bridget Dolan, svp of omni experiences and innovation at Sephora. It’s a strategy the company says is paying off, as customers have tried on 200 million shades during more than 8.5 million visits to the Sephora Virtual Artist feature.

Sephora Virtual Artist uses AR and AI to let customers try out its products.

Sacramento Kings

The Kings are using location to improve fans’ “curb-to-curb” experience at their games. Powered by mobile marketing company Urban Airship, the Kings’ arena app, Golden 1 Center, sends out personalized updates—like nearby parking or ordering food to your seat—on game day. The notifications register a 41 percent indirect open rate, and on average 20 percent of fans in attendance use the app. “By embracing technology, we’re making a statement that we’re much more than a basketball team,” said Ryan Montoya, chief technology officer of the Sacramento Kings. “We create incredible experiences, housed in the spectacle of an NBA arena.”

On average 20 percent of fans in attendance use the Golden 1 Center app.


The mobile sneaker marketplace lets users create wish lists of sneakers. Goat then sends push notifications to users when the sneaker goes on sale, if the shoes’ price drops and if a sneaker is near the shopper’s target price range. The company has more than 7 million members worldwide, with 400,000 listings on any given day. “We let the shoes do the talking,” explained Sen Sugano, vp of marketing at Goat. The company, whose demographic skews heavily male, is trying to expand its female audience through more curated collections on the app.

Goat typically has 400,000 sneaker listings each day.

1. Personalization

Having a customer isn’t enough; you need to know your customer, from where they live to what kind of products they like.

“We wanted to provide a very personalized experience but give power to the user,” said Sen Sugano, vp of marketing at Goat. This means letting the user create wish lists of sneakers they want, along with the prices they’re willing to pay for it. Once that sneaker is listed for sale or is within a 5 percent range of what the user wants to pay, the app will notify the user.

2. Push notifications

Personalizing push notifications can go a long way—from greetings to reminding consumers they’re near a store. Sephora pushes out notifications to let customers know when a product is back in stock and near a store.

3. AR

Brands should invest in AR where it makes sense, like Sephora’s Virtual Artist. Though there are a few issues, like users complaining in reviews that the Virtual Artist showed colors that were off, it’s important for companies to establish themselves as forward-thinking as the technology improves.

4. Location-based marketing

Whether it’s enhancing an in-store experience or bringing up past purchases, location-based marketing can manifest itself in many forms. The Home Depot app, for example, shows items that are relevant to where you are in the country.

5. Experiences

The Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center app helps fans keep up with their favorite team and feel connected—through personalized push notification greetings and helping you find the way to your seat.

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This story first appeared in the Feb. 19, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@itstheannmarie Ann-Marie Alcántara is a tech reporter for Adweek, focusing on direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce.