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May 19, 2016

Google Instant Apps and the Evolution of Mobile App Deep Linking for Retailers

Retailers are on the front lines when it comes to changing consumer behavior. Capitalizing on the incredible rise of the mobile app ecosystem has allowed today’s ecommerce leaders to target their best customers more effectively with new mobile shopping experiences.

The results have paid off according to Criteo, whose research shows that retailers making mobile apps a priority saw in-app conversion rates that were 3.7 times higher compared to mobile web browsers. Criteo also saw higher average order values compared to mobile web and desktop.

As retail apps continue to prove themselves, the challenge for retailers is driving app downloads and converting the occasional online shopper into a frequent app user. This can be a costly endeavor and is often accompanied by a high uninstall rate.

New, ground breaking technology is now being introduced by Google called Android Instant Apps and it’s poised to help retailers drive app engagement and downloads by allowing consumers to use the app without installing it first. This is the evolution of mobile app deep linking or the ability to link to an app from a browser or from another app.

Deep Linking Part II

Simply by clicking on a link, a consumer can try the app or complete a task without installing it. Instead of opting to go to the retailer’s mobile website, the user could tap into a snippet of the retailer’s mobile app instead. The benefit for retailers is that after completing a few tasks this way, a percentage of users will decide to install the app and ultimately become a frequent user of the app and the lifetime value of that customer.

Ironically, negating the need to install the app could increase app usage as consumers are conditioned to use app functionality by simply clicking on links. Android Instant apps could fundamentally change the consumer journey for certain brands, products and mobile moments.

Providing meaningful, instant app experiences that are aligned with consumer intent will drive app engagement and downloads from a more targeted audience which will also lead to less app churn. It would also enable retailers to understand what percent of occasional app users can be converted into frequent app user status. Retailers with the highest percentage of frequent app users in relation to their total customer base will be better positioned to compete with the Amazon shopping app in the future.

The challenges retailers will face in implementing Google Instant Apps are similar to those of App Indexing which has seen slow adoption among leading retail apps. Retailers have built complex marketing and ecommerce operations and are unlikely to turn on such functionality without fully understanding the impact on sales.

As a mobile app development approach, Android Instant apps will lack the tools marketers needed to test and roll out such functionality incrementally while being able to measure lift. Analytics and the tracking of consumer behavior for re-marketing purposes is at the center of ecommerce operations. It is unclear how Google Instant Apps will interact with analytics tools and how that engagement information can be matched to a consumer profile if there is no app persistence.

Getting Started with Deep Linking Part I

Despite the challenges, Google Instant Apps is another indication that retail mobile apps are here to stay. If Amazon implements the new capability quickly, that could be a signal for wider adoption. To prepare, retailers need to adopt multi-channel app deep linking practices today to acquire as much information about consumer app behavior and conversion.

Retailers should be deep linking to their mobile app from all marketing channels including display advertising, paid search, email and affiliate marketing. Deep linking to apps from web marketing channels will reveal insights that retailers can use to understand which app engagement use cases and app functionality would be best suited for a Android Instant Apps implementation.

The mistake many retailers continue to make today is sending loyal or potentially loyal app users to mobile websites through multi-channel marketing efforts. The URLgenius deep linking platform enables marketers to view every channel as an opportunity for app re-engagement. The insights gained will provide valuable data that will inform retailers about which app functionality should be placed front and center using an Android Instant Apps strategy.

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