App deep linking has been getting a lot of press coverage this year. As consumers spend more time on mobile devices and within their favorite apps, publishers, brands and agencies are scrambling to find ways to drive engagement and mobile app deep linking is often cited as one solution.
Deep linking will check for the presence of a mobile app and then route the customer to a particular page within the app if present on the device. Landing pages could include product pages deep within the app; the app store to prompt the user to install the app before proceeding to the page; or an equivalent mobile web page if the app isn’t found.
Beyond the retailer’s own brand app, marketers may want to send their mobile users from different campaigns to the company’s Instagram or Pinterest account to view seasonal content or to the company’s Facebook “About” page to view store information or hours of operation.
Ideally, a savvy marketer has control over these app deep linking rules and optimizes different campaigns and landing pages based the marketing channel, campaign objectives and consumer insights.
By now, one may think that opening a brand app or social app automatically and routing customers to the right place within the app is a simple thing to do from any marketing channel (display, search, email or affiliate). The adoption rates for app deep linking among the IR Mobile 500 tell a very different story.
Mobile App Deep Linking: Why the Slow Adoption?
In a recent analysis by Pure Oxygen Labs, only 66 or 28% of the IR Mobile 500 had taken steps to support app deep linking on iOS via Apple Smart Banners. Perhaps even more surprising is that only 3 retailers had taken steps to support deep linking on Android via app indexation.
The vast majority of retailers are simply sending all mobile traffic – including loyal app users – to a mobile website where they need to login at which point abandon rates are often high. Even links to social content where despite having the mobile app for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest installed on the device, the user is sent to the social platform’s mobile website to login and navigate.
Online retailers that recognize the value of app deep linking such as REI and ETSY are already seeing the benefits including increased brand engagement, mobile sales and consumer behavior insights. In Etsy’s case even its higher stock price is attributed in part to its app deep linking capabilities.
So with all the talk about omnichannel marketing and integrated customer experiences across channels and devices, why aren’t more retailers adopting app deep linking capabilities more quickly? The short answer: complexity and resources.
Three reasons why IR Mobile 500 retailers are lagging in deep linking capabilities:
- App deep linking represents a complex and fragmented solution landscape
Developer solutions for app deep linking were released last year and this year by Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter along with announcements that more deep linking features are in the pipeline. These solutions have the interests of each platform narrowly in mind and support only a fraction of the various use cases and browser scenarios. In addition, the web browser landscape is complex and includes not only Safari and Chrome but embedded safari for Facebook and Twitter as well as browser applications including Firefox and Opera that are downloaded from app stores. Development teams in coordination with marketing need to track and consider the value of each specific deep linking use case which can be confusing and burdensome over time. Implementing point solutions in this way also provides consumers with an inconsistent user experience.
- Deep linking SDKs and APIs can require significant development resources
The technology teams at any brand, retailer or agency have a long list of technical projects that are all considered important. App deep linking for mobile apps via platform specific SDKs and APIs represent one more development requirement that needs to be prioritized along with many others that will typically take precedence. Responsive design, dynamic serving, scalability, mobile payments, marketing analytics and big data projects are all issues that ecommerce management wrestles with on a daily basis. App deep linking, although acknowledged as important often falls down the priority list at the expense of customer experience. Many retailers are now understanding they face a build or buy decision.
- The deep linking disconnect with marketing departments
Marketers may perceive app deep linking as something that is beyond their control. They also may not realize how a deep linking strategy can increase engagement, drive sales and provide previously unknown insights into consumer behavior. REI for example was surprised to learn that over 80% of the clicks on its mobile display campaigns were from users who had the REI app installed which was much higher than anticipated. Today’s nimble, tech-savvy marketers may not be able to implement SDKs or APIs but with the right tools and they can spot trends, take action and optimize campaigns in ways that will drive higher return on marketing spend across channels.
URLgenius: A Unified Approach for Intelligent Routing
Deep linking presents a tremendous opportunity for marketers in their effort to create context sensitive, cross-device experiences for consumers across marketing channels including display, search, social, email and affiliate. Long term, however, the implementation of deep linking capabilities via platform specific SDKs and APIs creates unnecessary work for technical teams while relinquishing control of the customer experience to other companies with different timelines and objectives.
Agencies, publishers, brands, retailers need simpler ways to implement deep linking on mobile apps for both iOS and Android. The ideal deep linking approach should take advantage of – yet rise above – the complex myriad of platform specific SDKs and APIs while offering control to marketing departments so that deep linking becomes an important tool for testing campaigns, understanding consumer behavior and driving engagement.
URLgenius offers a unified, easy-to-use platform for deep linking on iOS and Android without the need for complex technical integration.
Contact us today, we can typically get test links setup within minutes.