Mobile Deep Linking with Universal Links and App Indexing and Why Online Retailers Have a Persistent Need for URL Schemes
Software development can be a tricky business especially on mobile where everything is moving at light speed. Whether one is building for iOS, Android or Windows, whenever a new update to an operating system is released, it’s all hands on deck to ensure that everything is working properly.
Note this only applies to Safari in iOS 9.2. The Google chrome app browser is not affected and still serves a blocking modal. The Android deep linking experience is also unchanged.
Here at Pure Oxygen Labs, we’ve already solved for this new new issue in Safari iOS 9.2, however, before getting to the details let us briefly revisit why persistent URL schemes combined with Apple Universal Links and Google App Indexing is the best technical approach to mobile deep linking especially for omnichannel retailers. Since the release of iOS 9.2, we’ve changed the default settings on all URLgenius links – see this blog post for more details.
Mobile Deep Linking and Omnichannel Campaign Optimization
Since the launch of Apple Universal Links, some have argued that URL schemes are no longer necessary. That notion might be true for select companies or for thousands of mobile apps in the app store that do not have use cases where users need to be sent to a mobile website.
Leading ecommerce companies, however, have unique mobile deep linking needs because they have a high volume of traffic going to both mobile apps and mobile websites. They also have mobile apps in different stages or maturity or for different target audiences. New apps and all types of campaigns and promotions may need traffic routed to a mobile web page or perhaps an app only audience. In this dynamic environment, online retailers need to continually test engagement and conversion strategies between app and web and therefore need maximum control over the consumer experience.
As such, the vast majority of leading online retailers have not implemented Universal Links. This slow adoption is related to complexity, overall readiness and the marketer’s need to control the user experience at the campaign level. Obtaining this control goes beyond flipping a switch and having all mobile traffic go to a mobile app.
The importance of Universal Links, however, cannot be understated. Universal Links enables your app content to be discovered and presented in mobile search results and it is the underlying technical standard that will help power all deep linking opportunities moving forward including the Apple Watch, Apple TV and the Internet of Things”.
In parallel, URL schemes enable deep linking at the company’s pace while maximizing control over the routing of traffic to mobile apps vs. websites at the campaign level. Online retailers in particular need this campaign level control.
URLgenius, for example, uses URL schemes to deep link to a page that might be several clicks into a mobile website. Marketing campaign managers can optimize when to link to the website, the mobile app or even the app store when the app isn’t detected. Routing decisions can be based on the product, promotion, marketing channel (display, search, email, affiliate social) or other considerations such as app maturity, audience and time of day. To get this level of control, URL schemes must be implemented.
Safari, iOS 9.2 and Deep Linking via URL schemes
Now let us go back to the change related to deep linking via Safari in iOS 9.2. When deep linking to an app, the logic around where to route the user when the app isn’t found must be actively managed. When the app isn’t found, Safari displays the following dialog box.
On the other hand, when the app is found the “Open App” modal is called. This is the dialog that Apple changed in the Safari iOS 9.2 update. Using Twitter as an example, a deep link to a tweet or to a profile page would trigger this Open App modal.
At Pure Oxygen Labs, within our URLgenius platform we’ve solved for this by providing the ability to increase or decrease the amount of time the dialog displays giving the user more time to make a selection. In our testing, we’re finding that about two seconds is in line with consumer behavior.
The best of both worlds: Apple Universal Links + App Indexing + URL Schemes
In 2016 and beyond advertisers, agencies and publishers need maximum control as they optimize omnichannel marketing campaigns in efforts to influence the consumer journey. URL schemes are pivotal because they help provide ecommerce leaders with the control they need to route traffic between mobile apps and websites across iOS and Android.
At the same time, Apple Universal links and Google App Indexing are crucial for app content discovery and help to ensure that retailer content will rank high in relevant mobile search results.
Stay tuned in 2016 for more changes in what will no doubt be an exciting year for mobile marketing and mobile commerce! Read the FAQs to learn more about URLgenius and contact us with your mobile deep linking questions and challenges.