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Chapter 3

Why Deferred Deep Linking is a Game Changer

Why don’t regular links that open websites, also open apps?

You don’t have to do anything special to visit Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page (‘https://www.facebook.com/zuck’). You just type his website address into the browser and the page loads. This is why you almost never hear the term “deep linking” in reference to websites, but rather in reference to native apps.

It’s because apps don’t behave like browsers. They can’t receive mail in the same way that your house or office receives mail. They behave like PO Boxes. Apps have to be configured correctly and specifically for each app – or by comparison, they require their PO Box to be registered in order to be opened by a user directly via a URI scheme.

The technology that solves this problem is called Deferred Deep Linking.

What is deferred deep linking? It’s a concept invented by the deep linking industry in 2014. It refers to the process of deep linking a user after they install an app for the first time. If a user can’t access the PO Box, they can install the app and access it after. Deferred deep linking ensures that after they install, the user gets to the right spot in the app.Deep Linking Illustration - How it worksDeep linking providers can defer or delay the deep linking process until after the app has been downloaded.

This is how it works. The attribution provider would create a special link or URL which:

  1. Tries to open the PO Box (URI Scheme). If it works then the user goes right into the app
  2. If the PO Box can’t be reached (URI Scheme doesn’t work) it means the user doesn’t have the app, so instead it delivers the user to the App Store or Website – you can think of this as the home or office address.
  3. After the user installs the app, the attribution provider can send the mail to the PO Box (to the app) after the user opens from an install, allowing the user to continue their user experience.

Deep Linking vs. Deferred Deep Linking illustration

Example In Action
https://walmart.onelink.me/UIev?pid=Test&c=Test&af_dp=walmart%3A%2F%2Fip%2F33982751&af_web_dp=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.walmart.com%2Fip%2FIAMS-PROACTIVE-HEALTH-Adult-MiniChunks-Dry-Dog-Food-40-Pounds%2F33982751
In this case, the URL is an AppsFlyer link. It behaves as a deep link because it tries to open Walmart’s URI Scheme, and if not, it falls back to the App Store.
URI Scheme: walmart://
deep link path: af_dp

The Importance of Deferred Deep Linking

Previously, the only way to integrate deep linking was through heavy lifting across all mobile platforms a developer supports (App Store, Play Store, Windows etc.) This was a huge barrier to entry for small developers hoping to create an easy way for all users to access their app.

Another big problem with deep linking is that it could not carry data through the app install process. Or, in other words, if the PO Box wasn’t setup then a user couldn’t get mail! Without a URI scheme, there was no reliable way to deliver the user to the app, even when they didn’t have it installed. Deep links don’t provide context about the user unless they have the app already installed on their device.

Deep links provide a whole host of benefits related to this problem:

  • Optimal Conversion: For e-commerce and other brands that sell products or services in their app, only deep links allow you to drive users straight to the point of sale, even after install
  • Better User Experience: Users can go to the app store or app and get driven to a particular spot in the app after the install
  • Personalization: Deep links allow user information to carry through the install process, which enables apps to deliver a custom welcome message or personalize the first experience in other ways

For technical minds, deep links and attribution vendors also provide a slew of benefits:

  • Data reliability: All your data can be consolidated by device and user identity, making it easy for you to export data to a downstream source or visualize in a vendor dashboard
  • Deferred deep linking: Better ads, better customer experience and improved conversion
  • Efficiency: Save money by not spending on ad sources that are leading to high uninstall rates
  • Analytics: Track more metrics via an integration with a CDP like mParticle that ties all data sources together in a single spot

This matters a lot when over 60% of users drop off less than 24 hours after download, you’ve just provided the user’s first experience migrating to the native app as an error message. More importantly, according to AppsFlyer data:

  • Deep Linking users from your paid attribution sources drives a 31% retention to the app
  • Users convert at a 2.5x higher rate when they come from a deep link compared to a regular attribution link
  • Deep links have higher intent, which means a much higher lift in revenue. In fact, industry reports show that deep linking provides a 148% lift in average revenue per user (ARPU)
  • Users who click on a deferred or regular deep link such as AppsFlyer’s OneLink are 2X more likely to spend money in your app and will spend 2.7X more dollars on average

deep linking performance statistics

Key Takeaways

  • Web links can’t open apps like URI schemes can
  • Using an attribution or deep linking vendor provides many benefits:
    • Optimal Conversion
    • Better user experience
    • Personalization

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