Why Deep Linking is a Must for M-Commerce Marketers this Holiday Season

The 2021 Adobe Digital Economy Index reported that 60% of online retail website visits in August 2020 came from smartphones, which now account for 40% of all online sales. It’s undeniable; mobile commerce — or m-commerce — will be a major factor in retailers’ success this holiday shopping season. 

Minimizing friction when consumers interact with your mobile app is critical to turning impulses into sales — and many m-commerce retailers will achieve this with the help of deep linking. 

What is deep linking?

Deep links are a type of link that sends shoppers directly to a page in an app instead of a website or app store page. Using deep links, you can direct users straight to specific in-app locations — often a promotion — saving your customers the time and energy of locating a particular page themselves.

This significantly improves the user experience and is often expected on desktop, but it’s not a given on mobile. Deep links allow mobile consumers to move effortlessly between destinations, such as from an ad for wireless earbuds on a social media network directly to that product’s page in your app. 

Ultimately, deep linking makes it easier for shoppers to find what they need, and, hopefully, come back again and again. They can even improve your user acquisition (UA) efforts. By providing a seamless user experience, deep links also help to reduce churn.

How to use deep linking for retail apps

When it comes to m-commerce apps, deep linking’s main benefit is its ability to send users directly to the page they are interested in and improve conversions. In fact, 51% of mobile users prefer to finish their transaction in-app. So, it pays to use deep links when running mobile ads or in emails. This is especially relevant on social media. 

Nearly 80% of consumers surveyed by Facebook said they used at least one Facebook app or service for discovery last holiday season, according to Alicia LeBeouf, Head of Industry, Retail, Superstores & Grocery at Facebook. Social is an increasingly important starting point for online shoppers, and social media users are increasingly mobile. Allowing potential customers to click on a product or offer that takes them directly to the in-app page where they can execute is just good business. 

But deep linking has other uses as well.

By identifying cohorts like lapsed users or customers who have abandoned their carts, you can test messaging — either through email or targeted ads — that incorporates deep links. This will allow your team to see how this segment responds to different offers and ad campaigns. It also promotes re-engagement, bringing users who might be in danger of churning back into your app and reminding them what you have to offer. 

But what happens if a user doesn’t already have your app and they click on a deep link? No worries; a deferred deep link ensures a user who clicks an ad but who doesn’t have your app installed can be directed to the app store instead. Then, because the data from their click is logged, that user is automatically sent to the intended destination after they’ve installed the app. This seamless user experience will not only please users but also lead to fewer missed sales. 

But there are caveats to both direct and deferred deep linking with the iOS 14.5 and 15 changes

Deep linking and ATT

Since the deprecation of IDFA and the introduction of App Tracking Transparency (ATT), marketers have scrambled to find new ways to understand their mobile campaigns. As I’ve discussed, using deep links in your campaigns can help you understand which ads or emails your customers are responding to and help you make better use of your ad budgets. 

The good news is user experience functions like deeplinking are not prohibited unless they are used as workarounds to ATT regulations, and, therefore, will not be impacted on iOS 15+. But there is a caveat.     

SKAdNetwork campaigns open the App Store page in a web view. This means that they could break conditional deep links, which direct existing users to your app and new users to the App Store. For users who currently have your app installed, conditional deep links work as expected. New users, however, are not sent to the App Store to install your app. So keep this in mind when designing deep linking campaigns this holiday season. 

If you’re planning to use deferred deep links, be aware that they may be impacted by iOS privacy measures. Deferred deep linking is strictly limited for iOS 15 users who do not consent to tracking, as without deterministic attribution it isn’t possible to match a click to an install.  

Marketers will need to be smart about how and when they use deferred deep links on iOS, but if you’re targeting shoppers on Android devices, you can optimize campaigns around a single page, stage, or catalog without worrying about user navigation. From UA to churn, from UX to conversions, deep linking can help improve every stage of the m-commerce user journey and ensure you win your piece of this year’s holiday shopping spend.

Melissa Coleman is VP of Customer Success at Adjust.

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