Deferred deep linking

Deferred deep linking is a way of taking users seamlessly to specific content in an app they don’t yet have. After clicking on a promotional link, users are guided to the relevant app store to download the app – which then opens at exactly the right spot.

What is deferred deep linking?

In today’s multichannel world, app marketers have the opportunity to reach out to users wherever they are. You can promote your app on websites, via social media channels, in text messages, and even with no screens in sight — through a QR code.

The secret is to ensure a smooth journey from the source to your app. Any friction along the way risks losing users, who may get distracted, confused, or simply frustrated. 

The solution lies in deep linking. Similar to a website URL, a deep link takes a user to exactly the right destination within your app. So there’s nothing for them to navigate, and no chance of them getting lost. 

Deep linking is great for re-engaging existing users: think of those cart abandonment messages that take you right to your filled basket to complete your purchase. 

But what about user acquisition campaigns, where you’re trying to reach people who don’t have your app installed? How can you get these potential users through your digital door? 

That’s where deferred deep linking comes in. This route makes an additional stop-off at the app store, so the user can easily download your app. But once they open it, there’s no wasted time finding their way around — they’ll find themselves in the exact spot they were looking for. And you just earned yourself a new app user. 

Why is deferred deep linking important?

Deferred deep linking is a powerful tool in user acquisition campaigns, and has more benefits besides. Let’s take a quick look: 

Acquire high-quality new users

Deferred deep links are a surefire way to boost app installs. They enable you to reach a wide range of potential users across multiple channels, and showcase your app experience to them. What’s more, when users click on your ad, it’s a good sign that they’re already engaged and likely to be of high value. 

Boost return on experience

Put simply, deferred deep links mean smooth user journeys. Because who has the time to feel their way around an unfamiliar app? When you invest in creating these personalized, contextual, and frictionless customer experiences, expect to see your ROX (return on experience) rocket.

Reconnect with lost users

As well as acquiring new users, deferred deep linking can help you win back those who’ve stopped using your app — or even uninstalled it. This is your chance to show them what they’re missing, and make coming back simple and straightforward. 

How does deferred deep linking work?

We’ve seen how deferred deep linking works from a user perspective: Click on a link, land on the app store, and open your shiny new app in the perfect spot. But what’s going on behind the scenes?

It’s all driven by something called a deep linking engine: typically a web platform and an SDK added to your app. When a user clicks on your link, the engine can tell whether or not they have the app installed. Depending on the result, it sends them on one of two user journeys:

  1. App installed > Relevant page in app (= deep linking)
  2. App not installed > Relevant app store for installation > Relevant page in app (= deferred deep linking)
deep linking and deferred deep linking process

A good technology provider or mobile measurement partner will offer deferred deep linking as part of their service, and take care of the tech side for you.  

Deferred deep linking use cases

Let’s take a look at some of the practical ways marketers are using deferred deep linking in campaigns. 

  1. Refer a friend

Referrals are big business in the gaming app world: a game sounds way more fun if a friend recommends it. Offer existing players an incentive (like an in-game freebie) in exchange for sending a referral link to a friend. When that friend clicks, your deferred deep link makes it easy to install the app and start playing right away. 

  1. Build ad engagement

Let’s say you’re a grocery brand showcasing a new recipe. You might demo this being made on your social channels, with a deferred deep link that takes users right to a shopping cart filled with the perfect ingredients. For your print and outdoor campaigns, you can do the same by showing a tempting photo with a QR code as the link.  

How do deferred deep links work?
  1. Encourage app migration

In some sectors, like finance, customers may be comfortable with existing communication channels and see no need for an app. By placing QR codes with deferred deep links in print or web material, you can provide a hassle-free route into your app where customers will find exactly what they need.

A similar approach can work in media, seamlessly shifting users from your website to your app to help boost revenue. 

  1. Connect in-store with online experiences

We’re often told customers are turning their backs on physical stores in favor of convenient online shopping. But you can have the best of both worlds. By placing QR codes next to items in your physical store, you can guide users to detailed features and reviews in your app, enabling them to make real-life purchases with confidence. 


Deep linking 101: Everything you need to know

Improve your UX

Key takeaways

  1. Deferred deep linking is a way of taking users directly to relevant content in an app they haven’t installed yet. 
  2. You can place your deferred deep link in any media source, and when a user clicks on it they’ll be taken to the app store to install the app. Once they open it, they’ll land seamlessly at the relevant content, with no need for navigation.
  3. Deferred deep linking is an effective way to acquire new users, re-engage with lapsed users, and increase ROX through personalized, contextual journeys. 
  4. Choose a tech provider or MMP that offers a deep linking engine as part of their service.
  5. App marketers can use deferred deep links to win new users through ad engagements or referral links. They can also encourage migration to your app and drive in-store conversions. 
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