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How to Deep Link and Measure Your Email Campaigns in a Mobile-First Era

7 min

Have you ever clicked on an email link on mobile and found yourself redirected to the mobile web instead of to the app you already have on your device? Or perhaps you ended up in the app store or  the app’s opening page instead of the specific app page you were expecting to see? The answers to all of the above are probably yes, yes, and yes…  It happens all the time and it’s a terrible user experience.

What your users expect is a seamless experience and if they’re like most mobile users, they are addicted to instant gratification. Any glitch in UX and they’ll move on, or worse unsubscribe. Let’s face it, they’re a tough client. But that’s the way it should be! It’s 2015. So how can you make it better?

The Problem – [Poor] Mobile Connectivity

Before mobile, it was easy. After all, the desktop web is just the desktop web. But with mobile’s inherent fragmentation – different operating systems, different environments and different identifiers – it’s a different story altogether.

To make things worse, websites have a standardized link structure, but apps don’t – making connectivity feel like a random occurrence. Apps’ simple links are unable to connect between apps or between the mobile web and apps. They are completely disoriented, forgetting which device, OS or environment a user came from and where they actually want to go.

Taking these simple links and creating an HTTP-like web functionality for mobile apps and making it universal across all platforms is a challenge.

Enter Smart deep linking – The Ultimate Mobile Connector

So how can a user get the content he wants from the get go? How can we create an optimal user experience no matter where the user opens the email, or whether he has the app installed or not?

With universal deep linking of course. You can go it alone (although this can take up significant dev resources) or work with 3rd parties that can connect the dots.

What can a deep link do these days? Let’s break it down, from basic to advanced.

deep linking: To repeat the above, deep links connect the web-to-app and app-to-app environments, while supporting the opening of a specific app screen if the user has the app installed on his device. If your users don’t have the app installed, you’re sending them to… nowhere, unless they have the latest iOS and Android versions in which case they’re sent to the mobile website.

Deferred deep linking: A major improvement to standard deep links has both improved the user experience and supported user acquisition. Deferred deep linking can a) detect if users have the app installed on their device, b) direct them to the right app store if they don’t, and c) open a specific app screen after they install the app and launch it for the first time.

Take a look at the following illustration:


What the above clearly shows is that an email campaign can support both re-engagement and user acquisition (driving  your web users to download your app). If your users have the app installed they’ll go straight to the relevant app screen. If not, they’ll go to the app store where they can download the app and then get the relevant content for a great first time experience interacting with your app.

Pass more data in the link to enable true personalization: By adding a parameter you want to the link – where the users came from, what they clicked on, which campaign, and even who they are – you will be able to personalize the app screen and drive user engagement through the roof.

Since the App Store strips this data, the app can “ask” the deep link provider for this data and it remembers the path (which campaign, which network, which params etc.), sending it back to the app in real time so it can show the personalized app screen upon launch.

For example, if you’ve configured the smart deep link with a [NAME] parameter, the field can be populated with the user’s name (assuming, for example, that the email automation provider has a list of names it can associate with each email). Ultimately, your 20% spring sale email campaign can direct a user to open a landing page that says, ‘Hi Mike, Take Advantage of our 20% off Spring Sale’, which is far more engaging than a screen that does not include this personal offer.

Smart redirect from all platforms: A marketer’s favorite that makes life easier by allowing only a single link configuration per campaign that can automatically detect where users are coming from and where they need to be redirected to. So instead of configuring at least five tracking links for iOS, Android, Windows, Amazon and web, all you need is one. With one link, there’s a lot less room for error – be it broken links or links that end up taking your users to the wrong place.

Also, remember that Twitter, Google, iOS, and Facebook all have deep linking technology, but it’s fragmented. A Twitter Card with deep links won’t work on Facebook and so on.

If we can apply the responsive design analogy, just as your email design is responsive, the link should also be. That means that if a user opens the email on his desktop, the link should open the specific web landing page. When using an Android or Windows device, the link should open a specific app screen (whether a trip to the relevant app store to install the app is required or not).

If you’re running an app user acquisition campaign, clicking on the email link on desktop should take the user to the desktop web app store. If on mobile, the relevant platform’s app store should open.

Measurement & Analytics: Measuring and connecting the data dots across channels in real time is the biggest challenge marketers face today. In fact, 4 out of top 5 priorities in email marketing for 2015 are data-related, as you can see from the eMarketer chart below.


When it comes to measurement, deep links are a great tool to track user activity – from marketing engagement, through installs to post install activities and overall app usage. The more data on the link, the greater the data you can measure and optimize with.

Using data to understand how email compares to each channel whether owned (email, SMS, push, social pages, cross promotion etc.) or paid (search, social, display etc), is the first step. For example, in driving user acquisition.

A more advanced comparison involves an audience drill down by using retention and cohort reports. The following graph shows a cohort of users who installed the app in the US during the 3rd week of October and then comparing how much they’ve eventually spent in-app. As you can see, email fares well vs. other channels although SMS outperforms it, especially after 14 days when revenue of users acquired through SMS spikes.

Read more: SMS marketing guide for beginners


The second step is a lot more complicated – trying to connect the dots across devices, not to mention online to offline, and understand which type of content performs best in which channels, and what role each channel plays in impacting performance on other channels. In other words, looking at the consumer journey as a whole.

The good news is that although connecting all the dots, all the time is still not possible (even Facebook which knows who you are across devices only covers, well, Facebook properties), a lot of progress has been made in mobile and omni-channel measurement and attribution by developing cookie-less identification methods, deterministic or probabilistic.

Marketers are slowly adopting new tracking technologies with 31% already applying cross-channel measurement, eMarketer reported. Still, over one-third of marketers said they were not currently using a robust measurement technique, and nearly as many evaluated each channel individually and optimized based on channel-specific performance. According to the research firm, by doing that “they are missing out on the more robust performance information they would have by using a multi-channel attribution model.”

To sum up, deep linking is a fundamental part of mobile marketing and email marketing in a mobile-first era. It helps connect mobile environments, improves the user experience and enables granular measurement and tracking across channels – all in one link.

What are your thoughts? Share in the comments below.



About the Author: Shani Rosenfelder is a senior marketing manager at AppsFlyer. He has over 10 years of experience in key content and marketing roles across a variety of leading online companies and startups. Combining creativity, analytical prowess and a strategic mindset, Shani is passionate about building a brand’s reputation and visibility through innovative, content-driven projects.