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Deferred Deep Linking

Deferred deep linking allows brands to engage potential customers using mobile promotions that take non-users to a specific content page inside an app.

Up your mobile marketing game with this guide

What is Deferred Deep Linking?

Deferred deep linking is a marketing technique which uses external digital channels to reach potential users and safely direct them to content and promotions inside an app. Using deep linking, users do not have to search through an app to find the content they are looking for, after downloading and opening the app, users will be directed to the specific content page connected to the link. Deferred deep linking is often considered to be the best way to lead non-users from an ad to an app.

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How does Deferred Deep Linking work?

Deferred deep linking works by using mobile and non-mobile channels to direct non-users to download an app and then send them to a specific location within the app, the process goes as follows:

  • A brand sends a link through text messages, emails, social media sites, QR codes, etc.
  • The user clicks the link, which takes them to the app store page to download the app
  • After the app is downloaded, when the customer opens the app, it will take them to the specific content page connected to the link

This process improves customer experience and engagement as it gets non-users to download and easily engage with the app. The user does not have to navigate to the app store, download the app, then search through the app to find the content they desire, as the deferred deep link takes them directly from downloading the app within the app store to the specific content connected to the link.

There are several reasons why a business may want to direct as many customers as possible to their app as opposed to their website and deferred deep linking is the most effective and safest way to achieve this.

  • The native app may have more comprehensive functionality and be easier to use than the mobile responsive website.
  • Users of the app may tend to spend more, engage more often, and be easier to engage with (reducing your cost of contact).
  • Fierce competition within search engines in the same industry can make it difficult to get exposure for the website and the visibility of potential customers.
  • Large audiences available through email, social media, and other digital channels may be more readily persuaded to download a mobile app and complete goal conversions than mobile through a responsive website

Deferred deep links are therefore an extremely effective re-engagement and acquisition tool.

Whereas deep links have only been a useful marketing tactic for engaging existing app users, deferred deep links have a three-fold appeal:

  1. Seamlessly acquire and onboard new app users from other digital sources
  2. Re-engage existing users outside of your app
  3. Retarget and win back lapsed users who had uninstalled your app

Acquire new, highly engaged users

As mentioned, deferred deep linking allows the safe promotion of app-specific content through new channels, reaching a new and wider audience. This can be used as a method of user acquisition. When clicked the link is able to establish whether the mobile user has the app installed or not. When the app is not installed, the link will take the user to a promotional landing page with a link to the app store for the device they are using (which is automatically detected). Once downloaded and launched for the first time, the deferred deep link takes the user directly to the page that was specified in the link they clicked in the first instance. This seamless process guides users from the first point of contact through to the completion of your desired conversion, creating a new highly engaged user in the process.

Users acquired through this method are far more likely to convert than other methods. This enables apps to drive more conversions from new users. By converting in the first instance the user is also far more likely to become a retained, highly engaged, and active user, when compared to a user who downloads the app but fails to onboard or complete any in-app action without the app installed, which would result in a broken link and the loss of a potential customer. You are now able to safely market to these users via other channels that were unavailable before.

Re-engage existing users

Deep links are used in push notifications to bring existing app users to specific content in your app. Deferred deep links allow you to cast the net wider to find these users, which is especially useful when a user is disengaged or has disabled push notifications from your app.

If the user does not have push notifications enabled or has lapsed entirely, this gives a new opportunity to re-establish contact with conversion-driven marketing that will remind users why the app is installed in the first place. Where push notifications may have been used to engage these users before, this feature offers another option that is less invasive than sending multiple push notifications to a disengaged user (which could make them uninstall the app).

Win back lapsed users

In the case that a user has previously used your app but uninstalled it, you can reconnect with these users by utilizing areas where you still have visibility. If you have the users’ phone number or email address, establish contact with a defined offer via deferred deep link to encourage them to download your app again. If you have a strong social audience perhaps there are previous users you can grab the attention of and establish another download of your app.

By driving directly to a page in your app designed to convert, you can reacquire these users, latching onto this initial engagement. Ask them to enable push notifications and continue to engage with a defined push notification and in-app messaging strategy. Where mistakes may have been made previously, this is a second opportunity to win back lapsed users and retain a long-term, highly engaged active user.

Deferred deep links broaden the horizon of mobile app marketing and allow you to branch out into other physical and digital channels. This can typically include SMS, email, and social media. Deferred deep linking is the only way to safely use external digital channels to bring users to your app on the exact conversion page you want to promote.

Platforms that can be utilized with deferred deep linking include:

  • SMS – Text messages, which typically have high open rates (as much as 98%!)
  • Email – 70% of all email is now opened on a mobile device
  • Social Media – Drive your followers back to your app
  • QR Codes – Promote your app in your physical locations
  • Desktop-to-app – Prompt users on desktop or laptop computers to provide their phone number and automatically send them an SMS containing a deferred deep link

This wide genre of channels allows the targeting of different audiences with each individual campaign.

Deferred Deep Linking Best Practices

To get the most out of your marketing campaigns, follow these three simple best practices when including deferred deep links.

  1. Get personal – create an individual, tailored link for each user
  2. Utilize attribution data to measure the success of your campaigns
  3. Always stay on brand


Deferred deep links can and should be user-specific, to allow highly targeted marketing to be sent to each individual user. This can be used to target lapsed users in situations such as funnel drop-off. If trying to re-establish contact with a user that dropped off after ‘add-to-cart’, push notifications can be the typical approach to take as the most effective point of contact. If this tactic fails (notifications turned off or the user simply dismisses notification), time to use deferred deep. For example, offer a new discount on this item, only for users that dropped off after add-to-cart, send the link via email or SMS. The deferred deep linking will take the user back to your app with their item already in the cart with the discount applied. There is not a much greater chance of them completing the checkout process and getting that sale.

Deferred deep links can also be used to personalize the onboarding experience for a new download. For example, if a new app user already has an account and you know their email address, send a deferred deep link via email and once the app is launched, pre-populate the log-in field and apply a discount offer for the first purchase made in the app. Create a fast, seamless onboarding process with highly targeted, conversion-driven marketing and retain a new, highly- engaged active user.

However, this is not just applicable during onboarding. Creating more personal experiences for users at all stages of the lifecycle of the app is how apps can keep users engaged and retain them for the long term. Using deferred deep linking makes this easier to achieve.

Remember, your deferred deep link provider should allow you to create such links automatically via an API as well as through their UI.


Deferred deep links allow you to attribute user and conversion data to the channel and specific campaign it originated from. Knowing where each user and conversion comes from makes your life designing future campaigns significantly easier.

With this data, you can attribute every download and in-app action to the source campaign it originated from to better understand the intricacies of your audience, which campaigns have been most successful, and why! Use this data to understand for each audience segment, what channel is most effective to engage them with and what time is best to establish contact. One at a time, experiment and measure the impact making small changes to each of these elements can have when designing your campaigns. Build, measure, learn.

Then, simply do less of what isn’t working and a lot more of what is!


Issues can arise with campaigns underperforming when the platform providing the deferred deep link does not allow you to customize the URL. Today’s users are understandably and rightly wary of clicking unrecognizable links in SMS or email. Links that do not contain brand names or look as though they are not related to the offer can look like spam at best, or phishing at worse and act as a deterrent to conversion.

Most platforms allow you to customize the links you create – do so! Make sure your brand is easily recognizable in the domain and that the link itself relates to the content or offer it is promoting.

Remember, you are reaching out to the user through another channel, you need to give them the confidence to trust and know it is you. However, if you do so, brand familiarity and a personalized, compelling offer should increase the likelihood of them clicking and heading into your app.

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Deep Linking vs. Deferred Deep Linking

While deep linking is used to re-engage existing customers who have the app, deferred deep linking is used to encourage non-users to download the app.

A deep link is a mobile message that takes a user who has the client’s app to a specific page in the app, rather than going immediately to the app’s default home page. Deferred deep linking is a form of deep linking that is deferred until someone downloads and opens the app. It allows users to go directly to the location they desire within an app. Deferred deep linking is used when a customer does not have the app installed. When a customer interacts with a promotion that includes a deferred deep link, the link will direct them to the app store to download the app. When the customer opens the app, it will go to the customer’s desired page within the app.

How do Brands use Deferred Deep Linking?

Brands use deferred deep linking to gain new customers and to streamline the customer experience by helping customers get where they want to go faster, enhancing customer satisfaction. Here are some common use cases:

Web to App

Include deferred deep links on company website or in banner advertisements to encourage users to engage with the promotion and download your app. Web to app deferred deep links helps attract new customers to your app.

Social Media to App

Use deferred deep links in social media ads to bring customers to the app. Deferred deep links through social media sites are an effective way to capture new customers.

E-mail to App

Put deferred deep links in e-mail marketing campaigns to increase the number of customers who interact with the app.

SMS/Push Notification to App

Include deferred deep links in SMS messages and other push notifications to promote your app within other applications and to give potential users easy access to download your app.

Personalize your Marketing Campaigns with Optimove

Optimove’s advanced deferred deep linking technology allows marketers to personalize mobile push notifications, web-to-app banners, and more to increase customer engagement. The technique directs customers from the notification to specified content. Deferred deep links created with Optimove can be customized to include your brand in the domain and offer details in the link itself, building strong memorability and trust throughout the user journey.

Contact us today to learn how you can use Optimove to capture more customers and streamline the user experience.

Frequently asked questions:

Why is deferred deep linking important for mobile app marketers?

Deferred deep linking is crucial for mobile app marketers because it significantly enhances the user experience by ensuring continuity from the initial engagement (e.g., clicking an ad) to the in-app experience post-installation. This seamless transition can improve conversion rates, as users are directed to content that matches their initial interest, whether a promotional offer, a specific product, or a piece of content. Furthermore, deferred deep linking can help conversions to specific marketing campaigns, enabling marketers to measure the effectiveness of their advertising efforts more accurately and optimize their strategies accordingly.

  • Implementing deferred deep linking involves using a mobile marketing platform that supports this feature. The process includes:
  • Integrating the platform’s SDK (Software Development Kit) into your app.
  • Configuring deep links within the platform that direct users to specific content or pages within your app.
  • Creating campaigns that use these deep links in advertisements, emails, social media, or other marketing channels.
  • When a user clicks on one of these links and doesn’t have the app installed, the platform directs them to the app store. After installation, the platform ensures the app opens to the specific content originally linked.

Working closely with the platform’s documentation and support team is important  to properly configure and test deferred deep linking to ensure it works as expected across different devices and operating systems.

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