Last month, Twitter announced a new feature for developers called mobile app deep-linking that received less attention than it deserved. This feature allows app developers to enable links directly to their apps from tweets. To use one of Twitter’s examples, say you take a photo in Path and tweet it out. If deep-linking is enabled, a user who sees that photo on the Twitter iPhone app will be able to click right from the tweet into the Path app. If they don’t have the app, they’ll be taken to the iOS App Store.
This might not seem like that big of a deal, but before this feature was introduced by Apple in iOS 6, linking into apps was rudimentary at best. If you wanted to link to an iOS app you had to use the iTunes Store URL. This meant that users were led to the app’s iTunes store page which prompted you to open the app. Using the iTunes URL is fine if someone doesn’t have the app, but it’s far from ideal if they already have the app installed.
Apple decided to do something about this in iOS 6 with the inclusion of custom URLs. Buried in “Advanced App Tricks” is an implementation guide for custom URLs. Custom URLs allow developers to create customized deep links that take users to specific pages within your app. There are many great examples of how to best leverage these types of links:
Fab has enabled deep-linking in their mobile optimized emails. Any link you click in an email on your iPhone will go directly to the product SKU page within the Fab app.
Fab mobile email promoting the KeepCup
Direct link into the KeepCup page within Fab’s iPhone app from their email
Google recently announced perhaps an even more significant adoption of custom URLs within their mobile apps. Now, whenever you open a link in Gmail, you’ll be taken to that URL in Chrome if you have the app. Same for Youtube or Google Apps. This is clearly both a superior user experience and a way for Google to increase engagement with their apps on Apple’s home turf.
Facebook has opened many of the actions within their app to deep-linking as well. This is in many ways similar to Twitter’s adoption. If you’re an app developer on Facebook’s platform you can deep-link to specific pages within your app from Facebook’s iOS app.
Deep-linking isn’t just a tool that Facebook, Google or Twitter can use. Much like Fab, we’d recommend that all developers incorporate a custom URL structure into their iOS apps so that they’re able to provide a better user experience and allow linking directly into their app from email, Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.
At TapCommerce, we work with many companies that are leveraging custom URLs for their mobile marketing programs. If you’d like to learn more about best practices, let us know!
Some great data from Flurry on the rise of shopping apps on mobile platforms. Here’s the money quote:
Overall, users spent 132 percent more time using apps over the past year. Shopping was the third biggest jump behind social (387 percent) and media & entertainment (268 percent).
(via Inside Mobile Apps)
Mobile revenue @fab. 3 slope changes: (1) Launch ramp 15% to 30%, (2) Steady 2012 33%, Dec 2012 - Jan 2013 to 40%+, and beyond. Our goal is to be 50%+ very soon.
Fab continues to see rapid mobile growth as a percentage of revenue. Perhaps a sign of things to come for a majority of e-commerce companies?
When we look back on the holiday shopping season in 2012, we’ll see that mobile platforms are increasingly becoming a viable way for consumers to shop. There’s already an abundance of data that supports this from Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to a report from IBM, Cyber Monday saw an increase of 70% in mobile sales. The iPad represented 7% of all online sales and completely dominated competing devices by producing 90.5% of all tablet e-commerce sales. 24% of Black Friday retail traffic came from mobile devices up from 14% in 2011 and less than 1% in 2009. The trend is clear and it’s not reversing. What’s leading to this shift in user behavior?
It seems clear that as Apple and the bevy of Android manufacturers continue to churn out high-quality mobile devices, consumers will increasingly discover new things to buy on the go or while relaxing at home using these emerging platforms. The companies that have built best of breed UX on mobile and who are able to acquire and retain customers efficiently will reap the benefits of this behavioral shift.
Stay tuned for things we find interesting in the world of mobile e-commerce.