Deep Linking: How REI Strengthened Its Mobile-App Attribution

Last year, brand strategist Millward Brown found that “nearly eight out of ten U.S. marketers are holding back when it comes to allocating money to mobile because their ability to track the return on that mobile marketing investment does not meet their standards” (Millward Brown Digital, Getting Digital Right 2015, June 2015). Marketers lack the confidence to measure their app-promotion efforts with actionable precision.

Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers (KPCB), in a 2015 Internet Trends report, found that brands were committing only eight percent of ad spend on mobile (as compared to ad spend on other digital mediums); yet, user-time spent on mobile devices was nearly 25 percent. This was the only digital channel that did not receive an equal or higher ad-spend percentage than user-time spent with that channel.

Most, if not all, of the reluctance to devote more ad spend to mobile-app marketing has to do with attributing marketing efforts to app downloads, in-app conversions, and ultimately, lifetime value of the user. How do marketers justify mobile spend? Where should they allocate budget to get the biggest bang for the buck?

Gaps in Mobile-App Attribution
Although mobile-app attribution is possible, several gaps exist that pose serious challenges. Some of these challenges include:

Addressing Mobile-Campaign Attribution Gaps
Although we can’t resolve all the gaps today, we can do better than just looking at downloads or launches — we can go well beyond that to understand where our users come from and what specific behaviors they are engaging in while they are in the app. To help resolve the issue of gaps in attribution, Adobe not only helps marketers create marketing links to track users’ journeys to the app store, but also ties an app download to activities performed within that app. Additionally, marketers may use and track deep links — as part of their marketing links — which can take users directly to specific points in the app, resulting in a richer user experience.

At Adobe Summit 2016, the mobile-program manager for Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI), Jessie Morris, said that REI was focused on (1) reducing friction when it came to customers adopting their mobile apps, and (2) providing more catered experiences to improve re-engagement. She spoke about allowing data to influence mobile-app optimization:

“We look to attribution to inform us about how well our mobile-app campaigns are doing. For example, which channels drive the most downloads? Which channels drive the highest engagement levels? What type of content creates the most engaged app users? Where are they linking from? By responding to those data points — especially through the use of deep linking — REI is able to drive deeper, more meaningful engagements that reward the company and customer more quickly.”

Jessie provided some great examples of how REI is using mobile-app attribution and deep linking to strengthen re-engagement and acquire new app users. For instance, they sent visitors to the product page on the website — if they had not installed an REI app — with a call to action to download the app. Or, they sent users directly to the product page within the app if they had already installed the app during a previous campaign.

While the technology and landscape may not be put together to give marketers a holistic look into attribution, one can definitely do more today than just look at a superficial number such as downloads or launches. Marketers can leverage Adobe’s marketing links to acquire and retain users and then go deeper into understanding how those users are behaving in the app with our robust mobile analytics.

Be sure to watch my Adobe Summit 2016 session with Jessie Morris, mobile-program manager for REI.