Branch NativeLink™: An Innovative Solution to the Deferred Deep Linking Challenges Caused by Private Relay in iOS 15

Sandy Hirschel

August 24th, 2021

Branch is very excited to introduce NativeLink™, a deferred deep linking feature that uses privacy-centric, on-device functionality to guarantee deferred deep link accuracy and attribution matching during the app install experience. 

Why Is a New Solution Needed? 

Apple is introducing Private Relay in iOS 15. You can think of Private Relay as a ‘private VPN’ for iCloud+ customers, which is anyone paying for an iCloud plan or service. For example, if a user pays $0.99 for iCloud storage, Private Relay will be enabled as part of their plan. Private Relay will mask the IP address and any browsing data for iCloud+ customers using Safari.  

First, let’s start with a quick recap of how deep linking works today. The standard deep linking experience brings users who click a link, and already have the app installed, directly to their desired location within the app. Private Relay will not impact this flow.

With the current deferred deep linking experience, a user clicks on a link and if they don’t have the app installed, they will be redirected to the App Store. The click location is stored remotely so that when the user is done installing the app, they are brought directly to their desired location within the app. When iOS 15 launches, Private Relay will impact this deferred deep linking experience for many iCloud+ customers. 

It does not matter if a user clicks a deep link from Branch or another platform, iCloud+ customers will be impacted, since deferred deep linking often relies on an IP address. Private Relay blocks the IP address of iCloud+ customers using Safari. Without an IP address, deferred deep linking will not work as expected, users will experience broken links and brands will experience a loss of attribution data.

After the release of Private Relay, NativeLink from Branch ensures users continue enjoying a seamless deferred deep linking experience, even without an IP address, and also guarantees attribution matching.

Current Experience

Private Relay Impact

While Private Relay will change how deferred deep linking works for some users, most deep linking use cases (including many deferred deep linking use cases) are unaffected. The chart below highlights how Private Relay will only impact iCloud+ customers using the Safari browser. 

What is NativeLink?

NativeLink is an innovation from Branch that bridges the gap created by Private Relay with an on-device solution that does not require the use of an IP address for deferred deep linking. Since NativeLink is opt-in by default, individual users are in full control of their privacy options. 

With no unique personally identifiable information required, there is no privacy tracking risk with NativeLink. It works by utilizing the native copy and paste functionality already built into the phone. 

What Are the Benefits of NativeLink?

NativeLink brings significant benefits to companies and their customers:

  • Gain more attribution certainty from deferred deep linking that is match guaranteed without any need for probabilistic methodologies.
  • Offer a better deep linking experience by giving users more control over their privacy and the ability to opt out if they choose. 
  • Strengthen your privacy advocacy since NativeLink is inherently anti-tracking and it does not rely on IP addresses or any personally identifiable information.

 

A Closer Look at the NativeLink Flow

First, the user clicks the deep link.

After clicking on the deep link, the user will see the new NativeLink experience; a blue call-to-action button. Once clicked, the URL location is copied to the clipboard. (The user can also opt-out by clicking the link below the CTA button). 

The URL is then copied to the clipboard. Users will then briefly see a ‘content copied’ notification before being directed to the App Store. 

Similar to standard deferred deep linking, the user is then brought to the App Store to download the app.

After app installation, NativeLink will check the clipboard for a URL, and if present, will paste the URL. The user will then see a quick ‘pasted from Safari’ notification and be brought directly to the exact location within the app that they originally clicked. 

By utilizing the native iOS copy and paste functionality, NativeLink ensures the entire flow is seamless and the customer is deep linked exactly as expected. In our testing, Branch saw no statistically significant difference in the app install rate between NativeLink and the standard deferred deep linking flow. Meaning, overall, users engaged with the new NativeLink flow without a noticeable drop in conversion rate.

Which Channels Are Impacted by Private Relay?

Private Relay will have an impact across channels for app installs. Without the implementation of NativeLink, deferred deep linking upon an app install will break for some channels and you may start seeing incomplete attribution data.

How to Get Started with NativeLink

NativeLink is available now! 

We recommend activating NativeLink to continue collecting holistic attribution data and to deliver an improved deferred deep linking experience for users who want to install your app. NativeLink is available at no additional cost for Branch customers. An Android version is also in the works.

You can implement NativeLink with the following steps:

  1. Update your Branch SDK to version 1.39.4 or higher. 
  2. Add the required single line of code necessary to activate NativeLink. 
  3. Toggle NativeLink ON in the Branch dashboard.
  4. Choose an iOS audience option.

If you have any questions please reach out to your Customer Success Manager or the Branch support team. 

Check out our NativeLink Overview video here.


Get started here!

Branch provides the leading cross-platform linking and attribution platform, offering solutions that unify user experience and measurement across devices and channels. Branch has been selected by over 75,000 apps since 2014 including Adobe, BuzzFeed, Yelp, and many more, improving experiences for more than 3 billion monthly users across the globe. Learn more about Branch or contact sales today.
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