I worked at Google for a number of years on AdWords and Mobile– advising companies that ranged from SMBs to Fortune 500’s on how to go deep on Mobile and acquire customers. More recently, I started doing some consulting for Branch Metrics and can fairly say they’ve discovered something really big that marketers ought to latch onto– quick. Let me explain:
At Google in 2010, we were making the rounds: helping marketers from Boston to Singapore see that Mobile was important, “here and now,” and worthy of heavy investment. But the industry lagged, of course, so not attention nor ad dollars matched the 1 out of 7 searches we were seeing from Mobile– or the countless hours we were seeing users spend inside apps.
On our Google Mobile road shows, we spiced up our spiel by prosthelytizing the true promise (and future) of Mobile: hyper-local, social, omniscient devices that offered truly personalized, rich and deep experiences. Still, Marketers moved slowly, believing Mobile was a nice to have, not a have to have, until just two short years later when Mobile had become truly significant and many Marketers found themselves scrambling to catch up, invest properly, and do Mobile right.
The Real Issue
Looking back: the real issue, however, was that the industry’s technology didn’t deliver: neither ads nor content could be hyper-locally targeted and it sure as hell wasn’t deeply personalized. On the side, I even wrote a few patents but this was all because at the time the technology was just that: an idea and a promise, not reality.
Fast forward nearly 5 years to today and sadly, much of Mobile’s promise still has yet to deliver. The ability to hyper-target is still rough around the edges, constrained by technological and network limitations. Further, deep, rich personalization of content isn’t happening on my phone (is it on yours?). And apps– apps are still distant isles, disconnected from the web and without context… but this why I think Branch is on to something really big.
Before I elaborate, recall that the primary reasons apps were created in the first place were because 1) the internet didn’t work well on phones due to low connectivity, and 2) mobile browsers couldn’t support the rich content of the web. For this reason, we created apps that could house a rich content experience– stored locally, on-device– yet not require web connectivity. But by every measure, apps re-created the stone age of downloadable desktop (dare I say floppy disk) software that requires updates and therein, apps have undone the key benefit of the internet: connected, linked networks of information. We went backwards! Instead of having massive amounts of information linked together, discoverable and sharable between friends, we created software fiefdoms where content was packaged and locked up in apps, hidden behind the wall of cumbersome app stores.
We all love apps but from a user’s point of view, it’s silly if you think about it; and from a marketer’s point of view, it’s quite difficult to deal with: how do you track a user all the way from search and discovery, through app install, to app usage and ultimate conversion? How do you deliver the great content in your app to those who don’t already have it? How do you let personalized, social referrals flourish when we’re dealing in walled app gardens where new users can enter only through the front door and are greeted coldly?
The Branch Solution
Branch Metrics fixes all this but this isn’t even the big thing I’m getting to. Sure, Branch offers the ability to deep link past install to content, create seamless sharing and referral programs and to bridge web and mobile content. For example, Vango built a robust referral system that requires no codes, and on top of that knows where a user came from and shows them a personalized welcome from their friend. Moreover, when someone shares a piece of art, if a user opens or installs the app from that shared link, they are taken to that piece of art even if they didn’t already have the app installed. But I think the promise is something bigger and worth latching on to ASAP.
The real promise of the enlightened Branch technology is what emerges from it– and that’s why getting in now is key. See, compared to the other deeplinking companies out there, Branch’s dynamically-generated, information-rich deeplinks break down the wall around apps. By using deeplinks that are truly personalized, you enable the content within your apps to become personally attractive and accessible, via link, to not just those who’ve downloaded the app and are already customers, but to everyone on the web. Don’t be mistaken: the app store will still exist for some time and any app download revenue or logs you get from the app store will still be yours– so using Branch doesn’t mean releasing your app content into the ether– but the beauty is that with Branch deeplinks, the app store wall is no longer a wall for app developers and marketers who want to acquire and engage as many users as possible. (Historically, as you know, a user’s parameters do not pass through the app store’s download.)
The Future & Ecosystem
And even more importantly, what emerges from this technology is the potential to build bridges between users and apps with a benefit similar to the link structure of the web itself. When you move from a menu of isolated apps to a web ecosystem of deeply linked content, what occurs is enhanced app discovery, effective social referrals, new methods of e-commerce, flows of information, and honestly, things I can’t yet predict. But suffice to say: for marketers this isn’t a nice to have feature but a key platform, and one that should be built into your app today (by the simple addition of some code).
In summary, mobile has yet to live up to its true promise and Branch is helping get the app ecosystem there. As discussed, Mobile moved quickly from 2009 – 2012, leaving many marketers scrambling to catch up and I predict app marketers will similarly lag with deeplinking. So in the same way it was smart for marketers to get their information online and linked in the ‘90s, I advise all app marketers and publishers to make their app content linkable, referable, discoverable, personalized and traceable by integrating the Branch SDK today.
Adam Compain ( LinkedIn ) is currently an MBA student at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and is helping Branch Metrics with their SEM and marketing strategy.