How to Personalize Your App’s First Run Experience


Guest post by Einar Vollset

It’s a common scenario; a customer is enticed to install your app (maybe from an email blast, maybe from a smart banner). They download the app and are then faced with a generic screen that has nothing to do with the reason they installed the app in the first place. The result is often confusion and quick app abandonment (that’s why so many users only use an app once).

Unfortunately, Apple has absolutely zero tools to help with this scenario; Apple steadfastly refuses to pass any hint to the app about where someone came from when they went to the App Store and downloaded your app.

Fortunately, there’s now a solution: deferred deep linking.

Here’s the scoop – instead of linking directly to the App Store, you link to a device fingerprinting service which will a) take a fingerprint of the device and then b) redirect to the App Store. Once your customer installs and launches the app, your app gets a callback from the fingerprinting service with information about which link the customer came in on.

What does that mean? So many options! For example:

  • You can customize onboarding for each email campaign – so if you’re sending an email about some special offer, you can open the app straight into that offer.
  • You could deep link to a specific listing, even if the user has to install the app first.
  • You could have an app that only shows the contact information of the person at your company a customer is used to dealing with – no generic 800 numbers
  • You could pre-fill in everything except password in the create account screen.
  • You could remove logins all together! Simply coming in on a personalized link (sent to a specific email) would be enough to “log the customer in”.

There are a couple of companies out there that offer this service, but the one I like and use for AppAftercare customers is Tapstream; they’re fast and free (within reasonable limits) – so you can try it out for yourself at no risk.

Deferred Deep Links allow you to nurture your user until post install. It’s like the first day of school. You can drop your kid off down the street and hope they find their class or you can hold their hand, walk them to the teacher and make sure they’re taken care of.

Imagine an e-commerce company just getting started with their app marketing. They’re taking their precious little users to school (aka their app) for the first time. They could use Deferred Deep Links not only to drive acquisition or engagement but actual measurable revenue.

  1. User clicks on product specific ad on a mobile site. (A purple dress.) If the user has the app already then she is taken to that product page in app.
  2. If the user does not have the app she is then taken to the App Store to download it.
  3. User opens app for the first time.
  4. Optional step: user registers and authenticates.
  5. User is taken to the purple dress screen in the app, so she can see the dress that interested her and related clothes.
  6. User purchases the dress and a matching scarf.
  7. Tapstream dashboard reflects the generated revenue from that ad

Of course, there are some drawbacks here – for example, fingerprinting is not 100% accurate (from experience, it works 95% of the time), so you need to have a backup strategy in case it fails. However, this is an exciting technology that far too few companies are taking advantage of, and one that is likely to see a huge uptick in conversion rates.

About the author

Dr. Einar Vollset is the owner of AppAftercare.com, an app maintenance and optimization service. Einar co-founded the YC funded startup ReMail, that was subsequently acquired by Google.  Previously, he was a visiting professor of Computer Science at Cornell University.