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What is deferred deep linking and how does it work?

Laiba Tariq

March 23, 2024

16 min read


Deferred deep linking

What happens if your friend sends you a link on iMessage and you click it? The app opens right? Well, what if you don’t have that app downloaded to your phone? Can you never see whatever was on the other side? 

Nope, we have deferred deep links now!

Unlike standard deep links, deferred deep links are one level up, allowing you to view content later even if you don’t have the app yet. From an app developer’s point of view, it’s a superpower to increase engagement, user acquisition, and ultimately… profits!

So in this blog, let’s delve into what deferred deep linking means, why they’re important, and how they work. But we’ll also track down some case examples on how you can use deep links in your mobile app and top it all off with a few best practices to never miss out on.

Ready to learn everything about deep linking? 

What is deferred deep linking?

Deferred deep linking is a marketing technology that directs users to specific content within a mobile app, even if it’s not installed on their device. Present in both iOS and Android devices, these links act to increase user acquisition and are often part of an app’s marketing strategy. 

While standard and regular deeplinks require the app to be already installed on the device to work, deferred deep links don’t. Instead, these deep links intelligently wait for the app to be installed on the user’s device before taking the action. 

And that’s exactly why you should know how you can implement deferred deep links for your mobile app marketing plans!

Of course, one of the first questions you’ll naturally have is about why deep linking is important in the first place. Here are 3 critical reasons why almost every successful app is enriching its marketing strategy with deep linking now: 

1. Improved user experience

Deferred deep links allow users to seamlessly transition from a web link or advertisement to specific content within an app, bypassing any generic welcome pages or sign-up screens. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been a fan of those screens!

This reduces friction in the user journey, making it easier for users to access the content they are interested in directly. A smoother user experience increases satisfaction and encourages repeat usage of the app.

2. A data-focused marketing tactic

Deferred deep links are a powerful tool for app marketers as they allow for precise targeting and tracking of user interactions. Marketers can create personalized campaigns with deep links that direct users to specific content or promotional offers, enabling them to measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts accurately. 

Plus, when you analyze the performance metrics of deferred deep links, you can make data-driven decisions to optimize your campaigns for better results and ROI!

3. Increased app installs 

What do we want? Increased app installs! How can we do that? By letting deep links provide direct access to relevant app content to potential users! This math is super simple but let me explain this regardless…

When users are directed to specific content that aligns with their interests or needs, they are more likely to download the app to explore further or access additional features. This targeted approach to app promotion enhances conversion rates and boosts overall app installs.

How does deferred deep linking work?

Deferred deep linking operates through a series of technical processes to seamlessly direct users from a link to specific content within an app, even if the app is not installed. Here’s how it typically works:

  1. When a user clicks on a deferred deep link, the URL contains metadata that identifies the specific page or content within the app that the user intends to access.
  2. The link routing mechanism detects whether the target app is installed on the user’s device. If the app is installed, it can directly open the appropriate content within the app. However, if the app is not installed, the routing mechanism redirects the user to the appropriate app store to download and install the app.
  3. Since the app is not installed at the time of clicking the link, the deep linking process is deferred until after the app installation is complete. Information about the original link and its intended destination is stored temporarily, often through a combination of technologies such as cookies, device identifiers, or cloud-based services.
  4. The user proceeds to download and install the app from the app store. Once the installation is complete, the user may open the app for the first time.
  5. Upon opening the app, the app initialization process checks for any stored information related to deferred deep links, such as the content that should open once the app is installed.
  6. The app retrieves the stored information about the deferred deep link and attributes the installation source to the user’s interaction with the original link. 
  7. With the information from the deferred deep link, the app successfully navigates the user to the specific location or content!
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Deferred deep linking use cases

It might take a lot of work to figure out just how to use deferred deep linking in your mobile app. And you won’t be alone in that. It takes a long time to figure out the right deep linking strategy if you’re only looking inwards. 

But I’ll make this solve easy for you and delve into 6 common deferred deep linking use cases that you can easily implement into your mobile app today. Grab your notebook for some notes— or just bookmark this page for future reference!


Referrals are one of the strongest marketing tools that can boost your results, no matter what you’re marketing. All you need is a good amount of “word-of-mouth” recommendations!

Similarly, a mobile app marketing strategy almost always does well with a referral strategy at play. And yes, you can and should be using deferred deep links in this part of your marketing. 

When existing app users share a referral link with a friend, the deferred deep link embedded within it directs the friend to the desired content or offer within the app. This eliminates the need for the friend to navigate through the app to find the referred offer. No friction, no hassle, and just a smooth transition.

Ad engagements

Advertisers leverage deferred deep linking to optimize ad engagements and drive conversions. Incorporating deferred deep links into advertisements, you can direct users from the ad directly into your app. 

This streamlined user journey significantly improves conversion rates by reducing friction and ensuring that users land on the intended destination seamlessly. Whether it’s promoting a new product, a limited-time offer, or a specific feature, it works for all cases!

Re-engage existing users

Maybe you’re struggling with users who download and disappear faster than ghosts. If that’s your big concern, deep linking can be a solution to consider. With targeted marketed campaigns at these ghost users, deep linking can reignite their initial interest and encourage them to engage with the app once more. 

Here are a few examples of how to re-engage existing users with deferred deep linking: 

  •  Send personalized push notifications, text messages, or emails containing deferred deep links to lapsed users, or
  • Offer exclusive come-back rewards, discounts, or content!
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Who doesn’t like a good coupon deal once in a while? Luckily, you can use coupons as deferred deep links for your app too! 

Coupon campaigns incentivize purchases and drive sales, increasing app engagement, revenue and installs all at the same time. When users click on a coupon link, the deferred deep link embedded within it directs them to the relevant product page or checkout flow within the app, eliminating the need for manual searching or navigation. 

This seamless user experience increases the likelihood of a transaction as new users are immediately presented with the discounted product or service, resulting in higher conversion rates for coupon promotions.

Encourage app migration

When a new app user shifts from an old app to a new one, the only thing they care about is zero hits to their transitioning expectations. Nobody wants to upgrade to a poorer product! 

And so, as developers, deep linking can facilitate in encouraging app migration. When existing users get a deep link via push notifications or emails, developers can confirm that they’re being directed to the right place at the right time.

And folks, that’s exactly how you slay the app migration demons!

Connect in-store with online shopping

This one is specific to shopping-related apps, but it’s too excellent of a use example to forgo. Retailers increasingly seek to bridge the gap between their in-store and online shopping experiences to provide customers with a seamless omnichannel experience. 

Deferred deep linking enables retailers to connect their in-store experiences with their mobile apps, allowing users to easily transition between the physical and digital shopping environments. 

For example, retailers can display QR codes in-store that users can scan with their mobile devices to access additional product information, reviews, or exclusive offers within the retailer’s app.

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Now onto the real question: where can I use deferred deep links? There are four external digital channels where you can get your app installed, thanks to the use of deferred deep links. 

And if you’re wondering if they’re specific to either Google Play or the App Store, the answer is yes to both!

Social media to app

More people are using social media now than ever. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or any other platform, incorporating deferred deep links into social media posts can effectively convert followers into app users or customers.

 By including deep links in posts that highlight app-exclusive content, promotions, or features, you have a high chance to drive engagement and encourage followers to download or open the app. To make it even sweeter, utilizing customized deep links for different social media platforms allows for tailored messaging and tracking of performance metrics, optimizing conversion rates.

Web to app

Transitioning users from a mobile or desktop website to a specific part of the app is seamless with deferred deep links. You can strategically place deep links within website content like product pages, promotional banners, or even blog posts, you can create an immersive and smooth experience. 

In most cases, web-to-app transitions with deep links have increased user engagement and conversion rates! Isn’t that what we all want? 

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SMS/Push notification to app

SMS and push notifications can be more effective with the use of deferred deep links, leading users directly to relevant content or offers within the app!

By embedding deep links in notifications that highlight time-sensitive promotions, personalized recommendations, or exclusive deals, deep links drive immediate action from users and increase app usage. Furthermore, if you learn how to correctly leverage deep link attribution, it’s only a matter of time before you get accurate tracking of notification performance.

E-mail to app

A successful email marketing campaign has to have a deferred deep link in it. After all, the purpose of email marketing is to lead them to the product itself— or the app in this case! 

You can simply insert deep links in promotional emails that showcase new features, product launches, or discounts. This will create consistency and synergy in your branding and message, which creates a user’s trust in your capability to deliver exactly what they’re looking for. 

Deferred deep linking best practices

Before we close this blog off, I wanted to share 3 golden rules when it comes to deferred deep linking best practices. Ready to use deferred deep links with these tips? 


When you are making efforts and putting money into marketing campaigns or promotional channels, you’ll naturally want to know which of them is the most successful. Or rather, where each user and conversion came from!

Deferred deep links can make it easy for you to attribute these new users and break down the conversion data to specific marketing efforts. That way, you can understand the detailed nuances of your audience such as: 

  • The best time to contact them, 
  • Which channel is productive in generating downloads, and
  • What your audience segment looks like!


Personalizing the user experience using deferred deep links enhances engagement and drives conversion rates. You can analyze user data and behavioral insights to create a personalized marketing strategy to attract these users to your app even more!

For example, if your app has been ignored for a while despite being downloaded, you can send in push notifications with messages like, “You haven’t come back in 5 days. A surprise is waiting for you!” Or anything of the sort…


Creating a proper brand image for your app is undoubtedly one of the best business moves to make. And luckily, deferred deep linking can help! 

By aligning the design, messaging, and user experience of deep links with the overall brand identity, you can reinforce your brand loyalty to users and allow them to use your app confidently. 

For example, you can send in recognizable SMS or emails from official emails or URLs. You can also have a brand-consistent domain from where you promote your app. 

Key takeaways

Deferred deep linking offers a powerful solution for enhancing user experience, engagement, and conversion rates across various marketing campaigns and channels. As developers, mobile marketers, or businesses, you can seamlessly guide users to relevant content or offers by strategically deploying strategic deferred deep links. 

In short, take deep links in your stride and explore what app stardom feels like!

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