How to Activate New Users with Personalized Installs Using Branch Deep Linking

When it comes to users downloading and using your mobile app, not every person is the same.

Some might have come to your app looking for a specific piece of content, such as a video. Others might have been invited by their best friend through a referral. And some might have seen a promo on a blog that piqued their interest.

Since every user is unique, you shouldn’t give them all the same app install experience. Instead, you can personalize the user’s first experience based on where they came from or what you know about them by using the tips below.

Back when we were building Kindred Prints, we realized that there was a problem with the app stores: they blocked the context about a new user when he or she installed, so every user that came into our app was taken through the same flow. In an ideal world, we wanted every user to have a personalized install based on their context before downloading Kindred, and that’s why we built Branch. Users who came from a referral link would see a personalized welcome message from their friend. Users who installed because a family member shared a photobook in the app would get taken immediately to that photobook preview – not the generic welcome screen – so they could enjoy the photos right away.

Personalizing the first-time experience is a small gesture that will resonate with your users. Understanding the context that led users to download your app and bringing users to that content not only improves the overall experience, but also increases conversions, engages users more, and boosts revenue.

Here’s what we learned from our own app experiences and the tools we’ve built to help other apps implement personalized app installs.

Why personalized installs work
  1. Providing value before asking them to commit: When you give every user the same one-size-fits-all welcome experience, you risk losing a large number of potential users before you ever had a chance to show them why your app is awesome. Many apps have the same welcome experience: 3-4 informational screens followed by a signup screen. As a developer, you hope you’ve conveyed enough value in those four screens to be able to convince this user to signup. But dropoff rates at this stage are around 50% (!!). That means if you’re spending $2 to get an install on Facebook, you’re actually paying $4 just to get a signup. But personalized installs help boost that conversion, sometimes as high as double, because you’re able to provide value to the user in the form of the deep linked content before they ever need to signup. This means they can sample your app or see the content they were supposed to see before committing, making them happy and more likely to signup.
  2. Making them feel special: Everyone loves to feel special, and the first time app experience gives you an opportunity to do what almost no apps do today – personalize the welcome for that specific user. When you install an app because of a referral, it feels amazing to see your friend’s picture and name welcoming you to the app immediately when you open up. By creating this rare feeling, you build rapport early and your users become more committed and more likely to love your app, even if they don’t explicitly know why.
  3. Knowing what your users want: If your friend sent you a link to a deal or some tickets to a 49ers game for you to checkout, you want to see that deal or those tickets immediately when you open the app. But right now, when you install apps, that information gets lost so you have to either go manually search for them or go back into the original message and try again, often leading to frustration and a large dropoff in conversions. But by sending them directly to the content they were supposed to see when they install, users are able to consume the content they were meant to immediately upon opening the app the first time, increasing the likelihood they’ll continue using your app. And if the link was for a specific item, you can deep link them right into the purchase funnel, eliminating a lot of little steps along that way and dramatically increasing conversion to purchase.
How it works

Using to pass data through install: Branch enables you to take the context of the user (where they came from, what they clicked on, what they were doing when they installed your app) and pass that into the app through install so you can personalize the first-time experience for them based on what they were hoping to see. In fact, you can personalize the first-time experience with ANYTHING you want. Here are two of the most common ways to use personalized onboarding for your new app users.

Deep link to content through install using a shared link, ad, or mobile website: You can deliver a personalized onboarding experience for new users the first time they open your app instead of giving them the generic welcome experience other apps show everyone. For example, if a new user clicked on a link from mobile web to continue booking their Uber ride in the app, they should get taken to where they left off — addresses already entered and ready to book. If you know the user came from a specific spot, you can also add a personal welcome message for them. Or if a user clicks on a link to listen to a certain radio station in the iHeartRadio app, they want to hear that radio station first when they open up — they don’t want to have to search for it on their own among the hundreds of thousands of radio stations in the app.

How it works


Personalized Referrals and frictionless onboarding without the need for referral codes: You can forget about referral codes and building your whole referral system in-house. Branch passes referral information through the install of the new user so they can enjoy a frictionless onboarding experience without ever needing to worry about entering promo codes. Most apps still require new users to copy and paste a referral code into the settings somewhere – a step that leads to massive dropoff in the referral conversions and a bad user experience. But Branch automatically applies the referral code for whatever action you’d like, so the user never needs to worry about copying and pasting a referral code into some hard-to-find box in the settings menu. It automatically happens without the user doing anything but download. We also help customize the first-time experience so users get a personalized welcome when they open up, letting them know the referral has been applied and showing them a personal welcome from their friend.

How it works