Marketing campaigns just got ‘appier.
If you are an email marketer or an app developer who has not come across the concept of “deep-linking before”, get ready for good news.
Deep linking solves a big problem for any mobile app or marketer who wants to drive traffic, across any channel, to within an app as opposed to a website or page on the open web.
Until recently, it simply wasn’t possible to move customers seamlessly from an email, or a text message for example, directly into an app – bad news and an unsatisfactory situation for app discovery.
Thanks to companies like Branch, however, this technical “glitch” has now been solved – seemingly for good.
Branch, who have raised $53 million of funding across 3 rounds, backed by the likes of Founders Fund and New Enterpise Associates, is a “robust mobile linking platform with cross-channel solutions for businesses of all sizes to drive app growth and user engagement with rich attribution data.”
The company was developed by co-founders Alex Austin, Mada Seghete and Mike Molinet, who met at Stanford University, and later persuaded freshman Dmitri Gaskin to drop out and become a fourth co-founder.
Funding and a university dropout – all the ingredients for a billion-dollar company, then?
In fact, Branch came about only after the founders’ first venture, a mobile photobook printing app called Kindred Prints, failed to gain sufficient traction, despite a couple of Tech Crunch articles and being featured on the App Store.
To make it easier for people to discover the app, the team created the first ever deep linking SDK to build personalised onboarding flows, and soon realised that many of their developer friends were experiencing similar problems and could use a deep-linking solution to help break through the growth bottleneck.
It was at this point that the founders realised that “the fundamental problem lies in app discovery”, so decided to pivot their business to focus exclusively on deep-linking. They decided to call the new venture Branch.
It seems the founding team were right. Branch has grown rapidly to a team of more than 90 in the US, with many more local “evangelists” in the UK, India, Russia and Brazil.
Branch “powers the linking experience” for big name startups like Airbnb, Pinterest, Yelp and Jet.com, as well as multinationals like Starbucks, and has recently started working with Bloom and Wild, a UK-based flower delivery company which recently raised a £3.75m Series A investment in a round led by MMC Ventures.
Branch founder and CEO Alex Austin says that “With over 6,000 edge cases across different OS, platforms, and the changing standards from major platforms, mobile linking has become a huge roadblock for brands to provide better user experience and business results.”
Branch solves these problems by working across all edge cases, and building powerful solutions on top of the core linking technology which can help businesses drive customers from email, social, advertising and SEM directly to their app.
And not just to the app, but to the very part of the app that the original message refers to. Haven’t downloaded the app yet? Not a problem, Branch will take you to the app store, wait until you have downloaded it, and still take you to the exact place you want!
It’s a powerful and popular solution – according to a Tech Crunch article from 2016, the company powers deep linking for more than a billion users – up from just 6 million one year previous. It also “handles more than 25 billion API calls monthly, up from 780 million last January. And its partners have created 1.6 billion deep links, up from 20 million last February.”
Austin says that app discovery is a “universal problem” (just think of all those meritorious apps on the App store that nobody ever finds), and that the UK and Western Europe are a “critical market” because they have achieved 90% smart device penetration.
In the UK, he says, 80% of all digital time spent is on mobile apps, hence the company must have been delighted to secure partnerships with Bloom & Wild, which has reported increased click to booking rates and app engagement from emails using Branch links, Skyscanner, the Edinburgh based flight search startup acquired for $1.4 billion by China based C-Trip last year, and Buzzfeed.
Instacart, the grocery shopping brand based in the US, say they have boosted click to purchase rates by 6x thanks to Branch’s deep linked email solution.
Going forward, Branch, in true Silicon Valley style, say their long-term mission is to “solve app discovery”. With 90,000 new apps being released every month, they say, the chances of making the top 1,000 most popular are, as near as dammit, 0%.
In this day and age, if you build it, they won’t come – unless you can find a way to hold their hand and take them there yourself.
“To solve the problem fundamentally”, Branch say, “we need an effective app discovery mechanism that can surface app content organically just like the web does.”
Branch’s team in London is growing, with the ex-founder of double dating app, Gary McDonough, joining the team a few months ago. Double was a fine idea that would surely still be around today if Branch had made it to these shores a couple of years earlier.