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Retailers inch closer to cross-platform shopping as deep linking takes off

Retailers including One Kings Lane, Burberry and Nike are throwing weight behind deep linking to sync up email and applications this holiday season that speed up the path to purchase and cement mobile sales.

One Kings Lane recently updated its iPhone app so that users can directly act from an email to shop through the app. Although there are challenges with matching up similar experiences and content, mobile’s growing role as a part of the shopping experience has retailers pushing deep linking to connect platforms.

“Whether visiting from a computer, smartphone or tablet, we’re always focusing on giving our shoppers a great cross-platform experience with One Kings Lane,” said David Yu, chief product officer at One Kings Lane, San Francisco.

“In the case of our iPhone app users, we streamlined the experience of accessing the app so that they can enjoy the robust features offered in our latest release, including high resolution images, product zoom, and now shopping by category.”

One-click shopping?
Consumers who open One Kings Lane’s emails on their mobile device can click-through to view featured sales and products directly within the app.

From there consumers can add their items to a time-sensitive shopping cart that expires after 10 minutes and checkout.

Email remains to be a tried-and-true tactic for marketers, especially during the holidays, but retailers have traditionally lagged behind in creating targeted content specific for mobile users.

One Kings Lane’s flash sale-based business makes it the perfect brand to experiment with deep-linking emails as a way to drive impulsive and quick mobile sales.

Additionally, the app tie-in is an interesting way for Old Kings Lane to serve a richer experience that can be leveraged routinely with push notifications to drive incremental sales.

Besides One Kings Lane, Burberry and Nike are also experimenting with tying email newsletters to specific app content, according to Erich Joachimsthaler, CEO/founder of Vivaldi Partners, New York.

For example, Burberry sends out emails asking consumers to check out a video of the brand’s latest fashion show, and consumers can then click on the video to buy the items straight from the brand’s app.

Nike also integrates email into its Nike Plus app that tracks a consumer’s running. The brand pushes out an email and in-app message for every 300 miles completed, encouraging consumers to buy the company’s products.

Cross-platform retail grows
With more brand interest in driving mobile traffic for specific promotions, there are an increasing number of opportunities for marketers to increase app exposure.

For example, Google recently released a feature called App Indexing that lets marketers deep link an app’s content to a mobile search.

Cards that feature a specific piece of content – such as a recipe – are embedded within search results. If consumers already have the app mentioned in the search result, a click-through on the ad automatically opens the content via the app.

Marketers using this new tool include Expedia, Flixster, Amazon’s IMDb, OpenTable and Etsy.

Facebook and Twitter are also pushing harder into deep linking with new mobile advertising units.

Earlier this fall, Facebook rolled out a new retargeting portion to its popular app install units that let marketers such as HotelTonight target consumers who have already downloaded an app serve up specific ads to drive repeat app usage (see story).

Twitter also offers similar targeting features for app marketers with Twitter Cards that marketers can pack into promoted tweets.

“The sweeping consumer shift to mobile email from desktop shows that today 41 percent of email is read on a mobile device, creating a natural opportunity to capitalize on location, apps and point of purchase,” said Jonathan Adam, senior vice president of media for North America at iCrossing, New York.

“Email has long been used as a stimulus vehicle for retail sales,” he said. “Given the connection between email and apps in mobile, we are excited by the potential it affords our clients.”

Mobile challenges
Despite the opportunity to push out contextual mobile content, deep linking should be used as only part of how brands view the path to purchase.

For example, roughly 20 marketing channels means that there are 380 combinations for marketers in how to mix marketing mediums together, per Vivaldi Partners’ Mr. Joachimsthaler.

The risk with this though is that consumers are increasingly becoming overwhelmed by media and can be easily turned off if too many messages are thrown at them.

Deep linking in particular requires marketers to push out extremely relevant messages to persuade a consumer to open an additional app.

Additionally, deep linking requires that marketers develop compelling content that is both relevant to a consumer and relates directly to the brand.

“Just because you can direct a consumer from an email to an app to purchase, does not mean you should,” Mr. Joachimsthaler said.

“The smart marketer identifies the patterns of purchase or shopping of consumers, deeply understands the consumers’ needs and wants and then helps consumers to take care of the shopping or buying process that benefits both the consumer and marketer as well,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York