On a recent episode of "Reply All," a podcast about the internet, host PJ Vogt shared an experience that had him convinced Facebook was using his phone's microphone to spy on him: "I was, you know, making pizza dough, and I said, 'This would be a lot easier if we had one of those fancy KitchenAid mixers.' Ten minutes later, there's an ad for KitchenAid mixers on sale."
Vogt isn't alone in jumping to this conclusion — far from it. Ever since the National Security Agency admitted to spying on the American public via cellphone microphones, any evidence of intrusion leads quickly to this assumption. The fact that 39 million American adults own smart speakers armed with assistants standing by for verbal cues, like Alexa and Google Assistant, doesn't help, either.
As marketers, we know that brands aren't spying on consumers through Google Home's microphone and iPhone cameras, but we're using deep linking to serve specific content to specific users. Actions users take in apps or on platforms like Facebook can be used to deliver relevant ads or drive traffic to specific destinations. It's an undoubtedly valuable strategy, but the question is: How can you strike the right balance to keep content personalized without getting creepy?
Avoid Spooking Users
If you want to use deep linking and other retargeting methods but don’t want to scare your target users, here are three tenets to keep in mind:
1. Prioritize user experience.
Deep linking provides great benefits to advertisers, such as precise retargeting and, ultimately, it helps drive better engagement. When it's leveraged correctly, it can also create a more seamless consumer experience across devices and platforms. Users shouldn’t have to log in multiple times, encounter interstitial pages, or dodge various ads that interrupt the experience. Find and eliminate broken links and other bugs vigilantly or you'll risk losing consumers. Bad navigation is another common culprit, especially on apps or sites that include a lot of content. It should be easy for users to get where they want to go and get back to where they started.
2. Be transparent where you can.
Part of the reason Vogt was so suspicious of his KitchenAid ad is that he didn’t understand why it was getting served to him. Providing a simple link that says “Why am I getting this ad?” that goes to a user’s ad preferences page can help. Be strategic with your deep linking, and make sure users are having a good experience first; otherwise, it will be hard to retain them. Blocking content with ads or forcing people to click through multiple pages to see what they want seems shady and manipulative on the brand's part.
3. Combine tactics for better results.
Think of deep linking as an ongoing conversation between users and your brand and make it your goal to be a good listener. Take cues from users about their preferences; stop showing them things they don’t care about. Use emails to follow up on in-app or on-site actions, or deploy notifications to send users directly to offers, shopping carts, or new features they show interest in. Be respectful and back off when click-through rates drop off or other user feedback indicates lack of interest.
Consumers' addiction to devices will only grow, which means deep links and re-marketing will only become more popular. Apps are flexible, immersive experiences that often beat out websites for speed and user engagement. Learning how to do deep linking correctly now will give you a leg-up in the near future.