Deep Links in Banking

By Chris Nichols

How Banks Are Starting To Use Deep Linking

Last week we went to test out a competitor bank’s mobile account opening process when we were thwarted by their marketing. The marketing email took us to a mobile account opening app that we then had to click three taps down to get to the actual account registration part of the app. Since the marketing already explained the details, there was no need to go through the first several screens of the mobile app. What would have been better was for the bank to use deep linking and take potential customers directly to the registration portion if they already reviewed the marketing materials. In this post, we give a management level overview of deep linking because the attribute will be the standard for almost every mobile application available. Before you sign up for that next banking application such as mobile account opening, personal financial management (PFM) or similar, you should make sure the company has, or has plans to deep link.

What Is Deep Linking?

Similar to how you give someone a web link, deep linking allows you to do the same thing with mobile apps. Up until several years ago, you could only link to the start of a mobile app. Now, with deep linking, you can send users to any specific page or section of the app. The advantage of deep linking is that it saves the user time and reduces friction. For example, if we wanted you to move money into your savings account from your checking using the mobile app, we could only bring you to the starting page of our mobile banking app. However, with a deep link, we could bring you right to the payment/money transfer screen.


Deep link breaks down into three main types:

Basic – Similar to the example above, a user can click a hyperlink on the web, text, social media or email and go right to the specific page. Deep links eliminate the need to navigate manually to the section that you would like.

Deferred Deep Links – This is a basic deep link, but one that is contingent on another action such as authentication. In our above example, in reality, you would have to authenticate first and then go to the payments page on our mobile app. Because of this extra step, this is called a deferred deep link. Deferred deep links are ideal when a potential customer must download and app, register and can then be taken directly to the specific page for which they initially clicked.

Context Driven Deep Linking – Similar to the above, except the app has a behind-the-scenes check where it gathers additional data from the user to better direct them. Context-driven deep links are now all the rage for large banks, as several are trying to deliver the ability to see a piece of marketing and then receive a customized page within the app. A customer can receive an offer for a new home loan or commercial real estate financing—the deferred deep link would then authenticate the customer, while the context-driven deep link would look at credit data and current interest rates to automatically serve up a preliminary offer.

Why Care?

What banks are finding is that by linking to an app and not a mobile web page, customers, and potential customers, are almost three times more likely to interact with the product or service being offered. A recent Criteo study found that app users are 23% more likely to purchase a product compared to a web-only user (below). As shown above, using deep links can also drive app installs and product usage such as PFM, payments and to build balances in savings accounts.

Aside from helping with product usage and engagement, deep linking helps in marketing by bringing the bank to the point of inflection. A context-driven email link can make it easier for users to go from email to app with a new level of personalization. New pages in apps can be more efficiently promoted, and banks that use geotags can provide specific promotion, functionality or content around an event such as equipment financing offer for a trade show.

Putting This into Action

At present, according to SearchMetrics, approximately 20% of the apps use deep linking. However, the ability to deep link is becoming the mobile standard, and bankers need to inquire from both from an IT perspective and from a business tactic perspective. When you are considering a vendor with a mobile application, bankers need to add the ability to deep link to their list of due diligence questions.

In similar fashion, banks that already utilize mobile apps need to understand what deep link options are available so that they can better leverage the functionality. One mobile banking provider, for instance, can deep link to Apple’s iOS, but not to Android operating systems. Becoming smarter around deep linking will allow your operations, marketing, and customer support groups to better understand the options available.

Chris Nichols, who is located in San Francisco, is the chief strategy officer of CenterState Bank, which has its headquarters in Winter Haven, Fla.

Online training in digital, mobile and social media from ABA.