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by Meg Mader 

A whopping 70 percent of people today have mobile applications. That’s not surprising, considering the mobile trend and the overwhelming number of apps on the market — and Apple’s catchy slogan, “There’s an app for that,” holds true in pretty much any situation! So, if the majority of our population has apps, why are only 80 percent of them only used once?

Well, consumers are not necessarily looking for mobile apps — they are looking for solutions. If an app doesn’t provide the desired solution, it won’t be used again. But everyone loves free stuff, so most people probably download and test drive various apps because the majority of them are free. The average person figures, “Well, it doesn’t cost anything to try this …” but little do they know, they are opening themselves up to a whole new [app happy] world of targeted advertising.

Smart Phone, Smarter Advertising

Obviously companies want to increase the number of people who download, and use, their apps.

Google’s current technology allows companies to promote installations of their app on the AdMob network. There, they can target an audience of people whom Google has identified are the most likely to be converted to customers or donors based on data they already have on file — i.e., those who have demonstrated a similar interest based on other applications on their device, how often they use them, and what actions they’ve completed with them.

For example, if Jane exercises regularly and uses an app to measure how far she runs, she might see an ad in her Google search results promoting an app whose offerings compliment this action — perhaps a healthy lifestyle app that can help Jane measure the foods she eats and tracks the calories she consumes.

Next question: If AdMob allows companies to promote installs of their app, how can companies reduce that 80 percent figure and reengage customers on the mobile apps they’ve already installed?

Ask and Google Shall Answer

The tech giant responded to that conundrum by expanding its mobile advertising opportunities to search ads (also on YouTube) with App Deep Linking, an AdWords product enhancement aimed specifically at reducing the number of apps that are only used once.

When searching on a smart phone within the browser app, search results can now take a consumer directly to a page inside an installed application to show the results. Instead of Google displaying results, this allows companies to target the 80 percent of people who download apps and don’t use them, providing another opportunity for advertisers to reach a high-quality audience of potential customers.

For example, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) could offer a mobile app that includes profiles of modern artists, current exhibitions, museum events, etc. Let’s say Fran the art fanatic installed the app on her iPhone 6 months ago, looked through it once, and then forgot about it. Consider that Fran lives in Minnesota and has never been to MoMA. Today, Fran is using her iPhone browser to search the title of Gauguin’s first piece of work, which she just can’t recall. Her search results could link her directly her to the Artist Profile page of Gauguin within the MoMA app. Now Fran is inspired and spends 20 minutes within the app reading about her favorite artists. It’s payday so she’s feeling generous and makes a donation — she might even make plans to visit MoMA on her next trip to the East Coast.

Advertisers can manage these targeted ad campaigns in the ever-expanding AdWords product suite. Advertisers will also be able to measure conversions across the entire life cycle of the app — from installation to periods of activity and re-engagement to purchases made from the app. This technology is expected to launch this summer.

Enter, Facebook

Last fall, the social media powerhouse that is Facebook announced a mobile advertising network that allows companies to display ads within the Facebook app and show their audience relevant ads with Facebook’s Custom Audience targeting tools. Additionally, companies can deep-link on these mobile ads, directing users to a customized, specific location on the company’s own app.

Building on that (and as a retort to Google’s App Deep Linking), Facebook launched AppLinks, a cross-platform means to streamline app-to-app linking, making it easy to jump from app to app. Say you want to jump from your Facebook app to your Pinterest or Tumblr app. Since both Pinterest and Tumblr joined AppLinks, this is now possible. Previously, you couldn’t do so without exiting one app and opening another.

From App to App to …?

Advertising for both app installs and deep linking go hand-in-hand, since the former gets the app on consumers’ mobile devices, and the latter then increases engagement, pointing consumers to the desired information in their app to provide search results. So what’s next, you might ask? While that remains to be seen, one thing is certain:

Advertising is maximizing mobile — and soon the opportunities will be endless.

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Meg Mader is a digital media account executive, providing expertise on cross-channel digital marketing strategies for CDR Fundraising Group, an integrated marketing agency serving nonprofits in a variety of areas, including online fundraising, direct mail, advocacy, list brokerage and management and mission-specific marketing.