Being the pop culture savant I am – as witnessed by my recent article 2014 Marketing Predictions With A Twist (click on the link, you’ll see what I mean) – when I first heard the term “deep linking” I immediately thought of the 1970s flick The Deep starring Robert Shaw and Nick Nolte. I then had visions of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine dancing in my head.

Of course neither of these have anything to do with “deep linking” – a subject which many have wondered aloud as to it possibly being the future of mobile marketing and mobile advertising.

Over at Mashable Todd Wasserman wrote a piece back in October How Deep Links Could Revolutionize Mobile Advertising. And David Lee of URX referred to deep linking as The Past, Present and Future of Mobile Marketing.

So what exactly is deep linking and how does it pertain to the world of mobile marketing and advertising?

Well according to Lee “Mobile deeplinks are links to sub-pages of a mobile app.” In more layman’s terms deep linked mobile ads take you right to the product page within an app.

And the reason this is so important is for the fact that it allows advertisers to simplify the mobile user experience. For example, if you are playing a game in a given app and see an advertisement for ski boots, with mobile deep linking you can click on that ad and it will take you directly to the “buy” page within the given retailers app already on your phone.

Currently if you see a mobile ad for a given product you have to go through many hoops to get to that same “buy” page you wanted to get to all along.

Digging Deeper

Yes that pun was intended as I wanted to learn more about deep linking so I reached out to John Milinovich, the CEO of URX, a company, as Wasserman puts it which “… aims to enable advertising that sends a user from, say, a mobile banner ad to precisely the right page within an app.”

You know the whole “ski boots path to purchase” example I just used.

The company is very new having just launched in October thanks in part to funding from an eclectic group of investors ranging from actors Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Guest to hall of fame quarterback Joe Montana to Google Ventures and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington.

According to Milinovich brands can benefit greatly from deep linking. “Deep linking makes a brand’s marketing more effective by enabling things to work in a similar way to how they do on the web,” he said, adding that “by linking to specific landing pages in apps, brands are able to create more relevant, higher converting marketing campaigns than what was available before.”

Two brands who utilize deep linking are SeatGeek, which is a web application that forecasts concert and sports tickets on the secondary ticket market and HotelTonight, the global leader in apps for last-minute, same-day hotel bookings.

Russell D’Souza, Co-Founder of SeatGeek: “Deep linking lets us take users back to a particular screen on a mobile app. If a user is browsing Super Bowl tickets on SeatGeek but didn’t complete their purchase, we want to hit that user with a target ad for the Super Bowl taking them back to the Super Bowl screen on SeatGeek. Deep linking removes several layers of the conversion funnel. ”

As for HotelTonight, Sam Shank, CEO and Co-Founder says it’s all about getting the consumer properly situated in the sales funnel. “Deep linking gets our customers on the right/correct path to purchase by allowing HotelTonight to choose where the user should start their in-app experience, such as a specific city hotel page.”

What Lies Ahead

As to what the future holds for mobile advertising and mobile commerce Milinovich  believes mobile ad budgets will continue to shift to driving downstream revenue not just user acquisition. “This newfound emphasis on re-engagement will also cause a focus on cross-channel measurement and attribution,” he predicted. “As we better understand and measure how mobile fits into the overall journey to purchase, the full impact of mobile advertising will become more clear.”

D’Souza foresees a bright future for mobile advertising as well telling me SeatGeek is “benefiting from huge industry trends like increased smartphone penetration, more powerful phones, and consumers embracing mobile purchasing.”

As for those brands, retailers, etc. who are contemplating jumping into the deep end of the mobile pool – yes that pun was also intended, Shank has some words to the wise and they have to deal with putting your customer front and center. “I would advise the brand to put user experience first when they first begin thinking about a mobile deep linking strategy,” said Shank. “Mobile apps provide a richer mobile experience than mobile web, deep linking is an opportunity for the brand to develop a stronger sense of loyalty with its user.”