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The power of instant apps for app developers and mobile marketers


Google originally announced the introduction of instant apps at 2016’s Google I/O developer conference. Over the following years, Google made instant apps available to all Android developers, and eventually released Android Studio 3.0 to better support the development of instant apps. Since 2016, instant apps have matured into a high-potential, yet still largely untapped app format.

What is an instant app?

An instant app allows a user to access an app’s content without having to install the app. It’s essentially a hybrid between the core benefits of a mobile app and a web app. Accessible via deep links, instant apps are designed to give users a preview of a slimmed down version of an app before they commit to installing the full version.

Rather than creating a campaign that links a user to an app store or website, a deep link allows the user to directly access the instant app with just one tap. Furthermore, a deep link allows app developers and marketers to send users to a specific location within the app, be that a particular event or section. These deep links can be presented to users via traditional digital ads, near field communication (NFC) tags (commonly used for tap-to-pay at point-of-purchase), or QR codes.

Instant apps are exclusively available on Android devices, but Apple does offer an iOS alternative for app developers called App Clips. App Clips function similarly to instant apps. Adjust’s LinkMe deep linking feature lets you tap into the relevancy power of instant apps.

What are instant apps used for?

Currently, there are 2 types of instant apps:

Try now

Smaller, trial versions of apps allow the user to test out features before they commit to installing the full version.

Best for: Apps that are particularly useful at a specific point in time, such as local transportation, big ticket retail, or airline apps. Or, apps with a variety of features or functionalities.

Instant play

Full versions of lightweight games that can be played in full without a download.

Best for: Hyper-casual and casual mobile games.

Android instant apps

What are the benefits of using an instant app?

Instant apps are particularly powerful for gaming and e-commerce verticals, where competition is high and users are therefore more particular about which apps they choose to install. However, they can be leveraged by nearly all verticals.

Much like free trials of subscription features, instant apps hook the user in and persuade them to download the full version with well-timed prompts to install within the instant apps. Here are a few benefits for app developers.

  1. Monetization support: Instant apps support in-app purchases and ad monetization. If a user already has Google Wallet set up, for example, payment is possible in just a few taps within the instant app.
  2. Try before you download: Allowing potential users to try a portion of your app can help them decide whether or not your app is worth downloading. Letting users explore inventory and compare prices without having to download your app could be the push they need to download and make a purchase.
  3. Search engine optimization (SEO): Search presents an exciting landscape for instant app discovery, with different kinds of content per app split across different terms. This could pave the way for more segmented optimization using instant apps.
  4. Discoverability: Instant play apps can be featured on the Google Play Games home page, further increasing potential brand awareness.
  5. Diversified re-engagement campaigns: Deep linking to the most relevant sections of an app for users to try via an instant app can facilitate more diverse re-engagement campaigns that are highly effective.

Adjust is the only attribution vendor to track instant apps

Developers and advertisers should distinguish their full app and instant app at attribution level to ensure they can monitor audiences differently depending on which one they are engaging with. Treat them as two separate apps.

If you're currently testing your next instant app, get in contact with your contact person at Adjust to discuss in detail how you can set up and begin tracking your instant app as part of your omnichannel marketing efforts.

Learn more about Adjust’s mobile attribution made easy.

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