Here’s something that could help mobile app makers in search of users (so basically, all of them).

One of the biggest challenges is getting people to download the thing in the first place. It sounds obvious, but forget retention and engagement, if people don’t install the app on their phones, you’re sunk.

Today the Vancouver-based marketing analytics company TapStream is announcing a new product called Smart Taps that makes that a little easier. It’s a custom link that  redirects people to the download page of the appropriate app store. For example, it will  take an iOS user to the Apple App Store, an Android user to the Google Play store, a Windows Phone user to the Windows Phone Market, and so on.

Usually when an app maker links to a page so people can download his app, it goes to a landing page with a list of subsequent links to the right app store. Or it just defaults and takes people directly to the Apple App store.

The smart shortlinks are not revolutionary, but they are helpful. Anything that streamlines the process and makes it faster and/or more convenient removes friction. In other words, speed wins. CEO Slaven Radic points to an observation made by former Google product manager Gabor Cselle, who said, “Every step you make a user perform before they get value out of your app will cost you 20 percent of users.”

The product is able to redirect traffic appropriately by using data that tells it what mobile operating system a person is using. It can also create a fingerprint for users based on other information like what browser they use or what version of different software packages they are running. Radic says that once a user has begun using the app, the company can accumulate data that on how valuable he is. He says each app maker has his own definition of valuable, depending on the type of app, but one metric points to how active a user is. For example, for a photo sharing app, the company’s analytics can point to things like how often someone is sharing photos.

Metrics like these are standard for any mobile analytics platform, but the twist is the Smart Taps shortlink. Of course, any app maker has to ask himself if it’s worth it to pony up for the smart shortlinks. TapStream uses the freemium model, and Smart Taps will be available for every tier except the free one. The most basic paid package is $99 a month.

Radic says the most common uses for the shortlinks would be in ads or Tweets. But one of the most powerful use cases would be in places like media coverage, when an app is being reviewed. That also means you’re at the mercy of a reporter who can either choose to use the shortlink or not, and some journalists refrain from linking directly to an app store because it’s too shill-ish.

Of course, that’s the age-old challenge of trying to get publicity: making sure the product is seen by the right people at the right time. The shortlinks themselves can’t help with that, but getting rid of that bit of friction between potential user and app store could be a nice little bump for an app maker.

[Image courtesy: Cristiano Betta]