April 24th, 2015
As an app developer, you live and die by what your customers will say about your app. A few bad reviews visible near the top of the list or a subpar rating of the app will result in dramatically decreased install rates. The worst part is, a lot of this is completely out of your control. In general, people only write reviews when they are driven by intense emotion. By far, the majority of the time that emotion will be anger and frustration. Even the best apps, if they weren’t proactive about sourcing positive reviews, would have an average rating below 3 stars because of this.
Here are a few suggestions for improving your reviews:
First of all, you need to drive up the rating by forcing as many of your friends to rate you five stars as possible. After you launch your app (or on every app update in iOS), make your friend open their phone and rate your app in front of you. Don’t let them walk away until they do, and awkwardly stand there glaring at them while they type out a nice review. Hopefully, they sound like real reviews.
Additionally, if your app has an email registration feature, you should send direct emails to users and ask for their feedback and reviews. For one of our apps, there was a time when I sent out an email to the top 300 users, begging them for some positive reviews of the app. We had neglected our review experience for far too long, and our average rating had dropped into the threes. Over the next 24 hours, 40 new four and five star reviews were left on the app.
Before you launch your app, drop in a tool like Appirater (iOS or Android) to automatically prompt your users to review the app after they meet a certain criteria. For example, you can configure the library to only prompt your users to review after they have opened the app 3 times in a row and after 4 days have passed. This cohort of users most likely enjoys your app, as they have been retained for multiple uses.
That’s still not as refined as it could be. Soundcloud uses a method where they display a modal after a certain number of uses, asking the user to rate the app on a scale of 1 to 10. If you answer above 9, they immediately ask you to write a review on the app store. If you answer below that, they give you a contact form to submit a recommendation directly the company. This is one additional filter on top of that engaged user to ensure they only produce the best reviews.
People feel a lot of emotions when they use software, but far and away the majority is anger and frustration. Either they can’t figure out the user experience or they’ve discovered a bug that won’t let them make progress. The majority of people just need a place to start writing a rant to the developer and the only outlet is the app review page. Fortunately, there are a couple services that help mitigate that frustration before it negatively impacts your rating.
User Voice does a lot of things, but primarily delivers an in-app user feedback forum and contact form. You simply sign up on their site, drop their SDK in, and add a button where you want users to be able to access the feedback section. You can customize what is seen from the popup, but the most basic features is a community forum where users can comment publicly to other app users. By giving this channel to rant, you will be saving yourself many a bad review. Additionally, you have the ability to respond to them directly, discovering more about their issue so that you can incorporate the feedback into the next update. I recommend making this button as accessible as possible.
So, you’ve done everything up to this point, and you’re still seeing the occasional poor review. I believe that every poor review is just a five star review that needs a little attention. You need to contact this person, even though Google Play and the App Store try to anonymize these users as much as possible. This is where things can get interesting.
It’s surprisingly likely that the reviewer used either their full name or some sort of internet alias during the review. Even more surprising is that it’s usually pretty easy to find an actual email address for a given full name or alias. Play internet detective for a few minutes to find this information out. I won’t go into explicit details on exactly the tactics of discovering a reviewers email, but I will say that if you find out a website domain that they are associated with (work or personal), you can usually just use their first name or the first letter of their first name and last name @ domain . com to send them a direct message.
Fortunately, in Google Play, you have the ability to reply to the reviewer publicly. This is a great opportunity to make yourself look like you care a great deal. Write a glowing apology, leave your email address, and offer something if they message you directly. If they don’t respond within a day, make sure to dig up their email address as described above and send them a personal note.
While this article is primarily about avoiding low ratings, the most important thing to realize is that the frustration that led to a low rating is caused by a user experience or bug in your app that should likely be resolved. Listen to your users – they’ll always tell you where to go next.
Alex is the CEO of Branch Metrics , a full service, deeplinking solution for mobile apps. Branch links have the power to deeplink through app install and open, allowing the app developer to deliver a personalized post-install experience. Branch links can be used to build full user-to-user referral programs with automatic install attribution and rewarding, or for automatically deeplinking to content post-install. Also, the Branch analytics dashboard gives insights into where organic installs are coming from, as well as interesting metrics like install conversion funnels and k-factors of growth features.