Gathering app reviews and ratings for your mobile app is hard; and getting positive app reviews is even harder. App developers and entrepreneurs who’ve just launched their apps find it tougher than those that have an established base of users.
Your app reviews and ratings are one of the few things that a potential user will notice while searching for an app to download. Unlike your app name, app icon, and keywords you don’t have much direct control on this factor, but you can certainly adopt better practices for influencing users to give a positive review.
Continuing our Interview series at App Inspiration by Arkenea and to understand the various tactics that app developers and entrepreneurs can use to gather app reviews and ratings in the early days and follow through, I spoke to Robi Ganguly, CEO & Co-Founder at Apptentive, the leading enterprise SaaS platform for mobile customer communications.
Q: Reviews and ratings are a factor of engaged/disengaged users. What should an app developer or entrepreneur do in the early days of launch when they barely have any traction?
Robi: In those early days, don’t be afraid to be a little merciless. Ask your friends and family for app reviews. If you just have one app store rating, you’re already ahead of two-thirds of your competition. Once you get those first crucial few app reviews to trickle in, you’ll achieve dramatically better app store rankings, which will spiral into more downloads, more customers, and, ultimately, even more reviews. It’s a perpetual cycle, but first you have to set the wheels in motion.
Similarly, look beyond the app stores when it comes to marketing. Participate in online communities and message boards related to your app, kindle a relationship with prominent influencers on Twitter, or incentivize new downloads through contests or giveaways to attract downloads even if your app is buried in the app store ranks.
Regardless of what route you take, be prepared to hustle. I commonly see developers place all of their time and energy into the design of the app and adopt an “If you build it, they will come” mentality. In reality, development is only half the battle (and likely less).
Q: What are some of the most effective/creative ways to influence users to rate or review the app?
Robi: It’s more about continually tweaking and optimizing how you ask for ratings and app reviews rather than anything particularly creative or radical. Rating prompts are a pretty well-known strategy; but at Apptentive, we believe there’s a big difference between a rating prompt and an intelligent rating prompt.
An intelligent rating prompt is shown to only those customers preselected to be most likely to leave a glowing app review and is shown only at the perfect ‘mobile moment’ preselected to result in the highest number of positive responses.
For more on what makes a prompt intelligent and other strategy for mobilizing customer referrals check out our new eBook on app store ratings and reviews.
Q: Is there a way to release a new version of an iOS app without hurting the app reviews and ratings?
Robi: App Store reviews and ratings reset with each iOS update. This can be both a blessing and a curse. Many developers see a significant drop in ratings (usually for only the first few days) while customers get used to the new update, and this drop can affect their rankings and discovery. Of course, this works the other way too. If your app has a low star rating, release an update, and you can start from a blank slate.
With that said, each update should theoretically be seen as an improvement and lead to better app reviews and ratings. Developers that see this result are those that have a customer-driven product roadmap, in which each update is based off of customer demand. Taking this route, each update should be seen favorably, and you can rest assured that you are building something your customers actually want.
Q: What are the use cases for in-app user communication – is it primarily to reduce negative app reviews and ratings by providing an interface for customers to have their issues resolved?
Robi: Better app reviews and ratings are a byproduct of customer communication, but the real goal is to improve the customer experience. At Apptentive, we believe engaged customers mean happy customers, and happy customers mean increased retention, loyalty, and lifetime value. Across the thousands of apps we help, we’ve seen an average retention increase of 400% as a result of personalized brand communication via contextually relevant messaging.
Another use case takes the form of a Voice of the Customer program for your marketing research needs. We provide the research instruments and targeting capabilities, as well as the analytics, to holistically view your customer insights at a glance. These tools allow you to either conduct exploratory, open-ended research or to dive into very specific parts of the app by targeting the exact audience you need for your survey – whether that’s your most loyal fans, customers who have used a specific part of your app, or customers who made an in-app transaction. Whoever your audience is, we make it easy to reach and understand them.
To get more insights like this from various app experts, subscribe to App Inspiration by Arkenea.
Q: Do you have an uncommon but interesting fact/statistic/case study that you’d like to share with app developers to help them build better apps?
Robi: 50% of customers won’t download a three-star app, according to our last national consumer survey. This means that you can have the best app in the world, but if you’re not mobilizing your fans to leave app reviews and ratings, you’re effectively writing off half your traffic.
Jumping just one star, from 3 to 4, can effectively double your app store conversion rate.
Q: What are the components required by app developers to build an effective feedback loop in their app?
Robi: The question here is build vs. buy. Obviously I’m a little biased as we provide an out-of-the-box set of solutions, but developers looking to start from scratch will need to set up a framework for targeting criteria – requiring customer analytics, usage analytics, device analytics, etc. as well as the actual software powering the feedback loop. It’s all possible, of course, but it will take valuable developer and product manager time away from your app.
For companies that take the buy route, it’s about a 45-minute process for a developer to integrate our SDK. Any further maintenance can be done by marketing, customer success, or anyone else in the organization directly from our dashboard.
Q: What steps can app developers take to ensure the customer experience stays positive?
Robi: Push messaging is a double-edged sword.
Studies have shown that annoying messaging is among the top reasons for app uninstalls.
Intelligent messaging, in contrast, significantly boosts retention. The difference comes down to context. It’s not enough to deliver the right message; you need to deliver it to the right person, via the right medium, at the right place and at the right time.
It’s also important to recognize that, no matter how hard you try, you can never please all of your customers. You can’t control how your customers react, but you can control how you respond. Take each complaint for what it is – a gift – and use it to improve the customer experience moving forward. Identifying why customers are leaving your app is one of the most beneficial pieces of feedback you can have as a developer, and the one that has the greatest impact on retention, loyalty, and revenue.