Google Play In-app Ratings and Reviews API Changes: What’s New and How to Adapt Your Strategy

Google recently announced big changes to its Play Store in-app review API. The changes will have a sweeping impact on how app publishers prompt for ratings and feedback, as well as changes in what consumers expect from experiences with their favorite Android apps.

This post outlines the four main changes app publishers need to be aware of, along with how the shifts will impact existing cross-industry ratings and reviews strategies.

If you’d rather watch than read, check out the recording of our webinar featuring Christy Culp, VP of Customer Success at Alchemer Mobile (formerly Apptentive), and Vivek Bhupatiraju, Product Manager at Alchemer Mobile (formerly Apptentive). They summarize what’s changed with the Play Store ratings process, early cross-industry results, and how you can shift your ratings strategy to capitalize on the changes.

What’s new from Google

In this release, there were four main changes to Android ratings process.

1. Ability to rate and review inside Android apps

App publishers can now prompt customers for ratings and reviews without making them leave the app. Keeping people in their intended experience avoids interruptive, frustrating UX, which helps improve the overall experience with your offerings.

Google Play ratings changes

Ratings prompts are inherently disruptive mechanisms. It momentarily takes focus away your customers’ intended use of the app. However, in the competitive marketplace of the app stores, ratings and reviews are essential to long-term app success.By no longer forcing consumers outside mobile apps to the Google Play Store to leave ratings and comments, your customers’ entire mobile experience is improved.

2. Limits on annual number of ratings prompts

The Google Play Rating Dialog is relatively new, so we are still gathering data. Google has stated they will impose a limit on how many times it can be shown, but have not made it clear what the limit will be.

Limits on annual number of Google Play ratings prompts

Apple limits their in-app Rating Dialog to be shown to each person a maximum of three times per 365 days. The in-app dialog is incredibly powerful—our customers saw their average rating increase by 20%—however, who you show it to, and how frequently, become even more important.

In light of that, we advise you to target conservatively to ensure that you have customers to rate you with each upcoming release. If you ask for too many ratings up front, when the new dialog releases, you will not have enough customers to keep your rating high throughout the year. Google Play also weighs recent ratings more heavily, so it becomes even more important to decouple and use your rating opportunities carefully.

3. “Newness” matters more in the ratings algorithm

Google Play changed their star rating algorithm towards the end of August 2019, and it continues to change as seen in their 2020 update. The average rating calculation for apps will be updated for all Android apps on Google Play. Instead of a lifetime cumulative value, Android apps’ average ratings are already recalculated to give more weight to the most recent ratings. But with this update, the weight of “newness” matters even more.

Newness matters more in the Google Play ratings algorithm

Like the 2019 change, this update will allow customers to see a more accurate state of the app, including bug fixes and new features that provide a better experience, as experience over the years is not the primary factor in determining the app’s rating. However, the change also means that high-quality apps that have not released recent updates will now have a rating that potentially reflects a current state of decline.

This rating limit coupled with the algorithm that Google released last year where they weight more heavily recent ratings means that brands need to resist the urge to create a huge spike in ratings initially or their overall rating will suffer months later when their pool to rate is severely depleted

4. Decoupling the ratings prompt from a predictive question (“Do you love?”) is now recommended as best practice

Decoupling refers to targeting customers for ratings separate from an audience that sees the Alchemer Mobile (formerly Apptentive) Love Dialog and/or showing the Rating Dialog at another point in your customers app journey that is not immediately after the Love Dialog → Yes flow.

Decoupling the ratings prompt

Because we know you’ll see a huge uptick in the percentage of people willing to rate with an in-apt prompt, the best way to ensure a steady rating throughout the year is to decouple the Alchemer Mobile (formerly Apptentive) Love Dialog and the ratings dialog.

Decoupling the Love and Ratings Dialogs ensures you stretch out your rating opportunities over the year to keep your rating consistent. It also allows you to track the pulse of your customers’ sentiment over time and ask a simple question of “Do you love?” more frequently. It’s lightweight (with a 94% response rate), and your customers can go back to what they were doing quickly, while affording you the opportunity for direct, frequent feedback if things are not going well.

Decoupling also helps ensure you have a constant pulse on customer happiness, as well as a steady stream of new ratings throughout the year to keep your overall rating high.

Is your app ready for the changes?

With our mission to give every customer a voice, we’ve long played a hand in helping companies understand when fans are ready to rate the company’s app in the app store. In general, these updates provide a much better experience for people who use Android apps and help turn the current one-way feedback abyss into a two-way feedback loop between customers and brands.

Remember, a customer’s rating is just a small piece of understanding how they feel—their feedback and the state of their relationship to the company has never mattered more. As suggested at the beginning of this piece, it’s never been more important to be able to identify and activate your fans.

If your teams need any help understanding the relationship between app ratings, customer experience management, and long-term customer value, let us know, as we can help.

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