How to Improve App Ratings and Reviews

Ratings and reviews are the lifeblood of the mobile app world. They provide social proof and are responsible for making the first impression on a customer when they encounter your app in the app store.

In a consumer survey we conducted, seventy-seven percent of respondents reported that they read at least one review before downloading a free app, and that number rose to 80 percent before downloading a paid app.

Additionally, fifty-five percent of respondents said a one-star or two-star app store rating of a well-known brand’s app negatively impacts their view of the brand as a whole. On the other hand, seventy-one percent of respondents said a four-star or five-star app store rating of a well-known brand positively impacts their view of the brand as a whole.

It’s clear that app ratings and reviews aren’t just vanity metrics; they have real consequences on conversion rates and brand reputation.

App store ratings

Why Ratings and Reviews Matter

Jumping from two-stars to three-stars in the app stores can increase conversion by up to 306 percent. Jumping from three-stars to four-stars still has a dramatic impact, increasing conversion by up to 92 percent.

Most telling, ninety percent of consumers consider star ratings to be an essential part of their evaluation of a new app. Seventy-nine percent of consumers check ratings and reviews before downloading an app, fifty-three percent check ratings and reviews before updating an app, and 55 percent check ratings and reviews before making an in-app transaction. These pieces carry so much influence that it’s now more important than ever for app publishers to make them a priority.

How app store ratings influence conversions
The volume of star ratings for iOS grew by 126 percent on average from 2017 to 2018, along with a median increase of 97 percent. That is phenomenal growth owed in part to Apple’s new native ratings prompt. Our key takeaway from our research is the Apple rating prompt has been an indisputable win in terms of quantity of ratings and average rating, but this comes at the expense of the volume of reviews (i.e. direct feedback about your app from end customers), and potentially the quality of those reviews. In this case, “more” doesn’t always mean “better.” Android, on the other hand, saw a 9.5 percent decrease in the average volume of ratings but a slight median increase at 3.5 percent.

Importance of ratings and reviews
There’s been good news all around for iOS apps in the ratings and reviews department. From 2017 to 2018, iOS apps saw a 33 percent decrease in one-star and a 25 percent decrease in two-star ratings respectively, and an 11 percent increase in five-star ratings. Star distribution for Android apps has remained more or less consistent with a six percent decrease in four-star ratings and a two percent increase in five-star ratings.

Star ratings are very influential in conversion and brand reputation. The opportunity cost of a star and the resultant gain from it can be huge in terms of brand loyalty and revenue.

Opportunity cost of a star

Why Your App Doesn’t Have Five Stars

Before you can take control over your ratings, it’s important to understand the reasons why they’re currently a little underwhelming. Only then can you make the inherent biases in app store ratings work for you rather than against you. A poorly rated app is not necessarily a bad app. Nor is an app with exceptional reviews necessarily a good app. When it comes to assessing quality and experience, app store ratings and reviews are, simply, not the best indicators. The reason your app doesn’t have five stars can largely be attributed to basic statistics. When we consider a rating scale, we’re psychologically predisposed to assume a normal distribution. That is, we expect the majority of people to give an ‘average’ rating in the middle of the scale (three stars) and a tapering minority to give an ‘extreme’ rating (one or five stars). Visually, we’d expect our ratings distribution to take the shape of a bell curve.

The problem here is what we like to call the “silent majority.” Essentially, the majority of your consumers never voice their opinion, write a review, or rate your app. Only one percent of the highly engaged or vocal people will raise their hand and volunteer feedback on their own. As a result, you end up only hearing from the extreme ends of this bell curve or the “vocal minority.” They’re the ones giving you one-start and five-star ratings.

Silent majority customer feedback
But this small sample size doesn’t accurately represent the feelings or opinions of the majority of your customer base. In fact, the vast majority of your customers genuinely enjoy your app, but this group has little incentive to leave a review. They like your app but have little to say beyond that: It just works. Like a good user interface, a customer’s experience with your app is meant to be subtle. When everything works as expected, we don’t notice the elegance of the design. Yet, when we find a broken link or any other hiccup in the interface, we experience frustration. We know that something is wrong. Suddenly, the interface emerges from the background and leaves a conscious impression.

The truth is, apps are held to a very high standard. We expect them to work perfectly and have little motivation to review an app that simply meets our expectations, no matter how high those may be. It is only when apps fall short of our expectations that we put them under scrutiny.

How to Improve App Ratings and Reviews

Ultimately, you need to proactively ask for feedback in order to activate the silent majority rather than wait for feedback from the one percent of at-risk and VIP customers who come to you.

If you’re not proactively asking for feedback, you’re leaving an opportunity on the table to keep your finger on the pulse of your app customers, improve customer happiness, and boost your bottom line. There is endless untapped potential in prioritizing customer feedback from your silent majority, but you must be strategic in your approach to collect it.

To get better app ratings, we have to put positive customer experiences under the same scrutiny as we would negative experiences. We have to bring the user interface, mechanics, and other background elements to the surface and proactively nudge people to consider their customer experience. At Alchemer Mobile (formerly Apptentive), we’ve found the best way to do this is by asking a simple stop question: Do you love this app?

However, we like to encourage our customers to think about ratings and reviews in a more holistic way. It’s not just about what the customer is thinking at the moment when prompted for a rating and review. It is part of a bigger picture and the culmination of the customer’s larger journey with you as a brand. If a customer has been asked for feedback at the right time and place and then is also shown that the feedback was taken into account and incorporated into the app, you can rest assured that it is going to translate into stellar ratings and reviews.

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