Mobile App Ratings and Reviews: Where to Start and How to Win

October 4, 2022

Consumers are becoming more skeptical of digital marketing than ever before, and peer recommendations in the form of app store ratings and reviews stand alone as the single greatest driver of discovery and conversion. Thanks to regulations like GDPR and CCPA, consumer privacy has moved to the forefront of marketing and product development, and a trusted recommendation in the form of a rating or review carries more weight than ever.

What does this mean for app-focused product managers and marketers? Positive ratings and reviews are still the gateway to success in all other app-focused business goals.

You likely understand the importance of making a good first impression through your app’s positive ratings and reviews. What you may not realize is the powerful hold positive or negative app store ratings and reviews have on the rest of your broader KPIs—and that traditional prompting methods can only take you so far.

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 89 percent.

App ratings and reviews: Graph showing minimum star rating needed for someone to download an app

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.

Statistics on the importance customers place on ratings and reviewsSince the release of iOS 11, we’ve seen a downturn in the number of iOS reviews as the rating process was simplified. Google also released big changes to its Play Store in-app review API in October 2020, which had a sweeping impact on how app publishers prompt for ratings and feedback. Ultimately, the changes to both app stores made the process of rating an app easier, less disruptive, and more in-line with the goal of optimizing for consumer feedback rather than gamifying high ratings.

However, the number of app store reviews have steadily decreased as it’s harder for consumers to leave a review now that ratings prompts are decoupled. ​​Decoupling refers to targeting customers for ratings separate from an audience that sees the Alchemer Mobile (formerly Apptentive) Love Dialog, or showing the Rating Dialog at another point in your customers app journey that is not immediately after the Love Dialog. Adding a step in the consumer feedback journey means that, by default, it will be harder and less likely that people complete the path.

Below are the average number of ratings both iOS and Android apps saw across the last five years.

Volume of app store reviews year over year

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.

Line graph showing the silent majority - companies all hear from 1% of their customers

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.

Further Reading

Our guide Mobile App Ratings and Reviews: Where to Start and How to Win is here to jumpstart your 2022 strategy.

Mobile App Ratings and Reviews

 

The guide covers actionable steps to improve your app’s ratings and reviews, along with how to drive the rest of your mobile business goals forward, including:

  • Boosting customer retention
  • Increasing app-initiated purchases
  • Expanding your unique mobile customer base
  • Saving money on advertising
  • Improving survey response rates
  • Earning higher CTR on marketing campaigns

The 24-page guide goes into great detail around improving your ratings and reviews now, creating a long-term strategy, and enacting a plan to keep your ratings and reviews high. In addition to immediately actionable steps, you’ll learn:

  • Why ratings and reviews matter
  • How the app stores have changed
  • Why your app doesn’t have five stars
  • How ratings reflect your customer relationships

Traditional prompting methods can drive desired results for your app but, like most things, aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution to your specific business needs. In order to truly understand customers, you need qualitative data to make sense of quantitative data, which doesn’t happen without gauging sentiment directly through customer feedback.

Download Mobile App Ratings and Reviews: Where to Start and How to Win now to formulate your winning plan for 2022.

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