Update 09/18/2012 : changes in the new App Store (and new elements on the “Chomp” update) had effects on where and how ratings are displayed (as well as the introduction of Facebook likes in the Reviews tab of an app page), so we updated the post accordingly.
When browsing or searching for apps, the first contact potential users have with your product are your app name, your app icon and your user ratings. Even though you don’t have direct power to create or change reviews, you can do several things online or within your app to get better user ratings and therefore convince more users to download your apps.
Getting customer ratings is hard, and getting positive (4/5 stars) app ratings is of course even harder. The key rule to improve your ratings is to make everything you can so that unhappy users can reach you and express their concerns directly to you, and so that happy users can easily leave a review on the App Store.
What can be very frustrating when you put all your hard work and love into an app, is to wake up to a devastating review of your app with no power whatsoever to answer that review or even contact the (mean and ungrateful) user that left it on your Apple Store app page (it is possible to answer users’ reviews since June 21st, 2012 on the Google Play Store).
Although with the iOS 6 update users now have the choice to contact you (via the address you give for support in iTunes) right next to the one of writing a review, here are a few other advices to prevent bad reviews from happening.
Define a support address within iTunes
Now that the “[Name of the app] support” button is right next to the “Write a review” button in the App Store (in the Reviews tab) you want to make sure that you fill it correctly and that it leads to a page where users can get answers or contact you. Because if that’s not the case, they’ll probably end up hitting the “Write a review” button…And we don’t want any unhappy user doing that, don’t we?
Getting started: ask people you know to honestly rate the app
No one wants to pay (or even download) an app that nobody likes. Your app is new, and reviews from users might take a while to come. While Google shows reviews as soon as one is posted, Apple waits until 5 ratings have queued up. That’s why I believe that in the beginning it’s pretty fair to encourage people to leave your app an honest (read: honest while positive) review IF you know they liked it. Many iPhone users don’t have any idea of the importance of these reviews (and now of the Facebook Likes) for developers.
Although Apple announced in May 2011 that they stopped accepting App Store reviews if a promo code was used, it seems that it is still possible for some users to rate an app this way if they wait a few hours/days. It’s not something you want to do on a big scale, but it might be useful to know if an enthusiastic user got your app with a promo code and can’t wait to leave a positive review.
Let users know how to reach you
Like I said above, the best way to not get negative reviews is to let unhappy users reach you directly. Whether they experienced an app crash, a minor bug or think your app is good but need a new feature you want them to tell you and not the whole world. Apple has taken a step in this direction with the “Chomp update” and iOS 6, but you still can do things to improve how reachable you are. Don’t forget to answer, too.
Within your app description and app website
- Include some contact info at the end of your app description. It can be an email address, a twitter/fb account, etc.
- Have a website for support. Google Play and the iTunes Store lets you put a link towards your website on your app page so be sure to do it. If you don’t have one, seriously consider creating your app website or landing page and make sure your contact info is easy to find and not hidden somewhere.
- (Update 9/1/2012) Add a Review Bar to your app website with Tapstream’s tool that invites visitors of your website to give you feedback. If feedback is positive (>4) they’re suggested to leave a review on the App Store. If feedback is negative (<=3) they’re suggested to send you a message.
Within your app
Most apps have a more/settings tab, so place a way for your users to easily contact you. If your preferred mean of communication is email, you can insert by default some useful user info like their device and the OS version they’re running.
“Share the love” button
It was on the Airbnb app, and I once read a great post on taking control of your reviews. In the ‘Montreal, Then and Now’ app, this kind of button was added and brings people to a screen telling them that if they like the app they can post a review or share it on FB/Twitter. Here is how it looks.
Using a Feedback/Ratings SDK
Appsfire – For this same app, the AppBooster SDK from Appsfire (it no longer exists) was also implemented. One of its features was to let people send you feedback from a notification inbox, and the great thing about it is that if the feedback is good, it offers the user to leave you a review on the app store. Tools like Apptentive now allow you to do this very well.
Apptentive – Another great tool to get the dialog started with your users is Apptentive. Their SDK allow you not only to gather feedback but also to reach out to them and send custom in-app surveys, polls and reminders based on their activity.
Users can send feedback by tapping the feedback button. You can as well reach out to people and prompt them with a popup asking if they are happy with your app. If not, they are prompted with a feedback window so you can know why. If they do enjoy your app, they are invited to rate the app in the App Store.
Apptentive is available for iOS and Android apps, and their Free plan let you use it for up to 10,000 monthly active users. Their solution is well designed and the dashboard lets you easily monitor feedback messages, surveys and your boost in ratings. They’ve shared more about their approach to getting better ratings for your apps and earning customer love on their blog.
Appboy – Appboy is a Mobile App CRM. It provides an integrated support desk and gives you information about usage data and diagnostic information so you can understand user feedback. It also lets you identify and segment users based on their profile and usage so you can engage them via push, email or in-app messages. Analytics let you measure the effectiveness of these marketing campaigns.
AskingPoint – The AskingPoint SDK allows you to ask specific segments of users (based on various criteria like how they use your app, version, country) to rate your app or to send them a survey/poll.
LISTEN, reply quickly and fix problems
Now that users who have something to tell you or complain about can do it in several ways, you’re probably going to get several emails a day. Some of them will congratulate you…and some of them might piss you off.
You need to listen to what your users are saying and answer them as fast as possible to thank them for writing you, and letting them know you’re working (or will be working) on resolving the issues they have with your app. If possible, let them know when the problem should be corrected and keep them in the loop along the process.
A great way to get positive reviews is to suggest them to leave you a review once you solved their problem (not before!). A good share of the good ratings we have on our apps comes from what was originally a complaint. So whether we get congratulations or when we solve an issue we like to add something like this to our emails: “If you like the app, don’t hesitate to support us and leave a review on the App Store”.
And while you’re sending them an email, include your app website and social accounts in your signature!
Ask for ratings within your app, but be smart about it
Some books or blog posts tell you to use something like Appirater, a class that you can drop into any iPhone app that will help remind your users to review your app on the App Store. Others tell you the opposite, stating that this is too aggressive, will alter the user experience or might get you bad reviews.
I believe Appirater can be a great thing if you use it with a good timing: don’t ask too soon for a review, do it at the right time and to users that seem to be enjoying your app. It can be after several levels in a game, after a few launches of your app or other specific actions. Also, give them the possibility to not see that request anymore, or to be reminded later.
That’s why like the ones we talked above can be really useful: it lets you target who you’re asking for a review and choose when.
Don’t use push notifications, these should be for valuable data and not for you to beg for a good rating 😉
The “unethical”/not-so-cool things that might work
Here are a few things that could improve your ratings, but that we choose not to do :
- Giving away promo codes or gifts in exchange for reviews
- Asking only for “5 star reviews” in your review request
- Asking for a review with each app update
Looks like there were many things to say on that subject! And that’s even without talking about the facts that now you have to encourage users to “Like” your app too. Most of these tips have to be thought of during the app design process, but it’s never too late to do some tweaking if your app is already available.
If you want to keep up to date with the other aspects of App Store Optimization, check out our App Store Optimization page and our App Developer’s App Store Optimization Cheat Sheet.
Do you think of any other good way to improve your app ratings that is not mentioned here? Let us know in the comment area!
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