We Need App Reviews, but We Need to Ask at the Right Time
Effective Measures for ASO
When it comes to downloading a new app, very few people ignore the reviews. According to Apptentive’s user survey, 90% of users take app ratings into account and 79% also pay attention to the reviews; 4 out of every 10 people consider reviews to be more important than recommendations from friends. Just as reviews are important for the ranking of products on Amazon.com, visibility of apps in both Apple and Google stores are also strongly affected by reviews. Apps have to be good in general, but it is crucial to think about when and how to gain more positive reviews for ASO (App Store optimization).
There is a theory that Android users tend to participate more in reviewing their apps, and iOS users tend to be strict in their feedback. I also witnessed the similar tendency for Android users from my work experience. At the same time, android users were more vocal and sometimes harsh in their reviews. In contrast to the theory above, iOS users were more generous to the apps that I worked on.
Apple’s new interface and how it is effective
Since iOS 11 was introduced in 2017, Apple began restricting app developers from implementing custom review prompts. Instead, Apple encouraged them to use their new native prompt, which only shows up 3 times max per year. Also, this pop-up won’t show up again once users leave a review. It also helps developers to implement the prompt easily, but apps can no longer ask users after major bug fixes or big feature introductions.
Overall, ease for users to give ratings helped many apps to gain tons of reviews, and many results were positive. For example, Instagram gained 7,246,348 by November of 2017, which is more than 3 times what it had accumulated over 7 years up to August. At the same time, the score improved to 4.71 from 4.44. ASOS, the British e-commerce company gained 6.6 times more reviews in 2 months after the prompt was implemented. Idealista, a Spanish real estate and renting portal, improved their rating from 4.15 to 4.42, while the number of reviews also doubled in about 2 months. Lastly, InfoJobs, a Spanish job portal, surprisingly gained 1.0 increase in its rating from 3.5 to 4.5.
The increase in review numbers is based on the ease of giving star ratings; users just need to tap stars in the prompt without leaving the app and going to the App Store. Traditionally, many users who leave comments tend to be the ones with complaints. With this prompt, they can reach out to users who have positive impressions about an app without bothering them too much. From the (Apptentive) survey, consumers are 22% more likely to leave a review after a negative customer experience than a positive one. Therefore, the prompt implementation is highly recommended by Apple, and helps improve ASO.
Best Practices for Asking for a Review
Pop-ups are annoying, especially those that pop-up at an inconvenient time for users. Here are some recommended moments for pop-ups to show.
When a user completes an intended action
When users are receiving the most fundamental values of the app, this would be the right time to ask for app reviews. For example, when users feel a sense of completeness. Accomplishing important milestones could be great timing, especially if it’s a game app. The moment in social apps, such as Twitter, may be when users post and receive positive feedback. In addition to these considerations, the app should not bother users too soon. Some apps count sessions to make sure users experience enough time before the first prompt. In my personal experience, I tended to forget to add a logic to consider users updating apps. The apps immediately asked for reviews after they updated, since all other criteria were met. I regret this, but unfortunately, there was no easy way to test for this.
Incentivize with internal points
Game apps could incentivize users to rate the apps in exchange for rewards like internal currencies, such as coins in games. However, Apple and Google are getting strict on incentivizing users to give good ratings, and it seems to be an outdated strategy. The call to action should always be to encourage users to give honest feedback, especially when some incentives are tied.
After successful customer support
When users get quick and articulate responses from support, this is another great opportunity to ask for a review. Most apps utilize external support frameworks which may make it harder to tie that to the timing of the prompt. If an app incorporates customer support through a chat interface, this is a great opportunity to ask users if the support was successful. It is beneficial to ask for reviews outside of the app as well, like in emails or text messages, since support could drastically affect customer experience.
Access to review in the app
Some apps keep access to ratings in their settings page, and Photo Editor Pro keeps ratings top-of-mind with a dedicated “Rate Me” button in its menu. Below is an example from Photo Editor Pro, the language, “Like Photo Editor?” was chosen to lead positive users to proceed. Once they tap that, the popup CTA says “Later” or “5-star rating”. In one way, the CTA is encouraging only 5-star ratings. However, the Apptentive survey shows that users tend to give positive feedback when they are not told to give positive reviews.
Similarly, reviews should be encouraged subtly in other brand communication opportunities. For example, letgo leverages its “What’s New” description in the App Store by asking for a review. Support email is provided in the same section to intercept negative reviews in case of users with complaints.
Today, Android does not have a native prompt mechanic like in iOS. Therefore, we either have to use a third-party library, or ask users to open the play store to rate the app each time. Which makes pop-ups not a great solution for asking for reviews in Android. We either have to be extremely conservative with logics for a pop-up or just leave a link in the settings page, just like the Photo Editor Pro example.