[Editor’s Note: Due to the popularity of this post and the ever-changing nature of the app stores, we’ve released a free 55-page eBook full of actionable steps to improve your App Store ratings, rankings, and reviews. Enjoy!]
Begging for ratings is lame
It’s a commonly held belief that more good ratings and reviews will lead to more success for your app. As a result, we see a lot of developers experimenting with ways to get ratings.
If you’ve been doing this, it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, you’re trying to grow your business. We understand why you’re doing it and we think you’re ahead of many developers who aren’t even thinking about how to help themselves out.
There is, however, a better way. Asking for ratings needs to be about YOUR APP CUSTOMER.
Stop yourself and think about the rating process in this way:
How can you make your customers’ lives better by asking them to rate you?
This is a challenging question for some developers. Fortunately, we’re learning about this every day with our customers and we’ve discovered a few principles you might find helpful in thinking about ratings, reviews and the overall customer experience:
Ask a simple question: how many people love my app?
Remember: the surest way to better ratings is to have a better app FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS. It’s that simple.
Your app doesn’t have to make the entire world like it. It just has to have a rabid and loyal fan base.
Start with that goal in mind and work backwards from it.
You have limited time. Learn FAST.
A lot of our customers have fewer than 10 people working on an app. Not a lot of resources. Which features do you prioritize? Which bugs are the most important?
One of the reasons we’re big believers in the Lean Startup movement is that it’s designed for organizations with resource constraints. A major benefit of the approach is to reduce waste by reducing the number of useless features you build as you discover your market’s needs. The more your product benefits from what you learn on a daily basis, the more likely you are to be efficient in its creation.
Ratings and reviews are prime opportunities for you to learn. Here are ways in which you can utilize ratings/reviews and customer feedback as learning tools:
- The comments from ratings and reviews can inform your view of what users care about
- The velocity of your ratings, that is, the number of ratings you get per day or per week can inform you about changes in customer perception. Are you suddenly seeing a lot more ratings and reviews? Did you make a change to your app that creates a reason for people to be more active in giving feedback?
- The score – the actual values that people are giving you. This is an obvious one isn’t it? Most people just focus on the overall rating, however, instead of analyzing how it changes over time and monitoring significant shifts in the trends.
- What is it that makes people unhappy when using your app? What can you learn from the critiques and complaints you receive? Are there customers who just don’t make sense for you?
- What is it that people LOVE about your app? This is the most important thing you can learn from your ratings – what is it that delights people and what kind of people are delighted by your app?
When you look at ratings and reviews, think about what they’re truly about: giving customers a voice. Your goal should be to build upon that, giving them a voice so that you can learn from their feedback and make your app better.
So, how do you do that?
People often overlook the importance of asking nicely. Pay attention to when and how you ask for information. Pay attention to what you’re really asking for as well. What are you trying to discern from your app customers?
We think it’s fundamentally about love. If you can earn a customer’s love, you’re on to something. You’re probably on their home screen, they use you daily, and they actively recommend you to their friends (usually by demoing your app in-person).
It turns out that asking a simple question gets honest feedback, constructive criticism and yes, more customers who truly love you. (We’re happy to share our app ratings component with all of you for free, by the way)
When you ask this simple question you inform your customers that you care about their feelings and needs, while respecting their time. By giving your customers permission to answer no, you communicate that the question is really about THEM, not about you. This is a huge departure from the traditional tactics we’ve highlighted above, which are really not about your customer’s needs. Consumers are smart and they can tell when they’re being asked to do something just for you.
When you’re asking customers to share their opinion, you’re also setting the expectation that you’ll be listening. That’s a huge gap in the current behaviors we see by developers who are asking for ratings. In today’s incredibly connected environment, customers expect to be heard and responded to. So, give yourself that capability (or use us to be able to respond to consumers quickly and directly).
…and respond nicely!
Responding to consumers who are expressing frustration is often all that’s required to soothe the frustration. Instead of being incapable of following up with the person having the problem, you can actually get in touch with them and possibly debug your code together.
While many developers think that people just want to vent and complain, we find that most people appreciate the knowledge that something is actually being done about their problem. Negative ratings and reviews are not about publicly badmouthing an app so much as achieving consumer catharsis. By establishing a direct line of communication with your app customers and reducing the friction required to speak up, the person with a problem is far more likely to talk WITH YOU.
While being willing to listen is great, true consumer happiness comes when you respond. Just the act of responding nicely provides catharsis to your customers, delighting them at a time when most consumers are left alone.
You don’t have to tell customers that you’ll solve their problems (sometimes you just can’t) but by being honest, polite and apologetic you’ll ensure that they realize you are a real person who actually cares about the time they’ve invested in your product. That is not an impression most of those consumers will ever forget.
Plan for the long-term & respect your customers
Ultimately, we’re here to help you build a business that lasts. We understand that many of you feel similarly to Arash Payan, who created Appirater due to his frustrations around the behavior exhibited by consumers in the existing ratings and review model. As he wrote on his blog:
“In comparison to the unhappy user, the satisfied user rarely takes the time to review your app. Which leaves you with crummy reviews from uninformed users hurting sales of your app.
If Apple would allow developers to respond to reviews, or more easily challenge the validity of a review, this would be no big deal. But I don’t have any hopes of Apple wising up and fixing anything, so I’m left trying to get more positive reviews of my apps to drown out the negatives ones.”
Those frustrations are very real, but it doesn’t mean that you should settle for solutions that don’t get to the heart of your customers’ needs.
The app world is more competitive every day and the only way to consistently win is to have a core base of users who absolutely love you. Those folks will keep you on their home screen, applaud your updates and eagerly give you feedback, if you make it easy. They will tell their friends about you, they will pay attention when you release new apps and some of them will help you build the best apps you can possibly make. So, aim for winning more of those customers and keep their needs in mind.
Remember: if you’re trying to get ratings just to get more ratings, you’re doing it wrong.