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Mobile Marketing

One-Star App Reviews: Leveraging Negative Feedback for Positive Results

Alex Walz  //  May 3, 2016  //  4 min read

Less a question of metrics and more of a shift in priorities, our fifth “new” app marketing metric deals with the mentality that so many of us have around one-star and five-star app reviews.

We all love five-star reviews. They serve as self-validation, social proof, and a reminder of the loyal audience you’ve fostered. When a one-star review comes around, things are different. We feel disheartened and don’t give the review the time of day. We’re left refreshing our screens, just waiting for a new five-star review to push down that stain on our app’s reputation. Yet, in 2016, this mentality has never been more dangerous to the process of continuous innovation an app needs to stay relevant in the eyes of its customers.

And for that, we propose negative app reviews as one of our top app marketing metrics of 2016.

One-star app reviews and other new app marketing metrics

This post is part of our NEW App Marketing Metrics series

To see more in this series, download the complete eBook or check out an individual installment:
1. App Uninstalls | 2. Return on Ad Spend | 3. Message Quality | 4. Customer Lifetime Value
5. One-Star App Reviews | 6. % of Customers Engaged


The dangers of ignoring one-star app reviews

There’s a reason five-star reviews fill us with a warm and fuzzy feeling. They tell us exactly what we want to hear.

For app publishers, however, there’s a big difference between hearing what we want to hear and hearing what we need to hear. Five-star reviews indicate that our app is right on track. Perfect as is. No changes needed.

Yet, the app stores are no place for stagnation. Even the top 100 apps average one update per month to maintain their prominent ranks and new market entrants are constantly embracing mobile and vying for share of a saturated market.

Five-star reviews trick us into thinking that there’s no more to be done; but just as soon as we come to believe this, a competing app is bound to show that there is more to be done in the dog-eat-dog world we call the app stores.

Why we need one-star app reviews

While five-star reviews tell us what we want to know, one-star reviews tell us what we need to know. Source: xkcd


Seeing one-star app reviews for what they really are: Gifts

As our own Robi Ganguly told Forbes, “Negative reviews are the holy grail of customer feedback.”

A negative review means more than a single dissatisfied customer. What so many app publishers don’t realize is that negative feedback, of any sort, is incredibly rare—and not because their apps are just that great. The reality is that the average company only hears from one out of every 27 unhappy customers. That means that for every one negative review, 26 other customers will simply stop using your app without providing any indication why. So while no one likes to read criticism, that one review may just be the gift you need to improve your app and improve the experience for not only that one customer, but everyone who shares their thoughts in silence.

The average company only ever hears from one out of every 27 unhappy customers

Often, one-star app reviews are nothing more than suggestions. No hostility, no criticism. Just friendly suggestions, as in the one below:

One-star app reviews may prove your great source of customer feedback

Despite the low rating, this reviewer has nothing but love for the TIDAL app. Without a trace of hostility, the reviews communicates to the app’s developers exactly what it will take to improve the app, in the eyes of the reviewer.


Reviews like the one above contain invaluable feedback. Yet, to truly see it’s value, you need to look past the one star and focus on the content.

In addition to providing invaluable suggestions and feedback to guide your product roadmap and next app update, one-star reviews provide you with an opportunity to engage customers one-on-one and win them back. According to Maritz and Lee Resources, respectively, 83% of unhappy customers like it when a company takes the time to respond to their complaint and 70% will do business with you again if you resolve their complaint.

So next time you see a one-star review, we urge you to think of it not as a stain on your app’s reputation, but as a gift—a gift of improved retention, revenue, and product quality. That is, if you know what to do with it.

Leapfrog your competition with the new app marketing metrics

The New App Marketing Metrics ebookThe mobile app ecosystem changes every day, and the apps that dominate the top charts are those that are able to stay one step ahead of these changes.

Our ‘new’ app marketing metrics were selected specifically to help you conquer whatever the dynamic app industry throws at you in 2016 and beyond. Each of the six metrics we’re proposing represent a small but significant improvement over a more traditional favorite metric to provide marketers with the robusticity needed to truly gauge, and improve, their app’s health.

Ready for metrics worthy of your app? Download our free eBook, featuring all six of our new app marketing metrics.

> Update: Part VI in this series is now available! Continue on for our sixth and final ‘new’ app marketing metric: % of Customers Engaged.

About Alex Walz

Apptentive's resident wordsmith, Alex can frequently be found cranking away at eBooks or scrawling down ideas late into the night from a local coffee shop. He's an avid traveler, coffee connoisseur, and tech enthusiast, and he shares his thoughts on each over Twitter.
View all posts by Alex Walz >

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