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At this year’s Google I/O conference, big changes were announced around how its Play Store app ratings work. We recently hosted a webinar examining all of the changes coming to the Google Play Store, identifying what that means for brands, and highlighting key strategies to adapt.
Watch as Christy Culp, Apptentive’s Head of Customer Success, and Red Russak, Apptentive’s Senior Account Executive, share what’s changing with Play Store ratings; what we already know from collecting current Play Store ratings data and comparing it to “suggested forecast” data; and how you can shift your ratings strategy to capitalize on the changes.
- What’s new from Google
- What we know about these changes
- Why the changes matter
- How you can prepare
- And more!
Watch the full webinar or read the transcript below.
Victoria Jackson: Hello and welcome. I’m Victoria Jackson, Marketing Manager here at Apptentive. Today, we’re super excited to share information on the changes coming to the Google Play Store. Our presenters today are Christy Culp, our VP of Customer Success, and Red Russak, our Senior Account Executive. Before we start, a couple of general housekeeping notes. If you have anything to ask Christy and Red about the topics today or any customer communication tips in general, please submit those questions in the open-ended Q&A field in Zoom. You can see the Q&A button at the center and bottom of your screen. We’ve saved lots of time for Q&A at the end, so please let us know your questions. We want to hear from you.
*Editor’s note: If you are reading this and cannot submit questions through the method above, please comment on this post, connect with us on social media, or reach out to Red Russak directly.
Throughout the webinar, we’ll also be asking poll questions which you will see pop up on your screen, and then you can also engage with us and the panelists on Twitter using the #GooglePlay or by following along with our @Apptentive accounts. And finally, we will be sharing our links to all of our resources that we cover in today’s deck, via email after the webinar. And with that, I’ll hand it over to Christy and Red.
Red: Hello. If you are hearing this voice, this voice is the voice of Red. It’s a pleasure to meet you out there in webinar land. We’re going to start walking through our agenda today. So what you can expect for the time that we’re going to be spending together. The first thing we’re going to cover is what’s new from Google, right? You’re here today because you probably need a plan to go back to your team and your manager and say, we are prepared for what’s coming from Google. And to give you extra sauce, we’re going to let you know what we know about the changes, the insider view from a company that’s been doing mobile for over eight years and why these changes matter to you, right? Why are you here on the webinar? We’re going to help you justify the time you’re spending today so you can go back to your team with a superpower about what’s going on in the Android store.
And how you could prepare is going to become really important, right? We’re not just going to tell you what’s changing, we’re going to give you an action plan of how you can shift your mobile strategy to take better advantage of these changes. So we’ll give you some takeaways. We’ll give you some free gifts at the end if you stick around. And special news and information for whether you’re a customer or someone who’s thinking about becoming one, we’ll save that for the end because right now the goal is to have you walking away smarter.
Now, why are we talking about this? I think it’s really important to discuss that. We’ve been doing mobile for a long time and our main goal has really been helping the world’s biggest brands, give their customers a voice, listen to their customers. So we’re working with both Android and iOS and the web, and we’re always paying attention to the new changes, the new trends that our customers can take advantage of. And we’re very proud to say that most of the ideas we’re going to share today are not just our own, but these are ideas that are coming from our customers who also work really closely with the Google Play Store. So everything that we’re sharing to you, shout out and love back to all of our customers, especially those who are on the webinar today. We’re going to show you some inside tips and tricks. And with that I’m going to hand over the webinar to Christy, our VP of Customer Success to tell you about what’s coming next.
Christy: Perfect. Thank you, Red. Hi everybody. Thanks so much for joining today. So as we know, Google has been making some changes and is rolling out some more changes throughout the rest of the year. And first we just kind of want to let you know what those changes are going to be. So a few of these are really developer-focused enhancements to the Android app bundle, increased security, things like that. There is an update to the API level requirements. I’ll go over those in just a minute, an update to the Google Play Console Data. And then two of the things that we’re really going to highlight today, one I just want to mention is Google is now offering suggested replies for reviews. So that makes it much easier for you to go in and in bulk speak to your customers and answer back. But one of the drawbacks of that, it does lessen the personal touch on replying that replying creates.
We’re not going to focus much on that particular change in this call. But did want to call out that that is going to be a change that is going to take place where you can now answer your customers much more quickly. But just a quick note, if and when you can, try to use their suggested responses but make sure that you are personalizing them so the customer knows that there’s a person on the other end answering them. And then the thing we’re going to spend most of our time talking today about is the average rating calculation for apps, that’s going to be updated and changing and that actually is going to be starting tomorrow. So upcoming change, and again we’ll spend most of the conversation today talking about that.
So like the changes in iOS 11, we really view this change as positive for the end consumers. What’s going to be happening is Google is actually going to be weighting recent ratings, recent reviews, more heavily than old reviews. What that means is that it will allow customers to see a more accurate state of the app. So before and especially for those of you who are customers, you know, it takes a long time to move your ratings on Android because they’re weighting things from five years ago, the same as they would do now. So basically you have to have a huge bulk, a huge increase in ratings to really get the needle to move. That’s actually going to be changing. And it really allows (if you’re making improvements to your app and if you’re constantly listening to your customers), it’s going to allow you to more quickly move that rating, which is great. So if you’re providing bug fixes, if you’re providing a better experience, that is going to be incentivized now.
The con is that it also means that high-quality apps that aren’t releasing as quickly potentially could have a slide in their ratings because if they’re not getting as many, but they’re being weighted more heavily, you know, that could potentially harm your ratings. We’ll talk about some ways to combat that. But it really means that you have to be on your game when it comes to soliciting reviews year-round. So it can’t be something that you’re just getting ratings when you put out a new version of the app. You really have to conserve those rating requests and try to get people to rate year-round.
So here is a timeline and what you can expect some key highlights about the rollout. So I’m just going to call out a few things here. So starting tomorrow, August 1st, new apps must actually be released at API level 28 or higher, which is Android 9.0. That is hopefully not a surprise to anybody. If you’re on this call, you may already have an app, but starting November 1st, all apps must be released at that API level. So for those of you that are not at that API level, you have a few months to prepare. If your app’s already in Google Play, please do be aware that that is coming. Also the big one, again we’re talking about today is the rating’s update starts tomorrow. They have been running this in Beta for a few months, so we have some data on what’s been happening, but note that that rating change will happen tomorrow.
Also starting this week, all apps must support 64-bit architecture. Again, if you’re on this call, I’m hoping that you’re already prepared for that change, but a massive heads-up to you if you did not know that that change was taking place because starting tomorrow it is required. And then moving on in September, Google will start requiring that all apps fill out additional information about the app’s target audience and content. Starting several months ago, back in May, new apps were required to do this. But starting in September, all apps will be required to fill out that additional information. Depending on your selection here, you may be subject to additional policies. And this primarily talks to companies that are either targeting children with their apps or are targeting everyone, including children. So just be aware that that’s coming. There may be some extra kind of security policies if you’re an app that does either target children or does not exclude targeting children.
And then lastly, starting December 1st, the Play Store’s developer APIs one and two will no longer be available. So you’ll have to have migrated to version three by that date. The version three was actually released at Google I/O ’18, so it’s been around for quite some time and you should have been seeing warnings about this change since May, but a heads-up to anybody who has not heeded those warnings. They will be enforced starting in December. So that is a full gamut of exactly what is coming.
All right. And with that, we’re going take just a quick 10 second or so break to have a listener poll. So we’ll pop that up for you and I’ll give you about 10 seconds to answer.
Christy: Perfect. All right, it’s been about 10 seconds. So we’ll go ahead and move on. So I’m actually going to now take you through what we already know about the changes. So we’ve been collecting data from our customers from, you know, Google Play information, and we actually have been running a survey for customers to understand what the projected changes are in the new Google Play format. So we’re specifically looking for the suggested forecast ratings in the Beta program. And now that this change will be available to everyone, not just those in Beta, we are going to continue to run this survey. So we’d love to have you share your thoughts as you start to roll out these changes either anonymously or non-anonymously, we’d love to just see how those changes are affecting you. The more information we have about projected ratings, the better the recommendations we can make for all of our customers, for all of our potential customers. So we’ll have a call to action to this leader, but just a quick plug, please if you could take a minute to fill out this survey as you go forward, it would really help us to help you.
So with that, the things we do know is that there’s a strong trend toward Google hedging their bets. So most apps that we’ve viewed are actually projecting lower future star ratings. This is particularly true for two categories. The first is if you’re a large app with low ratings now, it’s very likely that you’re going to be projected to have lower ratings in the future. Also, if you’re a small app or an app without a lot of current ratings, regardless of what your rating is at now, you’re probably projected to be lower in the future. Really, the only ones we’ve seen show higher ratings are those apps that are really big and have high ratings now. So for the most part, don’t be alarmed if you see this. This is what we’re kind of seeing across the board. And with that, with what the changes are and what we know, I’m actually going to hand things back over to Red to talk about why this should matter.
Red: Yeah, if you’re here a(I had a little sneak peek at the polls and seeing what people are vocalizing so far), this isn’t exactly a good thing, right? Google’s telling you they’re going to hedge their bets to lower your review and ratings publicly, and they’re the ones who are in control. So we need to hand control back over to you and put you in the driver’s seat as an insurance policy to protect yourself against these changes. This is more important and more relevant than ever before because in 24 hours, you know, the new month begins with a whole new policy. And it’s more important than ever that you have a plan in place, not to tell your boss, hey, we have an idea of what’s going on with Android, but we also have an insurance policy to protect our brand against that. So that’s what I’m going to walk you through right now.
Now, the first thing to understand when you’re talking about your brand is that people are very emotionally-invested specifically in how they vocalize about your brand. So when you go to Android today, you’re not just seeing reviews about Amazon or Uber. What you’re seeing is that people are not just telling you how to improve the product, but they’re getting incredibly vocal about the descriptions they’re giving it. So they’re saying, you’re idiots, you’re the smartest company in the world. They’re even giving you five stars, but still ripping you apart with words that are typically emotional. These are signals you need to absolutely pay attention to because it’s not just telling you how to improve your product. It’s raising a bigger question, why are they venting publicly in this way? Well, as a brand, you might think, well, we’re covered. We’re already doing things like surveys, but you have to understand after one bad experience, most of your customers are not going to go to a survey.
In fact, Android doesn’t have you protected, they’re not going to go to the app stores either. Most of the people, especially if you take a look at what your current data is saying, most people will never, ever, ever, ever talk to you. They’re just going to churn unless they’re locked into you because you’re a bank. And in that case, they’re just going to wait for a better banking experience to come on. And you know in Fintech it is starting to look really threatening in this space if you’re a traditional bank.
So now there’s another big question. Great. You have a survey in your app, that’s not what we’re talking about. And most of you have probably already ran into something like this, which is, “Hey, we’re going to put surveys in front of our customers every quarter that asks them for their NPS and maybe we’ll find out about their emotional state at the end of it.” But you have to understand NPS is not what we’re trying to solve for. And it’s also pretty harmful if you’re going to try to run that every single week, which is what Christy was talking about earlier, trying to get in front of those customers before they go to the app store. NPS is not the answer to that.
So that’s where we talk about what the solution looks like. All the other channels, all of them including Android, calling you out there Google, customers don’t like to go to those channels. They do not want to have to go out of their way to tell you what they’re feeling about your brand. So that’s where Apptentive really comes in. Specifically in mobile, we have identified over the past eight years, year over year, more and more people want to talk to you. And our interaction rates, as you can see here, completely destroy anything else you’re seeing across any other vocal channel.
So if you can go back to your team right now, the first thing I would do is a quick audit. Take a look at how many people you have used your app on a monthly basis and how many of them are actually successfully telling you about their qualitative experience. And if it’s anything over 1%, give me a call. I’d like to figure out how you’re doing that. Because the average company right now is listening to maybe half a percent of their audience and it’s not just you. And our customers, that’s why they work with us to solve for that. But before enough about us, I want you to ask yourself a fundamental question today, if you can remember anything else about what I’m saying, why are you not doing this? Okay. If you’re a PM on this call or a marketer, you already probably know, yes, we want to listen to more customers, but you have to ask the question today because tomorrow Android is going to take your ratings down, your reviews down. The less people are going to be reviewing you and you are not going to have a solution to what’s happening for Android. And today we promised you a solution.
So the first thing you need to do before you start prescribing is you need to ask, why are we not listening to these customers? What’s blocking us from unlocking what they have to say? The next thing you need to do is get comfortable challenging the status quo at your company, right? There’s a term out there called the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion, the HiPPO. They’re the person that will walk into your office when you’re in the middle of a sprint plan and they’re going to say, “You need to stop everything because this one customer said, ‘We need more cheesy fries.'” And it’s happened, seriously go take a look at McDonald’s or Burger King. You’ll see that there’s these one-off reviews that have nothing to do with what’s happening in the product, but what happens on site in their stores, in their franchises, and that is not a good way to approach your product roadmap plan. Letting people go to the app store to dictate your roadmap is putting too much power in the hands of the HiPPO.
So we want to take that power and give it back to you. Start being proactive and listening to the customers who will never talk to you. We call them the silent majority. If you’re a customer on the phone, you probably have already paraded that through your office. The more of the silent majority you can capture, the more likely you can keep them as a customer, increase LTV. And most importantly, you can get them to leave the five stars that you need to drive higher conversion rates in the app store.
So that’s what we talk about preparedness as far as a brand is concerned, but we want to also make sure that you walk away prepared understanding how to execute this plan. Whether or not you’re using Apptentive is not important. What is important is that you walk away today saying, “I’m prepared for Android and here’s the plan to fix our path forward, short and long-term.” But for that I’m going to bring back again, Christy to talk about what she’s seen in the marketplace and what is the fastest path to success for you.
Christy: Great, thanks Red. So similar to Apple’s iOS 11 rating updates, we’re actually really excited to see that Google has shifted their focus to make the ratings and review process easier and more transparent. So our mission is to give a voice to every customer. We really believe that every company should be doing that in some way, shape, or form, and that’s what we’ve focused the last eight years on doing. So in general, these updates actually provide a much better experience for people who use Android and help to turn the current one-way feedback abyss into the two-way feedback loop with the new reviews. And then also with forcing you to kind of keep more relevant with the ratings that you have in there.
So as always, we believe that you do need to prepare and adapt your strategy in order to ensure that you thrive through these new Google changes. So we have some recommendations about how we think you should go about that. First, you have to have a customer communication plan to say, you know, we’re just going to go and throw a reading prompt up or something like that. That’s not going to cut it with this new system, and you need to be better prepared than that. The second is you do need to manage your app store strategy. So I’m going to walk you through both of those things.
The first is, so this is before August, like today’s the last day before August, but this is really before you start to focus on the new ratings changes. So our overall recommendation, if you remember, I said that a lot of companies are projecting lower ratings with this new change. So our recommendation is actually not to focus on ratings right away. What we’d recommend for the next few weeks is actually to focus on what customers want and to improve things, and then to turn your focus to ratings. So I’m going to show you an example of what we would recommend here.
So first of all, as a disclaimer, I run customer success here. I used a lot of screenshots from our product because that’s what I have access to, but this applies to however you are getting feedback from your customers. So this is something that if you’re not an Apptentive customer, you can absolutely implement. If you are an Apptentive customer and you’re not currently doing these things, please contact your CSM. We would love to talk strategy with you. So the first like I mentioned is spend your time and effort getting a few small wins by reaching out to customers. So this is a very specific survey or very specific, you know, poll question, something like that where you can get volume feedback from your customers about how you can make some small wins. So are there a few navigational things? Are there some bugs that you can fix? What is it the customers are having the most trouble with right now that you have the capacity on your product and engineering teams to fix? So the low-hanging fruit, things that you can have quick wins on. Get information from your customers. Don’t assume that you know what they want you to fix. Go in and actually ask them what’s going to have the biggest impact for them. And this is just an example of a quick two question survey that you could run to get that feedback from your customers.
So once you get that feedback, go ahead and make those changes. Again, this is something that probably will take you a few weeks to a month with sprint cycles and things like that from an engineering perspective, but get a small win or two out and then actually tell your customers that you’ve done it. One of the biggest flaws or issues that people have in their communication plan is they don’t close the loop with customers. So they get all this great feedback and then they implement changes and they assume people are just going to automatically notice it. The fact of it is they might but they might not. So to make sure that you are successful, make sure you’re telling people that they have been heard and what changes you’ve made.
So this is an example of a note set up inside of Apptentive that really just is like a quick message to customers to let them know you heard them, you made a change. And in this case, it’s a call to action to go actually see the change. You don’t even have to do that as long as you are telling customers you’ve listened to them and made their changes. And then after that, after you’ve made those quick changes, right then is when you really want to hit customers for those ratings because they’ll know that you’ve made some improvements to the app, they’ll feel heard, they’ll feel more connected to you. That’s a great time to go and take advantage of this new rating system where you’re going to have the weight on the newer ratings. So that is the quick short term plan of how we recommend preparing. Again, if you’re an Apptentive customer, we’d love to talk to you about your specific app. So please reach out to your customer success manager so we can tailor this to you.
And we also do have some longer-term suggestions. So that is the kind of quick win that you can have with these changes. But as we mentioned at the beginning of this webinar, this new Google change makes it so you do have to pay more attention to the ratings that you’re getting throughout the year. So we’ve put together a four-step plan of how to prepare more long-term. The first is, pre-qualify your fans. So understanding your fans from those who are not having a good experience. I’ll get into what that looks like in a minute. The second is precision targeting. Make sure you’re asking the right people to do the right things at the right time. The third is ongoing communication, which I’ll get into more in-depth in another slide. And the last is to pay attention to your reporting and analytics.
So for the first one, pre-qualify your fans. This is something that we allow within Apptentive. Again, you don’t have to be an Apptentive customer to implement this, but make sure you’re talking to the right people. You want to give people the best experience you can. The way we do that in Apptentive is we ask the question of, do you love this app? Do you love this brand? Just a quick one question survey basically. And then we bucket people. And if customers answer yes, you can do things like go and ask them to rate, you know that that’s going to be a great rating for you. You can also ask them to do other actions within your app.
But what it really does is it gives those customers who are not having a good experience, the ability to give you feedback right then and there. So if you’re segmenting your customers understanding who’s a fan, it gives them a place for those who say no, it allows you to talk to those customers who have said no and give them a place to vent and tell you what’s going wrong without having to go and give you a bad rating or express that information in the app store or in Google, sorry, Google play. So in the play store, you know, that’s a bit of an abyss. Yes, you can go in and answer people there, but it’s much better for you to get that information directly on your team in a way that you can analyze it and can look at it. So pre-qualify your fans before asking them to go and rate.
Our second recommendation here is precision targeting. And what that means is target the right people at the right time and right cadence. So for us, we recommend, you know, targeting people who love your app to go rate. We also recommend only targeting those that have been in the app for a while and are going to have some things to say to actually go and rate. So what you want to make sure of is that your customers are ready to review your app year-round. So you don’t want to ask too many people to go in and rate. You don’t want to ask people too early, things like that because each time you talk to a customer is a chance to interact with them in a meaningful way for both you and them.
There are so many things you can do with customers as far running surveys, as far as asking them to join Beta groups, give you feedback, different things like that, that’s going to be very beneficial to both you and the customer. Something like a rating is not necessarily as immediately beneficial to the customer. So you want to make sure that you are targeting with precision people to make sure that only those who have had kind of the most and the best experiences with your app are asked to do that. Well, those who may not be as familiar or are different things, you take them down a different journey of engagement. That’s again going to ensure that you have a large group of people to pick from throughout the year and that you keep those ratings steady throughout the year.
So if we can move to the next slide. Perfect. So another thing we recommend with precision targeting, it’s not just targeting the right people, but targeting them at the right cadence. So Apple actually implemented with iOS 11, a change that only allows you to ask people to rate three times per year for the app. We think that’s great. It means you’re not going to bug customers too often with this ask, and we actually recommend that you take a similar approach to Android. So you’re only asking people to rate the app maybe around every 120 days. Again, that’s going to ensure that you’re not fatiguing people with the question and also that you have that pool of people to pick from throughout the year to keep your rating steady and with the weighted ratings to keep those ratings up throughout the year.
The third one is ongoing communication. So as we talked about in the short term plan, it’s incredibly important that you create a communication plan that continually closes the loop with customers. It helps them to feel a part of your app development and improvement process. And if they feel like they’re being heard, three things are going to happen. Most importantly they will stick around. As you know, it is much easier to retain a customer than to go find new ones. So if customers are feeling heard, they’re going to stick around because you’re fixing the issues that they have. They know that they are engaged with you as a brand, so they’ll stick around. The second thing is they’ll continue to give you feedback. Nothing is more frustrating than giving feedback to a person or to a company and knowing that it’s falling on deaf ears. If you’re closing the loop and letting people know the things that you’re improving, if it’s something that they have requested, they are going to continue to offer suggestions and trust that you’re going to implement things.
The third thing is they’ll continue to provide great ratings. Again, this all comes back to the year-round ratings that we know you’re going to need. So the more people are feeling heard, the more they’re going to continue if you ask them, you know, throughout a year, if you ask them one or two times or multi-years if you ask them several times, they’re more likely to go back and actually provide that updated rating or that great rating if you are continually making improvements to the app and letting people know about those improvements.
And then the last piece that will help with your app strategy is you need to make sure you’re monitoring both the volume and makeup of your ratings. So this really gets down to reporting and analytics. So in this we did use Burger King as an example, we are not hating on them. We think they’re great. But their makeup of app ratings is both inconsistent from a volume perspective. You can see on the bottom right there are spikes and dips all over the place when it comes to their ratings, but also from a perspective of the makeup of high versus low ratings, there’s not a lot of consistency. You can see kind of at the beginning and then at the end they have a pretty equal number of ratings that are negative versus positive. So this is something you need to monitor as a company to make sure that you are paying attention to what’s happening.
So if you manage the communication flow that we talked about in the other slides of precision targeting, making sure that you’re pre-qualifying, you should see a much more steady flow of reviews week after week. Obviously, if you have…this may undulate due to like an app update release, something like that. But for the most part, you should see pretty steady numbers, or somewhat steady at least the remaining weeks. So you also want to pay attention to change in your negative ratings. If you see a spike like they did kind of at the beginning of this chart here, it should be an immediate red flag for you to dig in and find out what happened. So go in, regularly look at the reporting and analytics for your app and understand if there are changes that are taking place, try to get on top of those as quickly as possible.
So whether or not you’re an Apptentive customer, again this is a screenshot from our dashboard, but whether or not you’re our customer, you need a way to monitor what’s going on both positive and negative within your reviews. So we provide a tool that’s called Insight. It highlights key phrases that help you understand things like changes in sentiment. My guess is that a lot of you, even if you’re not Apptentive customers, have a good way of understanding reporting and analytics. If you don’t, we would love to talk to you. But the key takeaway here is to make sure you’re digging in and understanding what’s being talked about. So again, with our key phrases, this is going to alert you to the things that people are talking about at volume in your app over a given time. So this is extremely important to go and do if you do see changes in your sentiment. But even if you’re not seeing changes, you should be going in here regularly and trying to catch those issues before people are actually changing their ratings. So make sure you have a plan in place to go in and look at the reporting and analytics.
And one thing I did want to note here, even if you’re seeing very high ratings, you’re still probably going to see some negative reviews. This is normal and expected. Those with very poor experiences both on the high and the low end are the ones who are going to take that extra step to leave feedback and not just the rating. So don’t be alarmed as you can see, you know, they have a pretty decent rating, a 3.7 rating and their reviews number is only 2.85. That is not unexpected. So just note that, as you’re going through as a tip, don’t be alarmed if your review averages are lower than your rating averages, but do make sure you’re trying to get ahead of those negative things people are experiencing. So those are the tips and tricks that we recommend for getting ready. And with that we have another listener poll coming up, so I will give you about 10 seconds to answer this one as well once we get it up.
Red: All right, the poll is live. That’s a good sign people actually want to do something about their strategy. This is really, really exciting to see. Wow, over 50, 60-plus responses. Keep going. There we go.
Christy: All right. And with that I will go ahead and hand things back over to Red, to talk about…a little bit more about how Apptentive particularly can help. For our customers, we do have a ton of customers on the call. I really appreciate you being on as you know, I always love when you contact the CSMs and talk to us. The rest of this is going to be a little bit more geared toward people who are not as familiar with Apptentive. But do stick around because we will have a good Q&A section in just a few minutes.
Red: Yeah, I was going to say, if you have questions, please do not hesitate to ask, we’re seeing them roll in. Go on into your dashboard or into your management platform for I believe this is Zoom and just type in your question right there. We can see in real-time. Even when you put in funny parent jokes, we do giggle, so we accept those as well. So with that, let’s talk quickly about how Apptentive can help. Firstly, for most of you who actually said that you want to make a change, you want to make a difference, besides knowing what’s coming, we want to actually give you a piece of technology it can help you execute against the long term and the short term plan.
All year round if you’re looking to have something in place that protects you against those variables in the app stores, then yes, you should absolutely work with us. We’d love to work with you. All year-round, you can be getting the ratings in the app store. You could be identifying those customers before they churn and figure out what it is you need to change before it goes to the app store. If something goes to the app store, it’s already too late. So while it’s great for us to report analytics and what they’re saying publicly, if they’re going public to talk about your brand in a negative way, you’re missing the point and they’re already lost.
So how do we fix that? How do we protect that? Stop thinking about ratings. There is much more value to be had beyond just ratings. In about two weeks, we can solve your entire strategy around ratings and reviews. That’s not the hard part. If you want to stop having people leave one stars in the app store, that’s the easiest part of this value offering that we as a company, as a solution bring to the world. The things that we want you to think about is if we could find out how people feel about your brand emotionally. Before they go to the app store, you could start using that data to retarget them. So with our brands, we’re seeing things like hundreds of thousands of dollars saved on intelligent advertising campaigns, higher click through rates, lower customer acquisition costs, higher lifetime value. Because we’re giving you a piece of data, I am 99% sure if you’re not using us, you do not have the ability to do today. So if you walk away remembering anything, if you want to be able to retarget your customers based on how they feel, I can almost guarantee you will make more money by including that in your marketing and in your product campaigns.
So to incentivize you to at least talk to us or listen to us, it’s the end of the month. Why is a salesperson on the phone at the end of the month? Well, I’ll tell you, it’s not because I want to close a deal today. We think long-term. So instead of me hitting the phones today, I’m here to actually offer you an opportunity to get on the phone with us anytime in the next month and get 10% off what we have to offer for our platform. You’re going to get 100% of what we have to offer, but you’re only paying 10% less than anyone else who decided not to join this webinar. If you want to forward it to your buddies, fine, but I know who joined. I know who’s on the list today and I’d love to give you a little bit extra love and make this really easy for you, right? So when you go to your boss, your manager, your company tomorrow, and you say, “Hey, see what happened to our ratings and reviews, we know what’s happening and we know how to fix it. And we know the person to talk to. And that person’s name is Red,” a primary color who lives in Seattle and is happy to talk to you anytime. It’s a double-edged sword of first impressions. Hopefully, I’m leaving a good one.
So I think that’s pretty much it. And I’ll hand the mic back over to our amazing moderator who brought us all together today.
Victoria: Actually, we have some key takeaways. I think Christy would like to speak to. Christy, would you like to run through the takeaways?
Christy: Guys, it’s always my favorite when I get to do a Webinar with Red. You just never know. You never know. That’s great. So yeah, I’m going to wrap up with some key takeaways. So the first one, we’ve talked about this, but generally, the changes make a rating and review process easier and more transparent. It’s really good for everyone. It rewards people who are actually invested in improving their app and talking to their customers more. And it makes it so that customers understand the current state of your app versus how you were five years ago.
The second one is, it helps you to correct the pacing and listen to your customers just like iOS 11, so it’s more opaque. This goes a lot to what I just mentioned. But it really helps you to focus on the strategy of getting year-round reviews and actually taking the time to make a good app year-round and not just at a quick push where you’re trying to get a lot of ratings.
The third is being able to activate and identify your fans is more important than ever. We talked about this. But making sure that you are segmenting your fans and then asking them to do different things based upon who they are is more important than ever. If you are asking your whole gamut of customers to go and rate you, you don’t know if that person’s going to rate you one star or five stars. If you can segment those customers and ask the fans to go and take that particular action, you’re going to have better ratings. It’s also going to be a better experience for those who are not having a good experience because they don’t have to leave your app, go to the app store, put it into the abyss of information there. They can actually give you direct feedback if you are asking people and identifying them ahead of time.
Fourth is focus on gathering feedback through ratings and reviews year-round. We have talked about this a lot, but you cannot just do one big push every year. You need to focus on improving your app, talking to people, and getting those ratings all year. And the last is that these changes go live tomorrow. So make sure…there’s not a lot of time to prepare between now and tomorrow, but there is still time to make a really good strategy about how you’re going to attack these changes, how you’re going to get your apps rating up. So if you’re not an Apptentive customer, we’d love to talk to you. If you are an Apptentive customer, we’d love to talk to you. Please, please reach out to your customer success managers to get a strategy together if you have not already done so.
And with that, I will turn it back over to Victoria to go through some…oh, I’m sorry. I’m going to talk to the screen first. So as I mentioned earlier, we do have a survey that we’re running about your current app store rating or play store rating versus your projected play store rating. We’d love to have you take the time to share what they’re projecting. Again, this makes us smarter and helps us to make better recommendations. So help us help you and give us information on what you are being projected at. You can give us your information if you’re comfortable about what your app is, but you also can do this anonymously. That is just fine too.
All right. And with that, I’m going to hand things back over to Victoria for questions.
Victoria: Thanks, Christy. Thanks, Red. That was great. I feel like I personally learned a lot about what changes are coming and how to get prepared for what’s to come in August. So thank you both. And as a reminder for all of you listeners, we’ve had a ton of great engagement. The Q&A is still open, so submit those questions, and we also will be sharing all of this great information that’s in the deck via email after the webinar today. So you will get a recording and a link to all of our slides.
And with that, let’s get into some listener questions. So our first question is for Christy. This is going to be a tough one, Christy. It says, will we get a copy of this presentation?
Christy: Yes, we are sending an email with the slides once this presentation is done. Thanks for your interest.
Victoria: Yes. And that email will come just from how the invites and registration, it will come from me, Victoria Jackson. So the next question is for Red. Red, can you explain a little more about holding onto reviews throughout the year?
Red: Yeah, I’m going to have to ask a clarifying question. I can’t say your name just because I want to protect your identity, but if you can jump back in and let us know what you mean by holding on to reviews throughout the year. Just wondering what you mean by that. Maybe, Christy, you can unpack that.
Christy: Yeah, actually I saw this question come in really early on and I think that he was referring to, I mentioned that you can’t just get one bulk of reviews, you have to get them throughout the year. I think I covered this in my second section of how to prepare, but if you are the person that added this question and you have an additional question, please let us know if we did not answer this in the second half.
Victoria: Perfect. Thanks. Christy, I think this question would be great for you. The question is, what is the ideal timeline to see an increase of 0.5 in Google play ratings for an app that has around 1,000 reviews?
Christy: So the answer to this, and I know who this came from and I am going to a little bit duck out of this question and say to this particular person, Veronica will contact you because we don’t know the algorithms quite yet that Google is using to weight the new system. So we don’t have a good handle on this quite yet of how quickly things are going to change. So I’m super sorry to duck out of that question but this is the thing we’re like being fully transparent. This is the thing we’re trying to learn more now, and to this person, Veronica will contact you with more information.
Victoria: Yes, I think that’s a great reminder, Christy, of how great our customer success team is. And if you have any questions from this, please reach out to your CSM, or you have any questions after we send out the recap, you can just certainly respond to that email and we will get those questions answered for you. So I think that was a great answer. Thanks, Christy.
The next question, Red, I think this could be great for you. What does “recent” mean in terms of impact on the scores?
Red: Yeah, and I’m going to make the assumption that when you say recent you’re referring to how recently are they going to go back to do the averages. I don’t think there’s enough transparency yet about how far back Christy, unless you can correct me if I’m wrong, about how far back they’re going to weight it, but it is going to be a weighted average towards the more recent. It’s just what does that timeline actually look like? Christy, have you heard anything about that?
Christy: So these are really, really good questions. You know, Google is not quite as stringent as Apple with letting us know the secret sauce, but this is not something that they have been super transparent about as far as recent versus not, again, this comes back to the algorithm. My best recommendation here would be not to worry about what’s recent and what’s not, but to focus on getting that continual stream of ratings. We are happy to follow up as we learn more about this as well. But again, if you’re focused on just making sure that you have a continual flow and a steady flow, that’s going to do you a lot better than trying to figure out what the actual algorithm is.
Victoria: Perfect. Okay. This looks like a really fun question. The question is, I have my app out on iOS and Android. Apple rating is 4.5, but Android has been at 3.7 forever. The app features and stability are in parity. So I’m wondering if there are other factors outside of the weighted ratings that I should be considering.
Christy: Yes, this is a really good question as well. So this is really common. And something we have just kinda gotten used to seeing that Android ratings are lower. So there are a number of factors here. The first is Android doesn’t have a sense of current version versus the new version. We know with Apple, like you have the ability to also reset your ratings. Android doesn’t have that. So when you’re like to this point, what you’ve been looking at is ratings across all time. So if you had a really bad app five years ago and you had a lot of really negative reviews, it’s going to take a ton of good reviews to move the needle on that. That’s one of the reasons.
The other reason is Android has not yet released any kind of in-app prompt. What we saw with iOS 11 in the app store and with Apple is a huge skyrocket in the number of ratings and reviews, particularly ratings that we saw go through. So it enabled companies to really move the needle very quickly on Apple because Google has not yet released that. Somebody has to actually leave your app, go into the store, and leave that rating, which means the volume is lower. So again, that combined with the equal rating on old versions and not having an idea of actual versioning, that means that moving the needle on Android is just really slow. So we’re really hoping that this new change is going to be the first piece to get that to move more quickly.
Red: Yeah. And not to poke the bear, but, you should have something in place like Apptentive or something that’s proactive already. The longer you wait, it’s more of a ticking time bomb with Android. The longer you wait to get a solution in place, the harder it is to climb out of that hole. So just keep in mind you are headed downhill every second. You do not have a solution in place. And I’m not trying to do this on purpose, it’s just that now when we get calls from major brands saying help, help us get out of this hole, we have to create bigger and longer ropes to get them out. And we just don’t want to see that anymore.
This is a great shot of hope from Android that at least we can give them a ladder more than a rope, but it still doesn’t solve the problem which iOS, in a fickle way they have. They make it look like your app is great because ratings are higher, but if you actually pay attention to the review volume, less people are now reviewing than ever before because it’s so easy to not review. Android is more of the opinion to say, “Hey, if you’re going to do anything, you gotta leave the app. And since you’re on the page where it asks for rating and review at the same time, we’re more likely to get more reviews that way.” It’s just a difference of both platforms, which I think ties really well into the next question.
Victoria: Yes it does. So the question is, do all Apptentive products work on both Android and iOS? Red?
Victoria: Simple. I like it.
Red: We don’t think of creating features specific to one platform. So whether you have something on the apps, the mobile web, or desktop, this strategy works across all three except for the desktop doesn’t have app ratings. They have Yelp ratings or, you know, Amazon reviews that people are typically focused on. But yes, if you’re looking for a strategy for your mobile applications, you’ll get feature parity across iOS and Android.
Victoria: Great. Christy, I think this next question would be perfect for you. The question is, are there any downsides to these changes?
Red: And Christy, I don’t know. Is your microphone working?
Christy: Oh yeah. You know, muting is fun. That’s a good question. I was thinking for a second. But so yes, there are downsides in that you have to pay more attention all the time now. Before with ratings and reviews, you could a little bit set it and forget it, and not really pay attention much. Now you’re going to really have to be on your game. It’s going to force like we think it’s a good thing, but for companies, it means you have to…like, it’s going to force you to create this communication plan if you want to stay competitive. So it’s really shifting priorities. That’s not a bad thing overall, but it can be a bad thing for companies that maybe haven’t prioritized this in their roadmap or don’t think they have the capacity to plan this. The downside is really time. But overall it’s going to be a good experience for your customers. I don’t really see any downsides in that way.
Victoria: Great. We’ve had a question that I think is an interesting one. Red, the question is, what’s the benefit of a high app rating? Do you want to answer that?
Red: Yeah, I was going to say a few. If you’re asking this question, I think there are two ways to approach it. There’s the financial way, right? If you have a higher rating, you’re going to get more clickthroughs and downloads. So it’s simply a question of advertising spend. If you’re going to send people to your app store organically or you’re going to do user acquisition, you’re looking at exponential increases based on a star rating increase. So, you know, we’ve seen everything from a 50% increase to a 500% increase all based on just a single one-star increase from a three-five to a four or five, which as I’m saying, it’s very hard to do that in Android without extra help.
Then there’s also the personal one. You’ve got people on your team, engineers that are slaving away at your company, the PMs that are fighting every day to build the best product and it still shows as a three one that is not fair. And you have these executives up top that are making the world about how bad your product is because it’s a three one when they don’t realize it might be a great app, it’s just the app store that is flawed in the sense of how easy it is for your customer to get there and review you. So it just really is a question about streamlining how you listen to your customers and protecting yourself against that HiPPO. They are out there and their job is not to make your life harder. They’re testing you to become smarter about how you listen to your customers. And right now you have the solution and we’d really love to help.
Christy: Hey, Victoria. One just came in, I’m going to like call an audible. Can I answer one that just came in?
Victoria: Yeah, please go ahead.
Christy: Cool. So the question is, how should we ask customers to leave reviews? If we implement an email communication strategy, should we ask outright and how often do we press them to do this? So that’s a really good question. We obviously in Apptentive don’t deal as much with email communication because we deal with in-app, but from my perspective, this doesn’t change much. The thing that will change is the volume’s going to be lower because it’s not as contextual. You can’t really like determine when somebody is going to be reading an email versus like if you show a rating prompt after something good happens in the app, so likely that means that the conversion rate is going to be lower. So you’re going to need a higher volume of emails going out in order to get as many people to go in and rate the app.
That said, if you can manage it with your rating scores and things like that, I would not change a lot from what we recommended on the timing and the cadence. Don’t ask customers every week or every month, make sure that you are putting something like 90 days between the emails so customers don’t get fatigued and don’t like stop paying attention to your emails. We try to be careful with the communication we send out to our customers. But if you’re sending them kind of low-value things for them in their email frequently, they may not open the more high-value things you send them. So maybe something around every 90 to 120 days in email communication I think would be great.
And then should you ask them outright? My perspective is to be really transparent with what you’re trying to do with customers. If there is a way in your email segmentation that you can send people who are happy to the store to rate and those who are unhappy to give you information, I’d be really clear about the fact that you’re doing that. But yeah, I wouldn’t, you know, try to beat around the bush or waste their time and try to get them to do additional things. Ask them outright for what you’re looking for, be clear about the reasons you’re looking for it and just create that transparency with your customers.
Red: Yeah. And I’m going to take a different approach here for that person who asked that question, email me or text me. I’m going to tell you right now, if you do that, that is a bad idea. You’re going to churn customers. I’ve already seen other companies try this. That is a very, very, very risky approach to do an email-based request for reviews and ratings, and I’d like you to call me. I won’t even sell anything. I will just save you time and headache from just a wasted campaign.
What Christy said was absolutely genius. If you want to do an email, you should only be emailing people who you know emotionally are in love with your brand, not just because they made a purchase or because they consumed a lot of content, that’s quant. Until you know they are absolutely obsessed with you, don’t waste an email because that’s huge property and people hate email and you don’t want to end up on that spam list. So yeah, give me a call, I’ll share with you what other companies are doing to avoid the email trap. Sorry to get so stressed and direct. I’ve seen people do this and lose their jobs over it and I don’t want you to.
Victoria: Perfect. Thanks. And we are just at time. If you find that you have any questions arise, you’re a little shy to ask them, please reach out to us. You see, we have emails on here and we will be sending a recap email with the recording and a link to the presentation. So if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me, Christy, or Red.