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iOS 10.3’s Impact on In-app Communication

Ashley Sefferman  //  February 23, 2017  //  10 min read

Apple recently announced iOS 10.3 (now in beta), which provides a new way for companies to solicit ratings and reviews directly within their apps. The updates spurred plenty of theories around how in-app feedback will change between app publishers and their customers, and Apptentive’s customers have been eager to learn more.

To share what we knew about 10.3 at a basic level, we wrote a post highlighting what we know. But last week, we decided to take it a step further for our customers and hosted a webinar with our CEO, Robi Ganguly, to discuss the changes at length. If you missed the webinar but are interested in the content, you can watch and listen to the full recording below.

The webinar lasted about an hour, with the bulk of our time spent answering questions. The Q&A portion of the discussion was so popular with our customers that we’ve used today’s post to highlight the most important points, along with adding color to help support our answers. We’ve laid out the following Q&A in two sections: 1) how iOS 10.3 will impact app publishers, and 2) how iOS 10.3 will impact Apptentive’s product and customers.

Whether you’re an Apptentive customer or simply a community member, we hope the following discussion helps shed light on what iOS 10.3 may mean for your in-app communication. We’re always here to chat, so please drop us a line if you’d like to discuss the update further!

iOS 10.3’s impact on app publishers

Q. How will Apple calculate the new limitations on prompts? Is that three prompts per calendar year or per 365 days?

Robi: Unfortunately, we still do not have exact insight into how Apple will calculate timing. If I were to guess, the timing would be a rolling 365 days for every customer based upon when they were first prompted, and then the date would decline and expire over the next 364 days. That’s my best guess, but we don’t yet know if the timing is going to reset on a calendar basis or if it’s going to be individual to the consumer. We’ll definitely be investigating as time continues as the answer will impact the math in a meaningful way.

Q. Is the cap for in-app ratings only?

Robi: Our understanding is that the cap of three per year is the cap on calling this method and having it actually be presented to the customer. I don’t believe Apple is imposing any limitations on customers who navigate to the App Store on their own. So for example, imagine you’re sitting at your desktop and you want to go rate or review a few of the apps you use on your phone. You navigate there on your desktop, and there isn’t any indication that the limitation will be imposed on people going to do that.

Q. Do you think the 10.3 updates are controlled at the device level? For example, if I have two iPhones in 2018, I could potentially asked to rate six times?

Robi: That is a really interesting question because only Apple knows what kind of fingerprinting, limitations, and instrumentation they do at a device level keyed to the iTunes account. We don’t have much insight into this, and I don’t really have any speculation of this. I’m very curious to see how it’s implemented because you could imagine with an iTunes ID, Apple would be able to connect that data and learn from it; however, they’re also focused on privacy, and I imagine in a world where they’re trying to get more focused on privacy and security, connecting the dots between two different devices even if they’re both yours with your iTunes account, might run afoul of what they think is appropriate. So more to come here. I don’t have a great answer, and I’m as curious as you.

Q. Do you expect changes regarding app reviews from Apple during app submission on what can be done in terms of app prompts?

Robi: In the near term, there hasn’t been any indication or communication from the team about changes during app submission, and I never want to speculate about how App Store review goes. The way Apple treats every app is unique.

That said, what I am sure will happen over the next 12 months is that Apple will look a lot harder at how you’re asking customers about satisfaction—the team is definitely paying more attention here. They will look at how you’re asking customers to rate your app, and Apple will make sure you’re doing it in a way that is simplistic and pleasing to the end consumer. If you’re doing it in a way that seems confusing, they’re probably going to clamp down. Apple is also going to want to engage with app publishers more to get feedback on how the new limitations are going. Other than that, I don’t have explicit insight into any App Store review changes in policy.

Q. In addition to leaving a star rating in-app, do you expect the next step of the flow to be a native box to leave comments?

Robi: Yes. From a consumer experience perspective, you can imagine that leaving feedback right after you rate from inside the app is the best experience. I wouldn’t be surprised to see commenting added, but we don’t know for sure. Once we get a version of the beta that gives more insight into the flow, we’ll make sure to update our readers.

Q. Apple resets the rating that is displayed after every update. Any thoughts on this?

Robi: In the app ecosystem, this tends to be a commonplace of difference between Google Play and the App Store. In Google Play, there’s a lifetime average for ratings, whereas in the App Store, there is a lifetime average along with the current App Store ratings and reviews average. I would be surprised to see Apple move away from current to lifetime, given the fact that they are now giving people more methods to give feedback.

In general, the thing that’s super important to app publishers is, regardless of how the App Store presents it, you should be keyed into the feedback you get version by version. One of the pieces our customers tend to really benefit from is their ability to see how feedback trends, and we’re investing more in presentation of version to version comparisons this year, which you can see that in the Apptentive dashboard. I encourage all of you to be thinking about version trending, regardless of how the App Store presents it, because it can tell you if you’re making progress or not.

Q. Google already has reviews that you can respond to. Can you tell us what we should know about that?

Robi: A few years ago, Google Play announced that you could respond to reviews. It’s long been a point of frustration in the Play store that the responses were relatively challenging for app publishers. What you have to do is go into your developer console, and if you see a review, you can respond to it. If the customer wants to respond back to you, they have to edit their existing review. Neither side is typically notified of a response. And then, if you wanted to respond to the customer after they’ve responded to you, you would have to edit your response, and so on and so forth.

Recently when Google announced the API, they start to support threading, so there’s more back and forth. The back and forth is a little bit of a better experience for the customer and for the publisher, so this is a place we’re starting to investigate how to programmatically support. However, we don’t have anything to announce on that front just yet.

iOS 10.3’s impact on Apptentive customers

Q. What’s the plan for Apptentive to manage this new method? Will our app need to add the method in addition to Apptentive Events, or will Apptentive manage the initiation of the method through our existing Events implemented?

Robi: Fantastic question. We intend to support this method. We intend to make it another type of action that you can drive. Over the next 12 to 18 months, Apple is going to strongly encourage every app publisher to start utilizing this at least in some measure of their app, and we think will provide a better experience, so we will support it.

Our customers and their teams should not have to do extra work to pull this in aside from Apptentive. What you should be looking for from us is communication about the availability of an updated SDK that supports this. The important thing that we’re going to work hard to get right around this change is that when customers of yours are not on 10.3, what’s the experience? Is there gonna be a good fallback? We will try to make sure that we handle that elegantly for you.

Q. Do you foresee an option where a review of three stars or under could link the customer to a “Contact Us” section of your app to help the guest with an issue they may have?

Robi: Seeing how the method is currently called and utilized, there isn’t any indication that the data coming out of that will be specific enough to the rating the customer leaves. If it was specific, you could then take next steps based upon criteria. One of the reasons we de-coupled ratings prompts and focused on the “love prompt” first and foremost is being able to get in front of this issue, so before you’re even talking about showing a presentation of a ratings prompt to a customer, your focus is on identifying who needs help.

Ratings flow

If you have yet to utilize this capability of Apptentive, I encourage you to try it out. Many of our customers talk to 15% to 20% of their audience every month and find somewhere between 5% and 10% of those people are unhappy. Instead of showing them a ratings prompt, they take them to a “Contact Us” button that is powered by Apptentive’s message center where they can leave free-form feedback. If you haven’t explored this, let us know by pinging us at and we can show you its power. This is a really, really good place to get in front of frustrating consumers to make sure that they are heard.

Q. Of the Apptentive customers using the iOS SDK, what percent are running iOS 10?

Robi: Last we checked, it was north of 80%. iOS adoption of the latest versions tend to be very, very quick in comparison with Android adoption. iOS 10’s been out in the wild for a while now, and it’s heavily adopted.

Q. What is Apptentive strategy for doing an SDK update that requires new implementation into our app versus updates to Apptentive web interface?

Robi: This is a great question, and a place where we spend a lot of time. We know implementing new SDKs is extra work, and we are always hesitant to require extra work. But in a scenario where a new method comes out that is made available from a platform that actually has to be instrumented and added to our framework, we do have to release a new update.

What will happen when this goes into general availability is a new iOS SDK will be available from Apptentive that supports it. I wish we could push this all dynamically, but some of the limitations of both platforms means it will require an SDK update. More data and presentation will happen in our dashboard and will not require SDK updates, and we will show you more information. But again, this is a new method coming from Apple and in order to support it, we have to ship new bits to you.

Q. Will Apptentive then support both in-app and kicking out to the App Store?

Robi: Yes. When you think about the actions a customer can take, whether it’s rating the app, social sharing, signing into a loyalty program, or what have you, our customers send their consumers out of the app for lots of different reasons. That will always be the case. Not every experience for your customer is contained inside the app; sometimes it exists on a website, sometimes it exists in person, or sometimes it requires a phone call. We enable our customers to take their own consumers on communications journeys, whether or not they’re in the app. And so we will continue to support that, and in fact, you should expect us to invest more in that as we start to support the web more and more.

Q. Do you think Apptentive will be able to find out what star rating the customer submitted so we can start to segment our customers on star rating?

Robi: This question has two pieces to the answer. First, will anybody get data from either Apple or Google that allows the explicit identification of a customer and what they rated the app? And to date, the answer from both platforms is we do allow you to understand it in the form of our ID. Google Play uses the Google+ IDs, and the Apple App Store uses your iTunes ID. The iTunes ID has a rating associated with it, which you can see in the App Store, but they are not made available programmatically and they’re not made available in order to connect to in-app activity. We don’t see this changing. Nothing has been announced that has changed this point of view from the platforms. And until that is changed, it’s not possible for us to connect programmatically.

But the second piece of this is you don’t really need to see this information because of what we allow our customers to do inside their apps. We allow them to communicate with their consumers and then follow up and put them in the bucket. When somebody says that they love your app, they are then put into a bucket of people who love your app and to whom you can communicate with. If you haven’t used that aspect of targeting, I encourage you to follow to get a demo from our customer success team about how to use targeting to follow up with a certain segments—either the fans of your app because they said they love it, or the people who maybe left negative feedback, or potentially using our NPS surveys to follow up with detractors. All of those capabilities in segmenting and targeting customers continues to get broadened at Apptentive, and is separate from identification in the app stores around ratings and reviews.

What I really want to highlight here is this: Our customers, across hundreds and millions of interactions, see only around 7% of people who identify as big fans of the app actually take action to go to the app store and rate it. For the rest of the people who have raised their hands and said they’re big fans, we’ve made segmentation available for targeting communication in our dashboard and in our SDK for well over a year. Further understanding, communicating with, and following up with people based on the buckets that they’re in is a hugely important place for us to invest.

Q. Assuming there won’t be an API initially for responding to customer reviews from within the Apptentive dashboard, how quickly can Apptentive fetch customer reviews using the current APIs? In other words, can you alert us when a review has been posted so we can log in to iTunes Connect to respond to the review?

Robi: Today, we typically will know about new reviews within 24 to 36 hours based on the ways we access and collect this data today. Over time, we will work to accelerate this. It’s not an immediate notification for most of our customers, but it’s a pretty early notification because most customers are too busy to monitor this on an hourly basis. As a result, you can see these things showing up in your dashboard relatively quickly.

Over the next six months, we will announce some integrations with interaction tools like Slack, for example, as well as upgrades to how we’re pulling this data. At some point, we may ask you for to authorize into your iTunes Connect account to try and pull this a little bit faster for you.

About Ashley Sefferman

Ashley Sefferman is Director of Marketing at Apptentive. A digital communication and content strategy enthusiast, she writes about multichannel engagement strategies, customer communication, and making the digital world a better place for people. Follow Ashley on Twitter at @ashseff.
View all posts by Ashley Sefferman >

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