8 Steps to 5-Star Ratings and Reviews

By Ashley Sefferman | July 25th, 2016

In a world where first impressions are everything and at a time when consumers are growing ever skeptical of marketing, peer recommendations in the form of app store ratings and reviews stand alone as the single greatest driver of discovery and conversion. In a recent consumer survey, Apptentive found that 92% of consumers consider star ratings to be an essential part of their evaluation of a new app, and that 42% consider reviews equally or more trustworthy than personal recommendations. Ratings and reviews serve as invaluable social proof at each stage of the purchase funnel, and they make apps more discoverable, more attractive, and ultimately, more profitable.

Unfortunately, they’re also hard to come by. Before you can take control over your ratings and reviews, it’s important to understand the reasons why they may currently be a little underwhelming. Only then can you make the inherent biases in app store ratings work for you, rather than against you. Your customers need to be given a reason to rate your app, and you need to remove any barriers to the review process.

After helping our customers manage customer 120 million conversations with their mobile consumers on over 550 million devices around the world, Apptentive has learned a thing or two about the methodology behind boosting ratings and reviews.

Better ratings and reviews comes down to an 8-step process, which we’ll get into in today’s post.

Let’s dive in!

8 Steps to 5 Stars

The top charts in the app stores are coveted by app publishers in every category, and the best way to get there is through five-star ratings and reviews. You can leverage the steps below to help you get there:

1. Integrate a third-party rating prompt, or build your own

Rating prompts are a double-edged sword that can disrupt the customer experience, but are one of the best ways to get more high-quality ratings. If used correctly, rating prompts can increase your app’s rating, but if abused, can lose you customers.

When you’re creating a rating prompt, be sure to understand customer sentiment before asking for a review in an app store. We’ve found that segmenting customers and only guiding those who love your app to the app stores is the best way to boost ratings and reviews, while engaging unsatisfied customers in a conversation or survey to learn what could be better.

2. Set up analytics to learn about customers

Analytics allow you to understand who your customers are, what they care about, and how to talk with them. Once you gather data around your customers, you can leverage the data to communicate more personally and more effectively in-app.

Analytics platforms can be created on your own, or you can integrate a third party to help fit your needs. Whatever you decide, be sure to think about the type of data you’d like to gather before pulling the trigger. Be sure your platform can handle insights into customer history, usage, demographic data, etc. to give you a full view of who your customers are and how you can better serve them.

3. Deliver rating prompts at the right mobile moments

The “right mobile moments” are the key moments of engagement every customer experiences. To find the right mobile moments to prompt customers within your app, you have to start by finding the right place, right time, and right person for your in-app communications, and spend time thinking about how to treat your mobile experience with the personal touch customers deserve.

Most times, the right mobile moment to prompt a customer takes place after an action or task has been completed. Here’s an example around how the wrong mobile moment can play out: A customer opens up your app and is expecting to book an airline flight, but the first thing that happens when the app is opened is that you send them a message saying, “Hey. Rate us in the app store.” How many times have you seen that? So frustrating, right? Unfortunately, this happens over and over again, and is not the right mobile moment for any customer. It’s interrupting them right when they’re trying to complete a task with your app, which is not the right time.

A better time to prompt may be after your customer has actually gone through the task they’re trying to do. They’ve accomplished their task, they’re ready to move on, and they’re more open to communication, especially rating your app in the app store.

4. Start by asking a question

The best way to ask for a rating is to start by asking a question. For example, you can use the question, “Do you love this app?” in order to help segment your customers into “fans” (i.e. people who love your app and are likely to rate it highly in the app stores) and “feedback sources” (i.e. people who may not love your app and are likely to give feedback, if presented with the opportunity). People are more likely to respond when you speak with them on a human level, and starting with a question is a great way to get the conversation going.

To see what a question in a rating prompt looks like, check out the image below:

Once you’ve asked your question, thank your customers for answering your question either way (see image above for text we’ve seen work well with customers). This helps show that your brand recognizes the power of both positive and negative feedback, along with thanking your busy customers for their time.

5. Only ask for ratings from customers who responded positively to your question

As mentioned above, it’s important to segment your customers by sentiment before guiding them to the app stores to leave a review. If customers respond positively to your question, they’re more likely to leave a positive review when prompted to continue to the app stores.

On the other hand, customers who respond negatively to your question are more likely to leave a negative review. To help keep your ratings high and to give unsatisfied customers a better outlet for feedback than app store reviews, you can use a rating prompt to provide a more appropriate channel of communication for those who responded negatively, such as asking them to leave feedback through an in-app message. That way, your company can still learn from their valuable feedback, and they can be put in touch with a person to help them solve the issue they’re having rather than leaving their frustrations in an app store review.

Lastly, be sure customers can easily dismiss or opt-out of rating prompts. It’s never fun to get caught in limbo, so make it easy for people to leave if they’d like. After all, they’re doing you a favor by leaving you a rating or review!

6. Keep your language friendly

Optimize how you ask for a rating by avoiding any wording that customers might perceive as presumptuous or demanding. Relevant and respectful communication is always in style when it comes to in-app communication, especially when you’re asking customers to rate your app for you. For example (see the image below), try not to overwhelm customers with your rating prompt language; short and sweet is key!

Additionally, be sure to follow your brand’s voice and style throughout all aspects of your customer communication, especially when reaching out to customers in-app.

7. Respect your customers’ communication preferences

Unfortunately, there will be a segment of customers who may always choose not to rate your app. In this case, it’s important to respect their communication preferences rather than re-trigger rating prompts to those who choose not to rate. The experience will soon get tiring for the customer, who may be less inclined to use your app due to distraction, or ultimately, may leave your product/service all together.

It’s also important to not over-prompt customers as they experience different version of your app. In general, it’s good practices to only prompt customers once per app update. Otherwise, your updates will become a nuisance rather than a place to share feedback, and customers may get frustrated with the experience.

8. Keep a close eye on response rates

As with any customer learning, it’s important to continually iterate and improve on your messaging by keeping a close eye on your response rates. If you learn from in-app customer feedback, you’ll be able to improve your app’s experience quicker and more effectively than you would be able to on your own.

In addition, customers love to see their feedback implemented, so be sure to communicate with them to let them know their thoughts have been heard and acted on. In a recent consumer survey with SurveyMonkey, we found 98% of customers are willing to give feedback when asked for it directly, but 55% are not willing to remain customers if their feedback seemingly goes ignored. This is a huge opportunity for businesses of all sizes to capitalize on, and a great way to help drive product roadmaps from the view of the customer.

Wrapping it up

Ratings and reviews are important to app store visibility and acquiring new customers, but great reviews are difficult to come by. In order to receive positive reviews from customers, developers must ask for them in a way that makes the experience pleasant for the customer, no matter what.

Hopefully these tips will help you in your future ratings and reviews efforts. See you at the top of the charts!

Ashley Sefferman
Ashley Sefferman is Head of Content at Apptentive. A mobile marketing and content strategy enthusiast, she writes about mobile apps, loyalty, inbound marketing, and making the mobile world a better place for people. Follow Ashley on Twitter @ashseff.

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