Blog The power of app reviews in mobile marke...

The power of app reviews in mobile marketing

App reviews have the power to make or break whether a user installs your app. They may have found your app organically via a search in the app stores, or been directed to your landing page via a paid ad—either way, there’s a high probability they’ll check the reviews before converting/downloading. In fact, 80% of users check ratings before downloading an app and some 86% of consumers state they would avoid a business with too many negative reviews.

App reviews create a feedback loop between marketers, developers, existing users, and prospective users. So, when it comes to building and maintaining a successful mobile app, reviews are an essential strategic component and even an important user acquisition (UA) channel.

The strategic importance of app reviews

App reviews are critical to an app business’ ongoing scalability, and are an important facilitator of communication and feedback from users. They play an important role for users, marketers, developers, and the app stores alike.

App users

Reviews fill the word-of-mouth role across the digital landscape. Almost half of users trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. With time, money, and smartphone storage so precious, access to app reviews allows prospective users to compare what’s on offer with the competition, by reading genuine feedback. This can build trust in an app or developer, and highlight features beyond what’s included in the app’s description, screenshots, or trailer.

App reviews can warn others of potential problems, like bugs, outages, and other frustrations. On the flip-side, they’re a space for new users to see how quickly developers are responding to these issues.

App marketers

A well-crafted app marketing strategy needs to include impactful app store optimization (ASO).  As well as thinking about keywords in descriptions and an eye-catching app icon, app marketers must understand the power of reviews and how they impact app store rankings. The Google Play Store and Apple App Store algorithms use recent reviews, and the keywords being used within them, to influence an app’s ranking and appearance in app store search results.

The more positive recent reviews you have, the better. Both app stores understand that app releases are iterative and that the latest comments are likely the most accurate. Clear and authentic app descriptions will help app stores identify the relevance and reliability of reviews based on common keywords.

Reviews now form an integral part of the buying journey, so marketers should ensure that any negative reviews are addressed in a timely manner, which will help reduce any damage to rankings. It won’t be possible to immediately remedy every issue that users have, but acknowledging reviews, logging them, and responding will increase the trustworthiness of your app and brand, and detract from the initial negative impact of the review.

App developers

After rounds of alpha and beta testing, app reviews are a great, ongoing way for developers to find and fix bugs, address usability issues, and identify areas for improvement based on the real-world problem cases from current users. By monitoring app store reviews and responding to positive and negative submissions, app developers can show that they prioritize user experience and engagement, which is appreciated by app users and rewarded by app store algorithms.

App stores

Google Play and the App Store have both stated that reviews form an integral part of their app-ranking algorithms. Without them, you’re missing a valuable piece of the app store optimization puzzle. For example, though apps in the Play Store charts are heavily influenced by popularity (downloads), apps shown in its search results are more aligned to the user’s direct query. Both instances can be directly impacted by app reviews: positively reviewed apps are more popular, and apps with relevant keywords in their reviews have the chance to match a user’s search term.

Both outlets reward positively reviewed apps with greater visibility in search results and take insights from reviews and ratings to collate their “Top apps” lists. App stores also base rankings on things like app title, description, and category, in addition to genuine reviews—genuine being the critical word.

Fake or misleading reviews—known as review spam—attempt to manipulate app ratings, brand reputation, and positioning in the app store rankings. Currently, 15% of gaming app reviews on the App Store are considered “suspicious”, along with 22% on the Play Store. To avoid algorithm manipulation and untrustworthy reviews, app stores use a combination of automated and human review processes to ensure their rankings remain accurate and users aren’t misled.

A few reviews of your app may be all a user needs to convert, but app developers or marketers tempted to buy or submit fake reviews should be aware of the penalties, which range from warnings and lower rankings to total removal from app stores.

App reviews as a growth channel: The good and the bad

No mobile marketer or developer wants to receive negative app reviews or poor ratings. With the right lens, however, these comments can present valuable improvement opportunities. Here’s how to handle good and bad app reviews, so the 80% of users who check ratings before downloading an app are getting the best impression:

Good app reviews

First, celebrate! Someone has gone out of their way to heap praise on your work. If nothing else, reply with a “thank you”, and let them know you appreciate their feedback. If they’ve mentioned a particular level, offer, or feature, respond in more detail so they know you’ve read their comment. Offer up a call to action, like a discount on a subscription, an incentive to check out another app in your suite, or even a link to your social media accounts or newsletter sign-up.

Use positive feedback to learn and grow. Consistent admiration for the same functionality, feature, or update is clear evidence to keep supporting their development. Use positive reviews and comments in your marketing efforts, across social media, and in ads, to build social proof and promote your app’s value to potential users and for re-engagement of existing ones.

Bad app reviews

Don’t ignore bad app reviews, this will eat away at the trust you’ve worked hard to build. Responding privately via email can be tempting, but replying publicly shows your transparency and willingness to address user concerns. It can also prevent others from leaving the same negative comments if they can see you’re already on the case of fixing the issue. Having comments removed can be a lengthy process if they haven’t violated the app store’s terms, so it’s best practice to acknowledge and address them promptly.

App reviews aren’t exclusive to app stores. Websites like PCMag, The Verge, Trusted Reviews, and Common Sense Media all publish app review content. These sites don’t directly influence app store rankings, but their reviews could influence download numbers, which is a contributing factor. It’s worth monitoring sites like these after an app launch, as well as before and after big updates, to see if there’s anything you need to address or something you could use to your advantage.

How do app reviews vary around the world?

Beyond the positive or negative in-app experience, knowing what users in different regions tend to be concerned with can help app marketers and developers better approach app updates and deal with less favorable reviews.

So, here are some of the countries downloading the most apps and what their reviews tend to focus on:

  1. China: Reviews commonly focus on functionality and localization.
  2. India: A major concern is value for money relating to purchases, and data consumption.
  3. United States: User privacy and data security are top priorities in the U.S., along with a low tolerance for bugs and crashes.
  4. Brazil: Value for money is a top feature of reviews, and integration of social tools is also important.
  5. Indonesia: Connectivity is a big review topic. Apps’ offline functionality and data consumption are popular concerns.
  6. Russia: Data security is valued, but localization is the key issue, with features and copy that don’t adapt well to the Cyrillic alphabet often the subject of reviews.
  7. Germany: Functionality and security must be spot on in Germany, where reviews often focus on data privacy and unclear data practices.

How to get more app reviews

The best way to encourage positive app reviews is to create a top-quality app that offers a great user experience. This will be an iterative process, so think about in-app prompts at key moments when your users are likely to be satisfied and in a positive mindset. This could be at a level completion or unlocked achievement. Keep prompts non-intrusive to maintain a smooth user experience, and present the option to either review or rate your app—speed up by linking users directly to your app store’s review page.

Encouraging app reviews can be hugely beneficial, with consumers up to 50% more likely to be motivated by a glowing review than a discount or offer. Be careful if you offer incentives, as app stores can classify these as paid-for reviews, which could breach their terms. Check with your app store for its rules on incentivized reviews.

Mobile app reviews are a valuable tool in app development and marketing, as well as user acquisition. Listening to what users have to say and acting on it—by providing a fix or explanation—will keep user experience in great shape and avoid poor app store rankings.

To measure the success of your marketing activities, including in-app review prompts and much more, set up a demo with Adjust today.

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