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How to Leverage App Reviews and Ratings to Increase Downloads

Once you develop a unique brand identity, it will be fairly easy to leverage app reviews and ratings to increase downloads.

People often make the mistake of considering reviews and ratings as something that happens to them. They create an app, run it the best they can, and simply read reviews and ratings to analyze customer satisfaction. While using them to understand your customers better is a good thing, it shouldn't be the end goal. If utilized properly, both ratings and reviews can help increase downloads and improve overall brand reputation. So, let's outline these different ways to leverage app reviews and ratings to increase downloads.

Understand app reviews and ratings

Before we get into the specific ways in which you can utilize ratings and reviews, we first need to reconceptualize them. Namely, it is important to understand why people leave reviews and ratings, and how you as a brand owner ought to perceive them.

Why do people leave reviews and ratings?

There are a couple of reasons why one might leave a review. They might feel that your brand (or app) is top-notch and that other people shouldn't hesitate much whether to utilize it. They also might feel that your brand is subpar and that people should stay clear of it. Or, it may be something in between. Some parts they like, others, not so much. Whatever the case may be, the underlying reason why people leave a review is because they have an emotional response to your app. Love it or hate it, they feel that others should be familiar with their impression.

A woman giving a 5-star review, showing a step towards leverage app reviews and ratings to increase downloads.
Some people simply like leaving reviews and ratings.

This emotional response to your app is the key to what we will be talking about. Namely, if you simply consider reviews and ratings as something that happens to you, you forgo a powerful tool. If you instead look to respond to reviews you make use of the emotions that people had while writing them. Navigated properly, these responses can yield not only better customer satisfaction but also improved retention and acquisition rates. The reason for this is that your reviews and ratings are no longer simple customer impressions, but also become a line of communication between you and your customers. As such, it is best to consider them as an integral part of your online content.

A line of communication

Every review, especially the bad ones, is an opportunity for you to communicate with your audience. Keep in mind that 95% of customers read online reviews before downloading an app. Therefore, you need to treat it as more of a public debate than a private dialogue. Customers, especially those who like to do a bit of research, will judge you not only based on your reviews but also on how you respond to them.

There is not a popular app out there that hasn't experienced its share of unfair reviews. Smart ones know not to take it personally and instead respond in a calm and collected manner. Even a customer, even the most unreasonable one, should be taken seriously. And your response should reflect both your brand standard and your approach to criticism. The idea is that you use reviews as another line of communication between you and your customers.

A public debate.
Consider reviews as public debates between you and your customer.

If customers see that you are likely to respond to reviews (both positive and negative) they will be far more likely to leave them. This not only benefits your overall online presence but also gives the customers the impression that you actually care about what they have to say. This is one of the reasons why 74% of users that reviews increase trust in a brand. And in the modern age, trust isn't easy to come by.

An integral part of your online content

With this in mind, it is important to consider reviews as an integral part of your online presence. You shouldn't shy away from referring to customers' reviews in your standard posts, or from motivating customers to head to the review section for information. Accept the fact that people will judge your app based on the reviews and that you should do that to your advantage. Some apps even go so far as to create Discord groups where customers can have further discussions. But, until that day comes, look to use reviews as the first step in meaningful engagement with your customers.

Using app reviews and ratings to increase downloads

Now that we have a general idea of how reviews and ratings impact apps, let's focus more on a specific aspect, increasing downloads. Keep in mind that reviews and ratings are by no means a new thing. Over the years we've developed a certain way of interpreting them and then deciding whether or not to download the app.

In addition, 77% of people read at least 1 review before downloading a free app. That number jumps to 80% for a paid app.

Rating and download rates

Once we look at an app in our app store we can first notice its rating. Each app (whether it is on iOS or Android) gets ranked from one to five. This rank alone has a substantial impact on how often people download it. If the app has a 3-star rating, 50% of mobile users won’t consider the app. If it goes to 2-star, we are looking at 85% of mobile users. So, no matter what your app is about, or how well you've designed it, if it doesn't have more than 3 starts, half of your potential audience won't download it.

This, of course, is nothing new. Brands often choose to attack their competition by leaving poor ratings. And keep in mind that getting 1 lower rating (1 star) will require 4 highest ratings (5 stars) to get the average of 4 stars. So, you can see that incentivizing people to rate your app serves not only to reaffirm it with potential customers but also to protect you from potential attacks.

Having only positive reviews and ratings will seem equal, if not even more distrustful than having none at all. 68% of customers don’t trust a 5-star rating unless there are more reviews. After all, just as brands can target you with negative reviews, so too can you convince your friends and family to leave only top-notch ones. Again, this is nothing new. We are all well aware of how brands can use ratings to their advantage. This is why you need to go the extra mile to seem trustworthy.

Incentivising review

Here we would like to remind you that having people only rate your app isn't enough. As we've said, reviews need to be an integral part of your online presence, and you need to go over them often. Know that about 77% of people read at least 1 review before downloading a free app. If they need to pay for an app, that number jumps to 80%. So, know that your users will read your reviews and make their decisions based on them.

If you manage to leverage app reviews and ratings to increase downloads you will inadvertently increase trust.

The best course of action is to notify your app users to leave a review or rating while they are using your app. An easy tool recommended for this is in-app stories, as they can be easily modified to fit the needs of your app. Furthermore, you can look to personalize them for the specific user and their journey within your app.

Now, while incentivizing reviews is important for increasing the number of downloads, you do need to consider certain ethical aspects. Namely, if you wish, you can always reward people for good reviews. Establishing a quid pro quo with app users is fairly easy, especially if you can gatekeep certain aspects of your app. But, even though this is an option, we would advise against it. Honest, non-forced reviews are your best tool for having a healthy online presence. Non-ethical practices with reviews can provide short-term benefits. There are even individuals who will leave reviews from fake accounts on your app. But know that you can, and likely will, ruin your online reputation by relying on these.

Building trust

The reason for having honest and numerous reviews and ratings is to build trust with your audience. Namely, when a potential customer considers downloading your app, they will take into account three things. Ratings, reviews, and the number of downloads. Both ratings and reviews should be overly positive, with a couple that are not completely satisfied. No app suits every person, which is why you accept having lower ratings.

Application with 5-star reviews.
We all find it suspicious when an app only has 5-star ratings.

The third factor is the number of downloads. Namely, if a lot of people have downloaded your app, yet you have fairly few reviews and ratings, something will seem off. Either you've artificially inflated the number of downloads. Or, you are somehow removing the unwanted reviews and rates. This is how customers will perceive you, whether or not this is true. Therefore, you need to let these things develop naturally. Doing so is the only way to build trust with your audience.

App Store Optimization

In order for people to download your app they first need to find it in the app store. To make that possible, you need to tackle App Store Optimization (ASO) and do so with care. While ASO is similar to SEO, there are certain notable differences that we will cover in a different article. For now, just know that reviews and ratings play a big role in it, which is a reason why you shouldn't try to artificially boost them. The one thing you can do right of the bet is to identify keywords often used for searching apps similar to yours. Then you can look to use those keywords within your responses to reviews. Just make sure that the keywords are naturally woven into the reply.

Upgrade your app

This may seem redundant to some, but we feel that it actually needs to be mentioned. Namely, a lot of brands act as if they take into consideration the customer reviews, but don't do anything in accordance with them. A simple "Thank you for your input. We will take it into consideration." seems like an appropriate answer to criticism. But, if you don't address what the review said, you haven't really taken it into account.

Now this might not be due to ill intent. In fact, most brands ignore reviews simply because they see them as a part of customer management. The person tracking customers might notice a trend in the reviews, and notify the app developers. But, at the end of the day, it is the developers who decide whether or not that trend is warranted. Due to their lack of care, or perhaps due to poor communication, developers might not consider the reviews as a worthwhile criticism. Therefore, they chose not to make the changes that the users were asking for.

Release note in story format.
App developers tend not to care much about what customers have to say. Therefore, it is your job to do so.

Keep in mind that just like with fake reviews and ratings, users notice when you are not being genuine with them. Even though you may state that you value their input, they will soon pick up if you actually do. This is why it is important to actually address what the users are saying. And then notify users about the changes you've made to accommodate them. By doing so you both validate their commitment to your app, and you make your brand seem that much more engaged in customer satisfaction. Both of these are sure ways to increase app downloads.

A/B testing

We've often written about how important A/B testing is when creating marketing content. And, as it turns out, it is similarly important when it comes to app design. But, instead of simply trying out different versions and seeing which one performs better, you can look to ask your audience. Namely, one good way to leverage app reviews and ratings to increase downloads is to have your users be a part of the A/B testing. Firstly, know that a lot of people like giving their opinion. So, by making them a part of the A/B testing, you are giving them another place to voice their opinion. Secondly, if their choice actually makes it to the final product, they will feel that much more inclined to keep using your app. An A/B testing campaign can be a great way to utilize user reviews and increase the number of downloads in the process.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to leverage app reviews and ratings to increase downloads. Pretty much all of them revolve around using reviews and ratings as an active part of your customer management. Instead of simply reading them, you respond, learn, and adjust based on what they have to say. If properly managed, reviews and ratings can be a key tool in your arsenal towards better customer management and app development.

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