October 31 2019

You’ve finally finished your new app, and it’s a magnificent creation. It might even be your magnum opus, and you’re sure of one thing: it’s better than every comparable app on the market. Does that mean that fame and fortune await? Ah, if only. Things aren’t that simple, and I’ll talk you through a simple experiment to clearly demonstrate this.

Open up your mobile marketplace of choice, select a specific category of free apps (for instance, you could look for “photo editor”), and install the most popular app alongside a random selection of other apps from the list. Test out those apps in no particular order to see how they fare. How good are they? What flaws do they have?

After that, go back to the list and answer this one major question: was the most popular app also the best? Did popularity correspond to quality in general? And for most app categories, you’ll likely find a weak correlation at best. Some apps get popular because they’re great, but many others just have better marketing teams behind them (some manage both).

In the end, there are numerous factors that go into making an app a success, but one that’s undeniably important is social proof. When you’re looking at online listings of products, apps, or even services, what’s the one thing you’ll always search for? Reviews. Assessments from unbiased people take you outside of brand-sourced talking points and give you information that you can reasonably consider trustworthy.

And when it comes to reviews, you should be aiming for quality and quantity. You need people to like your app, obviously, and recommend that others try it — it won’t be much help if you get critically panned. But you also need as many reviews as possible (good or bad), because more reviews make an aggregate rating more compelling and every review brings the possibility of some corresponding social media comments or even blog posts to get you more attention.

Ready to start taking advantage of social proof? In this article, we’re going to cover some tactics for picking up as many great reviews as you can for your app. Let’s get started:

Optimize the ease of the review process

How easy is it for someone to review your app? Imagine that someone installs it, tests it out, decides that they really want to recommend it, and wants to leave a review — but they can’t figure out how. Alternatively, they find your review process, but it’s needlessly awkward. Perhaps it requires them to complete some irrelevant fields or needs them to choose between several incorrect options instead of allowing them to answer freely. Not good.

Now, being familiar with the main mobile ecosystems, you might find this a little strange. Isn’t it extremely easy to leave a review through the App Store or the Play Store? Well, yes. But plenty of mobile users don’t know much about those apps, and only open them to find and install apps — never to review them. Those people will only leave reviews if prompted, and don’t want to be dragged into distinct apps to get them done.

Inside your app, it should be easy to enter the review process, and easy to complete it. I suggest starting with a simple rating out of 5 (since that fits with store standards) but allowing the reviewer to provide more detail if they want to. You might also want to allow the provision of images or videos — while they won’t fit within the App Store or the Play Store, you could use them for a promotional copy on your website.

Create compelling promotional content

While the search functions in mobile marketplaces are fairly robust, you should never rely on them to introduce people to your app. The main reason for this is the sheer weight of the competition. There are many thousands of apps on offer, and expecting people to pick out yours on a whim (even if it has an eye-catching logo and an appealing name) is simply unrealistic.

Yes, the top apps get picked out all the time — but that’s because they’ve gathered enough momentum to earn those spots, and their success has become self-perpetuating. You have to get there in the first place before you can stay there, and one of the keys is the use of smart and varied promotional content to get people talking about your app.

So what content can you produce? Well, here are just some suggestions that could be viable:

  • An infographic about the problem your app solves. Let’s say that your app is some kind of tool for automating regular admin tasks. If so, you could do some research (and possibly even collect some survey results) before using the data to produce an infographic about how much time is wasted on admin every day. At the bottom, you could link to your new app as a viable solution.
  • A social media story about someone using your app. Social media stories, featuring video, audio, and images, can be highly engaging — so why not use the format to show someone (even someone on your team) installing and using your app? It would be a good way to show how easy it is to get started.
  • An app intro pack for specific high-profile reviewers. While you can’t provide incentives for reviews because it’s against the rules, you can tempt relevant influencers (particularly YouTube reviewers) to give your app a try by supplying them with an introductory pack that explains why it was created, how it was designed, and what the thought process was. It’s similar to providing a journalist with a press release: the less work they have to do, the more likely they’ll be to cover your story.
  • A guide on a relevant topic with your app featured. If you don’t want to be overbearing with your content, or you want to expand the reach by adding more value, you can write a piece covering a relevant topic and simply feature your app as one piece of it. For instance, you could write “10 Ways to Increase Your Everyday Efficiency” and feature your app as one of the ways.
  • A comparison between your app and its rivals. Supposing you really are incredibly confident in the quality of your app, why not lay down a challenge to existing successes by talking about how yours stacks up in terms of features, power, or even pricing? Piggybacking off a big name is a very effective way to get some eyes on you.

Some of this content will be best suited to your company blog (with a system in place to push visitors towards app installation), while some of it should be distributed to as many reliable websites in your industry as possible. The more people learn about your brand and your app, the more likely they’ll be to try it, talk about it, and review it.

Know when to ask (and when not to ask)

I utterly despise it when I reach a website, scroll down slightly, and immediately see the entire screen taken over by a pop-up imploring me to sign up for an email newsletter. Not only is it terrible design to disrupt what the visitor is doing, but it’s also ridiculous to expect someone who’s only just loaded your site to be ready to commit to a newsletter subscription.

In much the same way, it’s terrible design when I install an app and rapidly encounter a plea to leave a review. Not only am I not ready to review the app (having barely used it), but I’m also likely to leave a negative review — if any — because of how much I hate that design ethos. The timing is all wrong. You need to ask for a review when someone is most likely to provide it, and when it’s most likely to be positive.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with using in-app notifications to push people to leave reviews, so if that’s something you plan to do, you don’t need to call it off. Just be keenly aware of when those notifications go out. For instance, why not tie a review CTA to the completion of a primary task? If you ask for a review directly after your app has helped the user achieve something, their appreciation of the provided value will be at its zenith: this will be a huge help.

Promote (and engage with) existing reviews

What do you currently do with the reviews you receive? Most companies just let them accrue, worrying about how positive they are but otherwise treating them as static assets. You can (and should) do more. Do I mean that you should curate your reviews? Absolutely not. Not only is this deeply deceptive behavior, but it’s also counterproductive: people don’t believe collections of perfect reviews. If it seems too good to be true, it likely is.

Instead, I mean that you should engage with your reviews. If someone leaves a glowing endorsement, respond to thank them for their support and let them know that you’re committed to making their experience a good one. If someone leaves some scathing criticism, thank them for their honesty and look for a way to make things better.

Perhaps the issue is with your payment process, in which case you can probably solve it quite quickly. And if the issue is with the design of your app, you can apologize for the inconvenience and let them know that you’ll keep working on it to make it better — perhaps they can revisit the app after the next big update, by which point it might be exactly what the need. You can also reach out to them through social media to see if that helps.

Why does this help with reviews? Well, it shows that you’re actively involved in supporting your community, which makes your app seem like a safer bet. It also reminds people who already use your app that your company is worth supporting, potentially driving many of them to spare a few moments to leave some vital feedback.

Wrapping up 

Let’s revisit the tips we’ve looked at: you should make it as easy as possible to leave an app review, create high-quality content to promote it, time your review requests very carefully, and engage with existing reviews (good or bad) to show your investment in long-term support. Give them a try, and see how you fare!