December 19 2019

When you browse for apps in any app store, know it or not, every app is competing for your attention. This process is made of a nice app name, a cool icon, a total rating, and the one deciding factor: the reviews. What you see in the review section translates into a simple (subconscious, even) message: worth my while or not worth my while. For me, as a user, it’s a simple matter of choice. 

And for me, as a business, that’s consequences. What you did right or wrong. What you do follows the physics of a snowball effect.

  • Bad reviews with no answers = low overall score and poor retention.
  • Low overall score = less conversion.
  • Less conversion = less installs.
  • Less installs – less revenue.


A lower score means that the likeability of your app getting featured is even less. It may signal to others that people are deleting the app and that’s not good – you want to keep that to a minimum.

According to Google I/0 2019 post, developers respond to more than 100,000 reviews in the Play Console. After getting a reply, the rating grows +0,7 starts on average. High ratings help you retain your precious users. They are not easy to keep, because the mobile app retention rates are dropping. Statista reports a whopping 6% drop compared to the previous year. Unless you’re taking good care of your users and their worries, they’ll fly away and (probably) never come back. Can you really afford that?

Source: statista.com

By doing this extra little bit of effort you stand apart from your competition – especially when you’re just getting started with your app. Every positive review helps tremendously. 

But let’s be realistic about: reviews are of great help, but they are not a magic bullet. You’re unlikely to get immediate positive results by replying to reviews. It takes weeks and months to really start affecting your overall rating in the app stores, for any given country. 

Of course, your app fans provide great user feedback and point out issues that you may have not noticed. That is an immediate result – building your loyal fan base via communication.

With active communication, this active fanbase is going to stick with you. The fans are more likely to stay with you because this personal connection is very rare. Not every developer or support member reaches out to give an answer or feedback on the app stores.

So what happens when you do take care of your reviews?

  • Answers to reviews = better rating and retention
  • Better rating and retention = less uninstalls
  • Less uninstalls = chance to get featured and more acquired users
  • More users = more revenue!

You get the picture. The harsh reality of App Stores does not follow the physics of “build it and they will come”. No. Connect with them – and they will stay. There are, of course, more growth hacks worth looking over.

How to Scale the Review Response Process

Your communication strategy does rely on the size of your team the popularity of your app. These two should go hand in hand as your audience grows. Question is, how do you scale up? What happens when you grow? 

Starting small

Weekly reviews: 10-30

If you’ve got no support members, no biggie. Just make sure one of your developers can dedicate some time to answer the mobile app reviews. It’s great when your first users can relay feedback directly to the app’s creator. Speed of the answer is not all too much of a factor at this stage: it’s understandable that the app’s creator is busy making it better. Of course, open and honest communication will go a long way to keep the users happy.

You probably won’t have too many reviews waiting for you in the review section, but who knows? Maybe your Product Hunt submission will nail it from the get-go.  At this stage, you should also consider where to get more reviews. There are a few app review acquisition strategies that can help you with that.

Getting bigger

Weekly reviews: 50-100

Once your team and your app grow, you should have a dedicated support team member that knows how to respond to google reviews and app store reviews. The more answers – the better, of course, but some may be more valuable than others.

Nearly 25% of World of Tanks reviews in Google Play are about money and pricing. Only 5% of users write about updates. Source: appfollow.io

Most importantly, scaling up means eventual expansion to other countries and languages. You should get prepared to have a way to deal with reviews made in a foreign language. You can try your luck with auto-translated answers or get a team member who speaks the required language. You shouldn’t leave a portion of your user base without answers to their feedback.

With growth, your response speed becomes more of an important factor. Without review tracking software, you risk missing out on an important review and bleeding your valuable users. Centralizing your app store optimization efforts in a single place should become your priority.

Hulk mode!

Weekly reviews: 100+

When you’ve got the resources and the traffic, there’s nothing that could hold you back from being great. Consider carefully your arsenal of tools and ensure that you begin to automate repetitive processes.

One of the things to get started with is getting a few templates. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but this is a fantastic time-saver. Similar reviews you should start tagging under a common flag and send appropriate templates their way.

Don’t forget about the data. Once you’ve got the volume, you should start to measure the impact of your replies, what works the best each kind of review and more.

One big company that you know recently did a rebranding. Its Skyscanner, and they were prepared to face the consequences of making this big move. Taking a hit to install rate, preparing for a wave of people not liking new interface – their review game had to be on top. And it is! Just go over to their app to check it out – every review is answered. Without this tight review support, the situation could’ve been much more damaging to their business.

What Kind of Reviews to Focus On

As the adoption of your app grows, you will have to answer more and more reviews – both negative and positive. You have to decide where to divert your attention and which reviews will be the most valuable for you in the long run. Just make sure you have notifications on and you don’t miss any of them!

Featured reviews are showcased for everyone to see on the app page. These absolutely should get priority answers, and the best one at that. This will be the name of your communication game – at least while this review remains featured.

Negative reviews are where the heat is at. If the amount of negative reviews is growing, you should concentrate your attention there. By responding to these reviews you decrease the stress for your support team. Not always a user will write a review if they already see an answer to their concern provided by the developer.

By answering negative reviews you also have a chance to turn haters into fans. It’s not even all that important to come up with a solution right away – simple communication is a great start. 

Once you do get around to fixing the issue, you should let the user know about that (unless they find out themselves). That usually ends up in the updated feedback rating change, which affects the big picture.

Shameless self-plug from us (sorry), but that’s how a dev response works like in real life.

When you’re dealing with volume, you should employ semantic analysis to learn what issues the users complain about the most. Tag these common problems and prepare templates to answer them rapidly. 

Reviews that became worse need even more attention. The user that is active in assessing your app’s flaws over and over again may get the attention of others – and you don’t want a featured negative review (especially with a score that went from bad to worse)

Silent reviews (that’s the majority, in fact) have no text in them or one word at best. How do you respond to something like that? Is it worth the trouble? If it’s a good review – a “thank you” template might be worthwhile. If it’s a bad review – a clarifying template could get the conversation started.

Long reviews are the fantastic unicorns that go over your app’s strengths (or weaknesses) in detail. I daresay these are highly important reviews to answer. The key is to avoid providing a short answer to a long review. Your user might feel discouraged after seeing a one-liner sent their way. Don’t dismiss the effort on their part, and provide a detailed reply. It will get you a long way – no telling how many others will read this review.

Takeaways

So, time to sum it all up.

  • Feedback is important at all the stages of your app lifecycle. The question is – how soon will you need the tools to help you win your user’s favor.
  • Featured (both negative and positive) reviews are in the spotlight – make sure you take care of them ASAP. 
  • Negative reviews that become worse need your attention – the users actually care about your app, and you can bring them back on your side by responding.
  • Positive reviews could always use a “thank you” message, to establish rapport with your users and show them you are out there. You never know what kind of valuable feedback they can give when they know that you listen to them.
  • Long reviews are a treasure trove of feedback – make sure you take your time to give a detailed answer back and appreciate the user’s effort.

With a good approach, you have all the chances of turning haters into fans and keeping fans on your side. As you grow, employ ASO tools to automate answering to reviews, track statistics and scale up.

Communication, after all, is everything. Thanks for reading!