How iOS 11 Moves Mobile App Ratings and Reviews From Burden to Asset

01/03/2018 07:55 am ET

By Robi Ganguly

Today's app release cycle can be vicious. Many app publishers spend time building a great app, but once it’s live in the App Store, they worry. If you’ve agonized over questions like, “What are people saying about my app?” and, “How are they responding to us in the App Store?” you’re not alone. The good news is that with the release of iOS 11, the endless cycle of wasting time and energy on worrying about ratings and reviews can end.

But first, what is so agonizing?

If an app has less than four stars, mobile teams get complaints not only from their marketing teams who are spending dollars to acquire new customers but from the CEO and the rest of their executive team. My company works with thousands of mobile product managers, and this burden of keeping ratings and reviews high is the reason most of them report being defensive and reactive when their apps are published and new versions are released.

Figuring out what’s causing an average rating below four stars is time-consuming. The team moves from being able to focus on what’s next on the product roadmap to focusing on changing what’s already been shipped. They spend time responding to inquiries from the executive team instead of connecting with customers and pushing the product roadmap forward. The burden of driving ratings and reviews is a vicious cycle for mobile teams. But here’s the kicker: Even apps that do have four-star ratings aren’t safe.

Even with a four-star rating, you’ll start to question when (or if) you should release again because you’re worried that making changes will result in lower ratings since ratings reset with each new version. As a result, publishers end up waiting longer than they should to push releases and are nervous about putting out new products. In the end, whether your app is well reviewed or not, there’s a huge amount of trepidation and risk in the weeks after releasing an app or version. This pattern slows down release cycles and frustrates people who otherwise should be spending their time on customer-facing problems.

As the mobile strategy of organizations becomes increasingly important to the success of the company, we find organizations as a whole pay a lot of attention to their mobile apps because App Store ratings are so visible. That makes breaking the cycle of releasing an app, worrying and repeating, even more critical.

With iOS 11, App Owners Can Break the Endless Cycle

Released earlier this year, iOS 11 changed the game in a meaningful way. Until iOS 11, customers had to leave your app to rate it in the App Store. This led to behavior that wasn’t ideal for app publishers and an experience that wasn’t ideal for consumers. Because the barrier to entry was high, only customers on extreme ends of the spectrum — either really happy or really upset — went out of their way to leave reviews. Companies missed feedback from the silent majority: the majority of customers who are passively happy or passively unhappy. As a result, teams changed apps based on a minuscule subset of vocal customers.

With iOS 11, customers are able to leave a rating directly in the app when prompted. This is a better customer experience because people don’t have to leave the app and go out of their way to leave a rating. It also allows companies to capture a more honest view of how their customers feel now that more people are willing to rate, not just those who are extremely satisfied or extremely unsatisfied. Since adopting Apple’s in-app rating prompt, our customers have seen the median number of app ratings increase by 20 percent.

In addition to an improved customer experience, app publishers can now choose whether or not they reset their ratings between app versions. That means apps with four stars or higher no longer have to worry about what releasing a new version will do to their ratings. Now, ratings actually continue for the lifetime of your app, until you choose to reset them. This is particularly helpful for teams who submit frequent updates.

It also means that mobile teams can now tell a more coherent story to leadership. Instead of focusing on the short term, you can pay attention to the long-term average of ratings and reviews, which give a more holistic view of customer sentiment.

Through iOS 11, Apple is trying to provide a better customer experience. They've provided some methods and some limitations that they think drive towards this. But you and your teams also have to be thinking about your communication strategy in conjunction with this to try and get better. You will be much more effective if you're thinking about every interaction that you have with your customer and you're thinking about the events, the moments and time that make it useful for a customer.

In the end, iOS 11 makes the experience better not only for consumers but for app publishers, too. It eases the burden of ratings and reviews by removing the need for constant trepidation and creates an environment where they’re actually an asset for mobile teams.

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Robi Ganguly is the CEO of Apptentive, the easiest way for companies with a mobile app to listen to, engage, and retain their customers.

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