Thomas Petit, Growth Team Member, 8fit on App Store Ratings & Reviews

Jamie Giggs

In app-stores

April 14, 2016

Thomas Petit works at 8fit and gave a talk at App Promotion Summit Berlin on the topic of App Store Ratings & Reviews. The talk covered the importance of reviews and ratings on the App Store and how to achieve better results with them.

You can find the video of the talk below as well as the full transcript.


I’ll tackle a very specific topic [inaudible 00:00:02] that’s only the app reviews because most of you have already good idea of the basics, and it’s kind of the other side of what Tom talked previously. Because it’s when you gather after some time reviews. So I only talk about that and I’ve got 15 minutes[inaudible 00:00:19]. Is that working? Little bit about me. I’m French. I work at 8FIT fitness app based here in Berlin and the talk is not about us so let’s move on. Before talking about reviews, I think this is quite the perception of the normal users and what this graph is saying is basically if you are under 4-star average, go back to the product relaunch, do something because you’re never gonna go anywhere. That’s the first thing.  I gave this talk at ASO Barcamp about, I don’t know, about two, three months ago, and it had two parts. It is, “Why are reviews so important in ASO” and “How to manage to get more, and to get better ones.” So today the talk is a little bit short so I only tackle the second problem, but I summarize the first part of…you actually can check the talk online on SlideShare. I think they shared those slides so if you can see the URL you’ll get them there. I wanted to summarize that part of the talk in one graph, which is reviews are very important because they act on the two parts of ASO. ASO is not only about ranking higher and getting more visibility in the app store. It’s also about converting those people into downloads.  And for me, the conversion part is even more important because if you manage to trick your way to have more people visiting your app store page but it’s actually a trick and you’re not delivering what you promise, people are not gonna download the app. So it’s kind of useless in the end. And for me, it’s very important that whatever you can do with reviews but also with keywords, screenshots, etc. is really aimed at the both of it. You want to position a higher, but really what matters in the end is that you really want people to install the app when they visit your store.

So before talking about how to get more reviews, and how to get better reviews, I wanted to underline a few problems that we have with reviews and mostly it’s both stores but mostly the iOS store. So the first thing is that user are radical. Usually they would leave either five star or one star but there are very few in the middle. I think there are stats about that, but I did not want to put too many numbers in the talk today. And the second thing is, not only they’re radical, but they’re irrational. So here you got a very old review from an app that’s not mine, and you’ve got a review from yesterday from our app. A guy saying, “Oh yeah, this app is good.” One star. Like, “What the fuck?”  “It’s the best app I’ve ever used.” Three stars. Like, “Come on, man”. So there are a lot of irrationality and also… and if you have to just remember one thing about this talk, it would be that. It’s that the war is not on getting more four stars and five stars, but how do I avoid the one star? Because everybody is between 4 and 4.8, let’s say. Except if you have one review then you have 5. That’s great. The war is about how do I avoid the one and two stars? Because you’re gonna need seven five stars to balance one one star. And if there people putting four stars in there, then you need 20, 30, 40 reviews to balance one star. Here you’ve got a funny comment on the left about an app that warns of a tornado and one guy wasn’t happy because he actually went into the tornado. So most of the talk on how to leverage reviews is not about getting better reviews. It’s about how do I split out all the bad ones?  Another problem, and that’s iOS only, is that it’s a one-way communication. Three years ago, there’s this article that was posted on The Next Web, I think, they’re saying, “Apple needs to open the channel for developer to actually answer people.” And it’s still not possible today. And that’s kind of a problem because sometimes the user is irrational and maybe he is asking for a feature that actually is in the app, and you just can’t tell him. There’s a very interesting link at the bottom on how you can actually contact people back. So on the Play Store, it’s very easy because you can answer them directly in the store, but that’s public.

On the iOS store, you can also look for them by their Google+ and Gmail. On the iOS store it’s not possible but most user you can find them through Google or whatever. We’ve got a guy that specialize in this in the company, and I would say he finds about two third of the user. We manage to track them back from the backend and identify them and contact them privately. So there are ways around this, but it would be nice that Apple change a little bit.  Another thing about the irrationality of users commenting is that users don’t perceive your app the same way you are. So in the example here that you can probably not read, is people commenting about bad restaurants and bad hotel onthe reviews for TripAdvisor. So you will get that eventually if you’re in that business. So which is another problem, and this is all the more important to be able to answer people. And for us…I’ll come to that later. [inaudible 00:05:30] And the last painful point about reviews is that it’s a long process for the users to actually leave you one review, so you really have to motivate them a lot before you gonna send them there. I don’t know if this five minute average is true, but what’s true is that, yeah, for the user it’s a lot of work to actually go to the app store, find it, write his review, post it, etc.  Okay, so, lots of problems. How do we tackle them? This pic is by Apptentive and, actually, if you’re interested into this topic about reviews, I think it’s one of the best source. They published a white paper on app reviews. I think it’s one of the best sources out there…somewhere linked in the top. So the first thing is that people realize that reviews actually have a super high impact on positioning your app in the app store and for ASO. So people start begging users to get more reviews, getting more reviews and more downloads. Okay, so, “Let’s ask everyone.” So the problem with that, which you might see on the right or not, is that people leave you crap reviews. So here what people are saying is, “I love your app, but stop asking me for a review. I can’t handle it anymore.” So if you beg too much, maybe you’re gonna have lots of reviews but actually it’s gonna affect you negatively. So don’t beg.

How to do it? There’s this developer which is on maco[SP].org, it’s pretty famous. What he decided is, “I’m not gonna beg the user, ever, about a review. So I’m gonna hide the review link just in the settings part, and only people who are really motivated are gonna eventually find it.” And that’s what he did, and in some way, it was successful because he only has four and five stars but on a very limited number of reviews. So I wouldn’t recommend that neither because you won’t get enough of them. Actually, you can see the reviews. He’s got 3000, but if you compare to his user base, it’s kind of small.  And the timing is paramount. When do I ask user for a review? So actually, in the screen I show before on the beg one, what you probably didn’t see was the sentence that was on top. If you don’t filter out when you put the popup about, “Help, please review me,” you might eventually come at a very bad time in the experience. Maybe the app just crashed and the guy relaunched, which is the case on this slide. So you have to carefully choose the moment you’re going to display the review popup to your user. So the first thing is, “No sex on first date.” You’re never going to ask a review after the first few launch basically because people don’t know your app. So eventually, they’re gonna be annoyed by the intrusion but also, they don’t know what to say about it. So just wait for a number of session, average anywhere from five to 10 sessions to start asking. Depends a lot on what your app does and how big is your retention also, but wait a bit before asking.  And the second thing is wait for an “Aha moment.” Games, for example, they usually do that after you pass a very difficult level. Why? Because you’ve got the feeling of accomplishment here and, obviously, you’re more inclined to let a good review in that moment. So every app has its different good moment for the user. In our case, [inaudible 00:08:46] fitness, we wait for a user to accomplish a full workout and then rate the workout positively. And only if he does the two action, we will eventually prompt them to leave a review. The other thing is limit the intrusion of the popup. Nobody loves popup, so try to integrate it in a smart way. That’s what Circa did. So what they did is instead of putting the first popup and then go to the review, they actually integrate it into the content, which for them, it’s a little bit easier because it’s a newsfeed. But find a way to integrate it within the app without having to popup the user

because even if it’s a good moment, just the mere fact of pop-upping is going to annoy a user. And if they’re annoyed, probably they’re gonna leave you a bad review even if they like the app. So this is a good way of integrating them.  And the other thing is filter them. I said, and I insist, this is the most important thing. Avoid the one star. So the first thing people did instead of Rate, Rate later, or Never is they tried to filter out, “Okay, if you like the app, go to Rate. If you don’t like the app, go to Customer Support.” So that was the first move, and I think it’s something you absolutely need to do because it’s better than the initial setup. But this is actually not enough. You can put that one more step ahead and actually put several, like split out your crowd. Like, “Do you like the app?” “Yes.” “Okay, let’s put the review.” But before that you ask, “You like the app?” “Yes.” “Would you be willing to leave a review?” “Yes.” And then only you put up the popup because you would have filtered twice. Maybe there are less people, but those people who clicked twice on the button, they’re actually much more inclined to leave four or five stars. So you’ve got a great link…actually, this picture is very famous and it’s from [inaudible 00:10:36]. Lots of read…I really recommend it. They develop it much better than I’m doing right now. The example is good, and they show a lot of detail on how the thought process eventually came to that. And this is what everybody is copying now. So, just do it.  I already mentioned that about answering people. So in the team, we’ve got someone who actually track users, and we’ve got a lucky part in the app because we’ve got a chat within the app. So what we do is that we answer…on the Google Play Store where you can answer, we answer people in two very different way. The first one is actually answering on the Play Store console, but the thing is that this is public for everyone. So when you’re answering your user there, you’re actually not answering the user. You’re answering everybody who’s reading the review. So let’s say, I don’t know, there was a crash, or the guy can’t log in. What you’re going to answer the guy is not, “Oh yeah, you can do this and this.” Is you want to show the other user that you’re here for him. If you have a problem, the support is there and answer you and have a direct contact. or whatever. So when you answer on the Play Store, don’t think about the user. Think about the other users that are reading the review. What we do is

we answer the user within the app directly with the chat. So we send him a fitness coach or nutritionist, or the QA guy to talk to him within the app, so we can have a private talk with him.  And on iOS, we try to identify them and across both stores. We really insist on that. Every time we’ve got a one star, what we try to do is to revert them into having a better review. And I would say in almost half of the cases, we managed a user to change his review, which is making a huge difference in the end because this one star that’s removed is like we get 10 reviews instead. So this has been a great strategy for us and is keeping busy one of our support guy, but definitely worth it.  The last part is follow the latest change because things are changing all the time so both of these example are coming from the Play Store but, actually, the iOS Store change from time to time also. The first change that we recently saw is that instead of putting four, four and a half, and five, which was the case before, Google is now actually putting the real average in front of everyone, what you can see on the left. I understand this is rolled out everywhere now. I have the U.S. store on mine and it’s been there for about two months or something, but I understand it’s everywhere now. And the right part is being rolled out right now, but even if the user can’t see it, you can already see it in the search console, in the developer console. And Tom, before, mentioned that review mining is very good for finding new keywords and for keywords discovery.  And I totally agree. Extract your reviews and mine them for keywords you wouldn’t have come up by yourself because users perceive your app differently. But actually, Google is now helping you do that, and it’s filtering the most searched things directly and is starting to display it to everyone. So definitely check that because if you’ve got one of them like, “too many ads” getting in 600 different reviews…well actually, this one is a bit hard to tackle but, “video problems” in 800 reviews, then maybe you have to prioritize that in yourroadmap because you see it’s a major problem, but it’s a major problem that is displayed to every user. So it’s a good way to prioritize what you need to fix and also to discover more keywords.

How do we do it at 8FIT? So the way to find out is you download the app. You do a few workouts and you see. But actually, it’s pretty simple. Is we try to combine everything I’ve said before. So we try to filter out…we try to do it at a good moment. We try to filter out people who are willing to leave a good review. We contact them back. We review the keywords and so on. I can give you a little bit more detail in private after. And what not to do? So there are a few ways to trick that because reviews have such a big impact. So the first thing that you shouldn’t do, and is actually forbidden by both stores’ rules, the first one is to give incent to people to download you app. I was checking a few articles before I update my talk and actually see two posts who are saying, “do incentivize user to leave you a review.” Yeah, I’m saying don’t because eventually Apple is going to kick you out. So that’s what the app on the left does, like you can get coins if you leave a review, just don’t do that.  And the thing on the right is pretty…some would say, “But that’s pretty much the same as saying, ‘Do you want to rate the app? Yes, No’.” But actually you can’t ask for a five star, and you shouldn’t do it because not only it’s forbidden by Apple and Google, but also it’s lame for users. So just don’t do it. Actually this example is coming from Electronic House, I think, so a pretty big app. And instead of removing the app, Apple gently contacted them until they changed the screen. But this screen is two or three years old, so it’s not really relevant. Next thing is that you can buy fake reviews.  So there’s this picture that was posted on Weibo about six months ago and went viral everywhere. Well, actually, nobody knows if they’re downloading apps or putting fake reviews or whatever. What I can tell you is there are people who sell reviews. We actually get contacted every once in a while like the SEO spammers. So now you’ve got the app review spammers coming to you. And it’s actually pretty cheap to get reviews. So high impact on the store, cheap reviews, seems like a great recipe for success. It’s actually also possibly a recipe for failure. And the example that’s very recent, I think it’s from last month, is a Canadian company got fined $1 million for leaving fake reviews. So actually, they weren’t buying to this Chinese store. They were asking every single

employee to review the app every time they have a new release. They got fined $1 million for that. So just don’t do it neither. And the next…not working? I don’t know. Did it run out of battery or something? Whatever. The talk is finished but I had an interesting slide just after that. It was a the cheat sheet that you would be able to download. It’s all the Don’ts and all the Do’s. So that will be an exclusive for people who…James, are you doing that, yeah? So we start from the beginning again. Fantastic, I love itHere we go. Oh, I had another one. Can you go to the next one, please? It’s actually buying reviews. There’s one example that totally nailed it, and that’s Flappy Birds. That guy managed to have more reviews in a month than Candy Crush had in its whole life. That’s just not happening organically but actually it’s how it kick-started the whole thing. And after that, obviously, it went viral and people were very engaged because the app was challenging and so on. And it did really good things with the product. That’s actually a real story of how it kick-started the whole thing. Kind of an interesting thing. I would still recommend against it.  Can you move one slide forward, please? Oh, I can now? Fantastic. So that’s the cheat sheet. I’m not gonna read it because I already said all of it, but maybe I forget one? Yeah, monitor and listen, yeah forget that one. Mind the reviews, read them, because usually people are reporting problems that are real. There are not only irrational user out there. There are also rational user and they are pinpointing problems you might have. So actually, monitoring them…we put them in our slack [SP] feed and visible to everyone so that whenever there are problems coming, it’s an early way to detect them.  I’ve got a few slides. I see I’m one minute over time. I still do that one slide because I think it’s a very interesting concept. We started putting an event on the bottom that goes to leaving a review, and we’re building an audience based on that, putting it into Facebook as a custom audience. And we’re trying…we’re

not trying because it needs a lot of volume, so we’re not building the custom audience, but the plan is to try to target lookalike people based on reviewer. Instead of having lookalikes of people download your app or pay or whatever, love the app, try to build a lookalike audience only based on review people that might generate more review themselves. That’s something I don’t have the outcome yet. Somebody from Lift-Off Network that gave me the idea, and I thought it was a great idea. So maybe next year in the talk, I will be able to give you the outcome. Thank you very much.