How to Take Advantage of the App Store’s Review Policy Changes

We all want to be liked; we all want our love to be returned; we all want what we’ve worked hard at to be valued and respected. Oh how easy it is to slip into insecurities that make us needy and annoying - those ones that leave us fighting the urge to send one last(ish) message in the hope that a response will come quicker, or just plain come at all. Desperation is not an attractive quality, unfortunately for us lesser mortals, and more often than not it causes us to push away that which we desire.

So, no, this human condition isn’t reserved for just elegiac poets of the ancient world, aspiring failing actors and heartbroken Dwayne with the braces and a spare, tear-stained Panic At The Disco ticket. It applies to so much more, and especially (stay with me here) to businesses asking for App Store reviews (we got there in the end, folks).

It’s no secret that App Store reviews are important, and having a rating close to a four or five star average gives you a much better chance of your app being downloaded. Apps lingering in low rating Hell or three star Purgatory are just not as attractive a proposition to a fickle public - and perhaps more importantly they are punished when it comes to app store rankings. No wonder so many mobile businesses are concerned with their app store rating.

The result is the inevitable onslaught of in-app prompts asking users to leave a review, usually delivered with all the art and subtlety of an early 90s Steven Seagal film.

Apple, like an irritable parent at a toddler’s birthday party, have rightly had enough and have stepped in to slap a few wrists, calm everybody the heck down, and, um, generally improve the app experience for users.

What are the new App Store review features, and how will it affect you?

There are a few things to take note of here. First of all customers will stay inside the app to leave a review, which is great news as it will reduce friction throughout the process and almost certainly increase completion rates. Users can also edit reviews and marketers can edit replies. That means that it is important to continue delivering great experiences even after a review has been submitted. Each individual can always change their minds!

There will also be a master switch will enable customers to turn off the notifications for app reviews if they wish to do so. It is important to ensure we all do what we can to make sure that doesn’t happen, but it is of course ultimately right to give consumers the choice.

But, and here is the bit that you should pay attention to, they are strictly limiting the amount of times you can ask customers for reviews. Here are the new limitations:

  • You can only bring up the review dialog three times a year
  • This doesn’t reset with an update
  • If the user has rated the app, they will not be prompted again
  • And if they have dismissed the review prompt three times, they will not be asked to review the app for another year.

In other words, if your strategy for increasing the amount of favorable App Store reviews consists solely of hit and hope, chances are you’re not going to be very successful. Let’s face it, it never was a good strategy, and will be even less so once these changes only give you three strikes before you’re out.

How to improve App Rating

With only three chances, it’s time to think more carefully about when and how you are going to send a review prompt. Think about what points in a user’s journey they are most likely to leave a favourable review. For example, the perfect time for a dating app to ask is just after a user has matched their next date. Their excitement and mood is high, the app has delivered on its promise, and the user is more likely to leave a favourable review. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at the amount of apps across all categories that simply don’t do it.

Using a tool such as Swrve to help you automate this process not only makes it easier and more efficient for the marketer, but it also gives you more control. An in-app message, triggered by a significant event, can display a custom, pixel perfect brand message, giving you the opportunity to ask the user to leave a review in a friendlier, more colorful and smarter way than the default grey iOS message. And these can (and should) be A/B tested to optimise results.

If the user clicks the ‘yes’ button in your in-app message, then fantastic, you can guide them to the iOS prompt. If they say no, then it wasn’t the right time, and the iOS prompt won’t be deployed. This will save you from wasting one of your precious three attempts. Just remember though that the relentless and desperate prompts are what brought about these changes in the first place - so go easy buddy.

Whilst these changes may seem like a constraint, or a pain in the neck, they’re really not. They’ll improve app experiences for users, they’ll make you more cunning in your strategy, and hopefully improve your App Store rating. They will not, however, offer a refund on that Panic At The Disco Ticket or mend broken hearts, sorry.