During the course of my career, I’ve worked with app founders, app developers, product teams and marketers, and many times I have turned to store reviews to find answers. Eventually, I developed a method.

I’m assuming you’ve been in the industry for quite a while by now. I know it’s pretty hard to surprise you with tricks that you haven’t heard of or tried before. But let me try nonetheless.

Apparently, professionals in our industry follow a method, a way to qualitatively analyze their users’ inner thoughts. Using that they fine-tune their product efforts around what is specifically required in order to reach the results they are after.

First thing’s first: Let’s agree that you must find out what doesn’t work in your app, what your users don’t like, what they are struggling with and the issues many of them experience.  You can never guess what your users think of your app. You can never win this business unless you collect feedback methodically.

Now, let’s talk about ‘the how’.

First, You Must Have Enough Reviews!

If you bother to explore Google Play or the iTunes app store, you will quickly see that top apps or featured apps get tons of reviews, every day. That’s not by accident. Of course it’s easier to get reviews when you have tons of daily installs, but don’t be mistaken, the top app companies have known for a while that reviews aren’t just generating installs but also a product roadmaps. Hence, they work hard on collecting reviews, and more importantly, maintaining ongoing streams of new reviews that they can utilize.

How Do You Carefully Push for Reviews?

I get this feedback a lot from developers, saying they want to encourage users to provide reviews from within the app but are concerned about receiving negative feedback. Well, Apptentive has created an elegant solution that prompts a pop up asking users how they feel about your app (love, dislike and so on) – positive users are then encouraged to provide in store feedback while the rest are directed to the support team.

Why Developers Must Analyze their Apps’ Store Reviews & How It’s Done
With this feature, you can handle negative feedback internally, and link only the positive ones to be represented in the in store feedback.

What Makes Store Reviews a Goldmine?

The short answer is because many reviews are gained with no encouragement, others are easy to collect, they keep flooding in constantly (it’s critical to monitor progress) and they are (almost) free.

You see, generally speaking, collecting user feedback isn’t easy, to say the least. Putting aside the amount of time and effort, the cost can be enormous. Professional teams are using their best efforts to promote surveys across social communities, develop beta communities and fire surveys via email marketing, or via focus groups.

Gladly, in the mobile app era, app developers’ are (almost) covered with everything needed in order to establish a product monitoring that’s based on real, live feedback, from the field. This is in small thanks to Google Play and iTunes and their endless efforts around building a ‘user feedback proactive ecosystem’, a.k.a. ‘user reviews’.

Your Reviews Reflect Your App Performance

Mobile app users are used to making install decisions based on reviews, among other considerations, hence many users are proactively leaving reviews.

Why Developers Must Analyze their Apps’ Store Reviews & How It’s DoneApptentive – Reviews can teach you about what works and what doesn’t, and where to focus your development efforts.

During ‘Google Play Partners’ event that was recently held in TLV, Google’s team shared some data that further supports the importance of monitoring store reviews: it seems that 50% of the 1 star reviews address app stability and bugs.

Also, and very obvious, Google reps presented the strong correlation between an app’s rating and reviews and its revenue.

Why Developers Must Analyze their Apps’ Store Reviews & How It’s DoneGoogle’s slide presented during Google Play Partner day

The Problem with Store Reviews

When dealing with app stores reviews, and since you are not the one who set the rules, you need to roll up your sleeves and run “review mining” as an ongoing process, in order to get to the real juicy stuff…

Why? Mainly because the feedback is left using a free text box- so you need to sweat over standardizing them. Right, Google Play present a sort of formalized view but it’s not enough.

Why Developers Must Analyze their Apps’ Store Reviews & How It’s DoneTons of different reviews, all in a qualitative form…

Time for App Review Mining

As mentioned, the stores provide some initial basic review analysis and images, but it’s not nearly enough.

In order to make smart decisions and get an idea of how acute some reviews are (or how great the new feature you’ve added is), you will need to manually run a systematic review mining process: read the reviews, list them in an Excel, organized by various themes (bugs, UX, features suggestions and so on) or by keywords that suggest a sentiment. Detail the frequency in which similar feedback occurred. It’s also not a bad idea to do the same with your competitors’ reviews.

Why Developers Must Analyze their Apps’ Store Reviews & How It’s DoneGoogle Play provides some help…

For large scale installs, review mining can get very time consuming. Is manual review mining even feasible on a large scale? Tough question. I guess it depends. I assume that you will feel it when the overhead will be just too much and not worth it… When you start feeling the pressure, you may consider using review mining tools such as Appbot, Sensortower or LaunchKit Review Monitor, just to name a few. But when you still have a relatively small install base, personal touch is always the best.

Here are some common topics that keep surfacing amongst user reviews, for most apps:

Privacy is still a Thing

A complaint about asking for too many permissions is one of the strongest reasons behind negative reviews and no one is immune to it.  Exhibit A: Facebook’s Messenger fiasco of 2014. Facebook took away the option to send messages through their official app and caused millions of people to download the messenger app. Within a short period of time, they had a lot of (some say forced) downloads as well as 1 star reviews.  Users’ main compliant was in regards to the obscene amount of permissions the app was requesting. Now why would a messaging app need access to read and modify my contacts? Or have access and read about sensitive log data?

You should review what permissions you are asking for and decide how important and useful they are to you and your user. You should absolutely consider removing SDKs that are asking for too many permissions. Just from a quick overview I’ve done in the Google Play store today, there are still a lot of complaints about Facebook Messenger requesting “too many permissions”.

Why Developers Must Analyze their Apps’ Store Reviews & How It’s Done

Version Updates are not that Great either

More repetitive bad reviews surrounding the whole subject of version update issues. Many users complained about too many update requests. The reasons behind this is simple as well. Users don’t like not having immediate access to their app. Also, the end user doesn’t like to see their data plan and precious battery percentage being spent on app updates. If you think about it, sending too many update requests makes your app look unstable and therefore unreliable.

Crashes, People, Crashes

Sometimes apps crash and while you might use crash reporting tools, those tools don’t show you how much it hurts and impacts your user experience. You can look at the reviews of your app to figure out if there are any technical issues you weren’t aware of. You can see if there is a repetitive complaint about the app crashing on a certain page or on a particular level of a game and voila! Additional free feedback!

As the Google slide above shows, if you have some negative reviews, good chances are that 50% of these reviews address bugs and other app’s stability issues.

Are Your SDKs to Blame?

Getting a negative review is a drag. But it’s even more frustrating getting negative reviews about things you’re not responsible for. Sometimes, without pointing fingers, the SDKs you’ve integrated in your app is asking for excessive permissions, consuming battery, or causing your app to crash. Now, that’s really annoying.

Using our SDK Real Time management & Control platform, you can now monitor your SDKs in real-time and deactivate SDKs you found to be problematic, without disturbing your users and sending version updates.

SafeDK In-App ProtectionMonitor & control your SDKs in real time!

The Positive Reviews: Time to Pat Yourself on the Back

Let’s not forget the positive reviews about your app. The real ones, not the ones you, your friends and your mom wrote. They usually mean that you’re doing something right!

You were able to come up with an app that answers both what you think your user wanted AND what they actually want. But even if you think you’ve nailed the concept of your app, it can’t hurt to read your users reviews about it. It’s always nice to get a pat on the back on a job well done. In addition, some of the reviews could be used as a muse to better the app and add more cool features to make it even greater. Maybe the only thing missing to improve your app is a small feature you never even thought of. It’s like having a free focus group. With user retention being such an important aspect, you can encourage users to return by adding some more new cool and exciting features.

So… Did I Pass the Review?

The reviews section is where your users can best express themselves. Numbers show that they are more likely to do so if they are frustrated or having a bad experience, so you must must must read the reviews. For no other reason than that your future potential installs will – this is the tool that helps them decide if they’re going to download your app. Wouldn’t you prefer to have a display window that’s shiny, inviting and ho so tempting?

Ignoring store reviews is like throwing a party but never bothering to ask the guests if they’re having a good time. If you want them to come back for your next soirée, make sure they’re not only having a blast, but having so much fun they’ll tell others about it.

Yes, hosting a party can be quite a long and taxing process. But don’t forget – there is no party without your guests. And there will be no app without happy users.