How important are app store ratings, and how do they impact your bottom line?

Go to the profile of Anna Kochetkova
Anna Kochetkova
How important are app store ratings, and how do they impact your bottom line?

How you place in the app stores can make a world of difference to your organic acquisition and product development. The success of any app, in any app store, is firmly tied to its star rating, which is averaged from an app’s user reviews and star ratings (without any comments). This means that even the best-made app may never make it to the spotlight if it neglects its reviews. 

Dive into our guide below to learn all the ins and outs of review management - including the influence of app ratings, the algorithms and formulas the app stores follow to calculate them, and key KPIs to gauge the health of your app and review management process.

Not every app is aware of how drastically your reviews can impact your business. Let’s start by looking at an example that highlights how important user reviews can be:

The short answer? No, that wasn’t just bad luck.

How important are app store ratings and reviews?

Your average app rating is a key metric both for users and your app’s Product team. Users browsing in the app stores heavily rely on recommendations, and reviews help them determine if the app is stable and others enjoy using it. As a result, the app rating directly influences your conversion rate, ie the likelihood of the user’s desire to install the app. In general, we’ve seen that 93% of users look to an app’s rating and its review section before committing to a purchase.

As an app publisher, the review section is also a prime opportunity to hear from your user base. Working with user reviews helps to gather product improvement insights (including feature requests), quickly learn about bugs and design problems, and communicate with your audience - an important way to build brand trust and recognition.

While ratings and reviews on the app stores are a key channel to gather user feedback, additional channels will help you to build a well-rounded and informative feedback loop. These include:

  • Support emails (Email, Zendesk, Usedesk)
  • Community channels (Chats, social media, forums)
  • Integrated channels (Native pop-ups, Intercom, Helpshift)
  • Reviews (mobile app stores) 

Bottom line: your product’s rating influences your consumer’s psychology of choice in any kind of market, not just the app stores. Think of it this way - in an instance where you, as a consumer, need to make a choice between two otherwise similar products, you would be unlikely to try the one with a lower rating.

The algorithms at play in the app stores

To understand just how much your reviews affect your ranking and organic acquisition efforts, let’s take a look at a recent example from the Google Play Store below. When a user uses manual search, Google offers to sort apps based on two filters - an app rating of 4.0, and 4.5 stars and higher respectively. This filter was introduced to Google Play back in February 2020 for testing and is now officially available on all devices.

Let’s jump back to the use case at the start of the piece, dated from April 2020, when the 4.0 and 4.5+ rating filters were already available on Google Play. This could be another reason why ignoring review management made such a considerable impact, as their 3.9 rating could have severely impacted their discoverability in the store.

How do I improve my app rating?

Both the App Store and Google Play change and improve their internal ranking algorithms continuously. Back in the day, you only needed to invest in product marketing to make your mark - ASO and paid promotion channels. Later on, the app stores began to take into account product statistics as well - the app’s stability, ANR/Crashes, and uninstall rate.

Now, the average app rating forms an essential part of the ranking score as well. We’ve noticed (and confirmed it in Google Play) that an app gets a considerable boost in search results after surpassing the 4.5 app rating score. The same thing can be said about a 4.0 app rating. The same correlation between app rating and discoverability (and therefore, success), is also seen to be true for the App Store.

Does the app store take down apps with low ratings?

The short answer is yes - but there might be some exceptions. Ideally, your average app rating should never go below the 4.0 mark, or you risk making it impossible to discover organically. The app world follows the Pareto “80/20” principle in full - apps with a rating of 4.0 and above receive the absolute majority of app installs and revenue, and those with 4.5 rating and higher receive the lion’s share of users. That’s why 4.0 and 4.5+ app ratings can be taken as “low” and “high” benchmarks you can reliably aim for and include in your KPI metrics.

But average app rating is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to review management KPIs. There’s a lot more that comes into play when considering app ratings fluctuations, many factors of which can be observed and controlled.

What metrics can the average rating be decomposed into?

Now that we’ve looked into average app rating, let’s turn our attention to alternative KPIs influenced by app reviews. There’s a whole host of metrics that you can use to further understand how well your app is performing, and gauge the effectiveness of your support team.

The use case at the beginning of this article saw a strong app rating decline over the course of several months. Below, we’ll take a closer look at the metrics that could have helped the app publisher spot the warning signs earlier on.

Average Rating by Reviews

Every app store has two general formats of app ratings: a rating without any text or commentary, and a rating with a comment (review). AppFollow provides statistics on both types of ratings.

But why would you need that? The answer is pretty simple.

If your app rating increases, that can be attributed to both good product decisions and decent placement of the review request in the app itself. It means you’ve also made the right call targeting the user cohort that will respond, as well as the time and place to nudge them towards leaving a review.

However, the rating changes based on actual user feedback (ie, with the additional commentary) can signal that certain additions or problems haven’t been well received. It’s important to note that 99% of the time, this metric will be lower than the average app rating itself - as one of the most common reasons why users write reviews is when they’re unhappy with their experience, and to let developers know that something needs fixing.

That’s why Average Rating By Reviews is key for app developers to discern how well the app is doing feature-wise, and catch any issues before they make a bigger impact on the average app rating.

Average New Rating

The Average New Rating is based on ratings submitted within a selected time period. This is available separately from your other metrics in the AppFollow dashboard, helping you to segregate old feedback from more recent trends or new user cohorts.

As your average app rating is the result of all your reviews, it can be challenging to properly gauge changes in users’ sentiment about your app.

For instance, you might have introduced new user acquisition channels, added new big features into the app, updated your monetization model or your onboarding process - how do you understand what performs better and what doesn’t? The Average New Rating metric can help you do just that.

Reply Effect

Reply Effect is one of the most valuable and noticeable metrics that underlines the efficiency of your Support team. A Support Manager’s main goal is to reply to reviews and positively affect ratings, ideally leading to users upgrading a low score to a higher one. The Reply Effect is just that - the share and the result of updated reviews that were worked on by the Support team.

If the Reply Effect rises, the average app rating may increase as well. On the flip side, you also have an opposite metric - the No Reply Effect - which highlights rating changes for reviews that go unanswered.

What’s the difference between App Store and Google Play average rating formulas?

Unsurprisingly, the rating formula differs between the App Store and Google Play.

In the App Store, the average app rating reflects the regional average. For instance, users with an Apple ID based in Russia, and others in the UK, will see different average ratings for the same app. The App Store rating formula takes every single review into account - old or new - so long as they come from within the relevant region.

That means iOS app developers can focus resources on problematic regions. The advantage lies in a more targeted and niche approach, both for the rating request, and working with reviews. Shortfalls or experimentation also won’t have a big impact, as the app rating in other regions won’t be affected.

Can I reset my app store rating?

The answer is yes - you can perform a rating reset in the App Store Connect. Upon doing that, your entire app rating history will be deleted. This strategy might be useful when undergoing global changes or rebranding, or when the absolute majority of the app’s ratings are negative.

In the Google Play Store, the average app rating is a global metric. Every user, from any country, will see the global average app rating, regardless of their location, store, or user account registration location. To make the app rating more relevant, Google Play Store launched a rating calculation change in August 2019. The average app rating is now based on all reviews made globally within the last 30 days. This helps to keep developers focused on the latest bugs and show users the most up-to-date reviews.

However, it’s possible to see the average rating by country in the Google Play Console (and in AppFollow, so long as your Google Play account is integrated). For now, this functionality is available only to the app publisher, but this might mean that Google Play could soon introduce an average app rating breakdown by country as well.

What are the benefits of working with app reviews?

The bottom line is that app developers can’t afford to underestimate app ratings and reviews - and integrating reviews into your feedback loop might mean the difference between commercial success or failure of your product. Alongside influencing a user’s choice to download your app, the average app rating is weighed by the app store’s internal algorithms and heavily affects its marketing metrics.

Looking to further boost your review management process and improve your app ratings? Dive into our next chapters, answering burning questions including:

  • How can I increase my app rating and respond to reviews efficiently?
  • How can I get maximum value out of user reviews?
  • How can I automate my Support team or Support Manager’s work?
  • What is the best strategy for responding to reviews?

Read other posts from our academy:

‘Friday Update’: Working with app reviews during ticket traffic spikes

‘Friday Update’: Working with app reviews during ticket traffic spikes

Reviews spikes are a common thing that may happen with all products. The support team may be overwhe...

Anna Kochetkova
Anna Kochetkova
App reviews analysis: How to set up auto-tags and perform semantic analysis

App reviews analysis: How to set up auto-tags and perform semantic analysis

Feedback analysis is one of the most important tasks of the support team because it is the user's re...

Anna Kochetkova
Anna Kochetkova
The Ultimate Guide to Review Automation: How to Automate Replying to Reviews and Increase Your App Ratings

The Ultimate Guide to Review Automation: How to Automate Replying to Reviews and Increase Your App Ratings

While working with reviews, automation takes a big place - reducing costs, reply time, increasing th...

Anna Kochetkova
Anna Kochetkova
Measuring Your Support Team’s Success: How to Set Up And Analyse Your KPIs

Measuring Your Support Team’s Success: How to Set Up And Analyse Your KPIs

The reply time, templates, response language are factors that influence the reply effect (change in ...

Anna Kochetkova
Anna Kochetkova

React to user feedback and market trends faster