Don’t look to the stars for app reviews

The fixing of review scores in app stores is a major problem

“Have you enjoyed this article? Jolly good, then just click the button below and give us a nice five-star rating. We’ve even filled the five stars in for you, just in case you can’t count, so all you need do is press Submit. That’s lovely, thanks.”

We’ve all seen pop-ups worded like the above appear in apps, but according to a brilliant report in the Financial Times, that’s not even an iota’s worth of the skullduggery used to tempt people into giving apps a great review.

If you pay attention, you’ll note that those “please give us five stars” prompts are meticulously timed to make sure you’re in the best possible mood when you come to rate an app. If you’re playing a game, that invitation to rate will appear just after you’ve posted a new high score. Got a winning wager on the 3:45 at Kempton Park? Well done you!

Why not celebrate by giving your bookmaker’s app a five-star rating? The prompt will appear the moment you’ve checked your winnings. Similarly, your news app won’t ask for a review if you’re reading a story about a train crash or a tax hike, just in case it’s clouded your mood. 

If you think such devious levels of manipulation are exceptions rather than the rule, think again. These tactics are so widespread that, according to the vice president of a mobile consultancy quoted in the FT, “among major enterprises, it’s hard to find ones that don’t do this”. We are all being played like fiddles.

Still, we place an awful lot of faith in those user reviews. The difference made by a few stars is remarkable. The ‘conversion rate’ – the number of people who see an app’s listing and then click to install it – increases by 770% from a one-star review to a five-star review in the mobile app stores. Even a modest increase from three to four stars sees the conversion rate spike 89%, according to the figures from customer-satisfaction consultancy Apptentive, published in the FT.

Higher ratings and a good conversion rate are also key factors that both Apple and Google are looking for when it comes to ranking apps in their search engines. Both companies want people to install good quality apps, after all, so they’ll prioritise the most highly rated ones in the search rankings, where they’re most likely to be found by potential customers. When the success of an app hangs so much on user reviews, it’s little wonder the app developers are using every little psychological trick they can think of to maximise their scores.

User ratings are being gamed to such an extent that it’s impossible to trust them. Yet it’s understandable why 4,563 five-star reviews of an app can convince you of its merit, perhaps even more so than a single, independent review on a website such as this. 

The wisdom of the crowd is very persuasive – even when that crowd is being lured like children dancing to the tune of the Pied Piper.

Featured Resources

Defeating ransomware with unified security from WatchGuard

How SMBs can defend against the onslaught of ransomware attacks

Free download

The IT expert’s guide to AI and content management

How artificial intelligence and machine learning could be critical to your business

Free download

The path to CX excellence

Four stages to thrive in the experience economy

Free download

Becoming an experience-based business

Your blueprint for a strong digital foundation

Free download

Most Popular

What are the pros and cons of AI?
machine learning

What are the pros and cons of AI?

8 Sep 2021
Apple patches zero-day flaw abused by infamous NSO exploit
exploits

Apple patches zero-day flaw abused by infamous NSO exploit

14 Sep 2021
Hackers develop Linux port of Cobalt Strike for new attacks
Security

Hackers develop Linux port of Cobalt Strike for new attacks

14 Sep 2021