Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Amping up Reviews in the Windows Phone Store

Good Reviews = More downloads. 

There is a direct correlation between lots of good reviews and lots of downloads.  I've seen it in my apps.  Bad reviews has the opposite effect of course and you really want to avoid that at all costs.  With my apps I found a sort of snowball effect with downloads.  More downloads meant more reviews which meant more downloads.  The problem was that in the beginning I had no idea how to wheedle, coerce or beg appropriately for reviews.  Here are some of the things I learned:

1. Don't think you have to be TOO polite

When I first started working on WP apps, I brought with me the old school attitude of "don't annoy the users".  So what I did was put a non-descript button on one of the buried screens that a user could press to call the review task to get me a review.  The problem is that most people couldn't be bothered to press the button.  Probably had not, in fact, even noticed the existence of that button.  Not unsurprisingly my reviews did not soar to the lofty heights I though my fabulous app deserved.  The truth was that because I didn't make it easy, the only folks that really could be bothered to press the button were the ones that were not overly fond of my app (ok, the angry ones, I've said it).  Ask most complaints desks and a complaint process that requires pro-active action on the part of the complainant rarely gets good comments.

MarketplaceReviewTask task = new MarketplaceReviewTask();
task.Show();

2. Children are wise... Remember "Are We There Yet?"

Nag early, nag often.  My next step in my learning process was to add a nag.  But, gosh, I still didn't want to annoy my users, so I figured maybe I can remind them, politely, after 15 or 20 tries to maybe, possibly, provide some sort of rating, please... and sorry to bother you.  (I sound so Canadian... oh wait, I am).  This didn't work all that well either.  I included a button so they could say stop bothering me (whoops to that too).

Just like with your kids in the back seat you should start nagging early.  If they don't like your app they aren't going to open it more than once.  So don't ask them on the first try.  I've found that if they have come back for a 3rd go around, they find something useful in your app.  Now is the time to nail them.  Ask them if they like your app to give you a high rating and review.  If they say no, then ask them to email you with a reason why they don't like it... You might even get some good in-app purchase ideas, you never know.

3. How about now?

If they decide to ignore your pleas and they keep using your "free" app, ask them again after a few more tries.  Make it easier for them to rate you than to ignore you.  Of course, you don't want to be a jerk about it and force them to give you a one because they are so angry.  I found Nokia's DVLUP program provided nifty code to get your started.  It's available on GitHUB at https://github.com/nokia-developer/rate-my-app.  As with most code, it is provided as is and it should be considered a starting point only.  The text and other elements should be carefully considered within the context of your app's branding and environment. 

Another useful thing to consider is Telerik's or some other 3rd party message box dialog.  The boring text based black and white default text box has no "zing" to it.  Very unexciting stuff.  However with a fancy message box where you can brand it, color it, make the experience nicer, it can help.  Telerik's version is here: http://www.telerik.com/products/windows-phone/overview/all-controls/messagebox.aspx and you can get the controls with very few points on Nokia's DVLUP site (DVLUP.com).

So basically, do something.  do it often, and don't be shy about asking for praise.  It can really help you figure out what's important to your customers.