As smooth as the process is, the developers have now become smart enough to bring the review notification onto the screens right when it matters. For instance, the gaming apps will ask about the stars once you have reached a certain level of score or banking apps ask about rating the app right on the payday. In either case, the app actually violates Apple’s set rules regarding the review process as the company has already been strict with “rating farms” or “download bots” only to make sure that the app gets the kind of genuine reviews it deserves. But with this sophisticated system in place, developers are playing with not playing with Apple actually, they are hacking your brain as they begin to understand your mood, emotions and behavior.
Contrary to targeting users when they are euphoric, the machine learning involved in the working of the apps is also smart enough to not ask for a review when the person is reading a story about death in a news app or if the person is getting all his passwords wrong. The developers know that such are the moments that can lead to negative reviews and therefore they take help from this system called latent value sensing. While these tactics are still not well-known to the public, this strategy has become an open secret within the app industry where you will hardly find any maker operating without it. In fact, this practice has become more like an entry point to make a name for yourself in Apple’s marketplace but as a result, customers cannot trust the ratings anymore.
Since all of the companies involved are targeting Apple’s nearly 1 billion users and to increase their shares in terms of earnings as well, a little improvement in ratings can go a long way. For instance, if an app moves from two stars to three, it will experience an increase in downloads by 306 per cent, and another one star boost can lead up to 92 per cent boost. Now when an app reaches the four-star rating stage, this means that majority of users will trust the app with downloading it – hence, increasing the downloads and Apple’s commission on it as well. In a nutshell, this snowball effect spreads more positivity while hiding the real truth about the app.
The Beginning of “In-App Prompts” & Anti-Competitiveness
Back in September 2017 with iOS 11, Apple offered the “in-app prompt” feature to developers which also provided users the opportunity to rate the app more easily while using it. The overall response of this move was great as the average rating of an app went up from 19,000 in 2019 to 100,000 in 2019. But as the prompts were devised only on the basis of 1 to 5-star rating, this didn’t provide any room for how can user report a major problem with the app. And taking advantage of this, developers also started to bring up a different question – more related to the service like “how was your video call experience?” – and once a submission was made then came Apple’s official prompt about reviewing the app.
Now if the service has been great or if the consumer is happy in that moment, it became too easy for developers to enjoy a five-star rating.
Although users can go on the app store to post the negative review in detail but there again Apple also allows the developers to reset the ratings (if it falls below 4 overall) and then begin again with the process of prompts. While Apple is strict about breaking the rules on the app store and they even block the app, but here the developers are also not breaking the rule despite cheating.
There is also an excerpt from the guideline regarding prompt that states “Make the request when users are most likely to feel satisfied with your app, such as when they have completed an action, level or task”.
Going by the rule even the most mediocre apps can use the trick to get 4-5 star rating and it actually reflects in the overall rating scenario where we hardly see the lowest rating going till 3 and highest to even 4.9 with so many users giving their feedback.
Any Alternative Way?
May be its time to bring back the written review culture – just like the way Apptentive use the love dialogue for eBay or CNN etc. Users can be given the simple question “Do you love the app?” and in case of No, the prompt should provide a feedback forum.
But with all the prompt system in place and all the liberty to the developers to amend the reviews the way they like, the blame then falls onto how the developers may not have placed the prompt right instead of the review revealing the important fact that may be the app isn’t worth it after all. With the current process, it is expected that after reviews losing its worth, app stores may even lose developers or consumers as well because sooner or later the trust will be gone.
But till the time that doesn’t happen, you are going to be manipulated continuously without even realizing.
Read next: Researchers sheds light on the reasons behind the infiltration of fake reviews on online marketplaces, and how consumers can spot them