A Review on Reviews: Google to Allow Developers to Answer Users in Google Play

July 12, 2012 Aziz Kara

Google Play, the primary Marketplace for everything Android, is about to change the way we review apps.

Google announced last week that developers (or app publishers) will now have the ability to respond to reviews posted about their apps. The concept is simple – a user reviews an app and as the developer, you can post a response to the review. The user is notified of the response via email and the full conversation is available for the public to see.

At Xtreme Labs, we build apps for a living so we take app reviews very seriously. We scour reviews of apps we’ve released for our clients to ensure there are no major bugs and that we catch any frequently requested features for future releases. Going through these reviews is an interesting exercise as it reveals the different types of reviewers that live out there who, for various reasons, want to provide feedback.

Type One Reviewer: A user who likes to voice frustration with our clients’ business models or they just plain hate the world, (sometimes its hard to tell the difference). We’ve all seen these; the one-star ratings with no reason, or a hate-filled rant to the app developer.

Allowing developers to respond to these reviews will create an interesting dynamic – will users be less inclined to vent? Or, will they do so with a few well-reasoned points of contention? Our hope is that this change becomes an avenue for discovery and clarification. Our clients can now respond to reviews and explain that certain content is not available due to the deals in place with content providers. Though those that hate the world will probably still hate the world…

Type Two Reviewer: Another category of reviewers frequently encountered are the question-askers. They are the reviewers that are curious enough about the app to ask a questions but where or when do they expect to get the answers? In the current feedback model, a developer may come across a question from a user but has no mechanism for responding, leaving the user confused and the developer frustrated.

The changes to Google Play will fix this, as developers will be able to respond to customers who in turn will be notified of a response by email. Over time, these review-response threads will become a knowledge-base from which other users might benefit.

Possible Implications
App publishers will have to train their customer service teams to monitor and respond to Google Play reviews. While this might be added work, it’s definitely worth the effort if it leads to satisfied customers.

With so many apps to choose from, users rightfully judge an app by its ratings and reviews – especially if they are evaluating a number of alternatives in a given category. If a user is looking for a to-do list app and there are too many to choose from, they’ll likely choose the highest rated app. This concept isn’t new; it’s natural for users to choose an app this way. Before now app developers have thought hard of ways to promote positive reviews, keeping their apps at the top of list in the marketplace.

With developer responses in Google Play, feedback conversations will happen in the marketplace in real time. These reviews will be more meaningful and users will be able to take advantage of the shared questions and experiences of others. This has the potential to turn an initial frustrated review into a positive one. A win-win for both the app developer and the user!

This is a great strategic move by Google. Not only does it make reviews more meaningful, but it brings users back to the marketplace where Google is sure to see an increase in paid content downloads if they capitalize on the opportunity by presenting relevant and related content promotions.

We would love to see happen in the Apple App Store in the near future. It’s an ecosystem that, until now, has been incomplete and Google’s Play (sorry…had to do it…) completes it for the Android world.

Source: Android Developers Blog – http://android-developers.blogspot.ca/2012/06/replying-to-user-reviews-on-google-play.html

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