Apple is changing how App Store reviews work. Here's what you need to know!
Two items have been high on App Store wish lists for a while now. Developers have wanted to be able to respond to App Store review and customers have wanted some control over how and even if developers prompt them for reviews. Well, with iOS 10.3 and macOS Sierra 10.12.4, Apple is checking those wishes off the list — but it's how the company is doing it that'll matter.
What's new with review responses and review prompts?
Apple has recently created a new Customer Support role within iTunes Connect. The role allows organization administrators to assign a person to a dedicated customer support role, letting that person respond to app reviews. The Customer Support role can be the only one that someone has in your organization, or it can be assigned to someone as an additional role. If someone has the App Manager or Marketer roles, they will automatically find themselves assigned to Customer Support as well.
How will the new review prompts work?
Apple will be providing a new API for app review prompts. Instead of a pop-up that boots you out into the App Store app, you'll be able to give your review in-line, from an embedded App Store review sheet. It's similar to how you can quickly send an email from an app without getting booted into the Mail app and having to find your way back. Developers can also prompt for review from any place within the app, from right at launch to right after you post a photo or win a challenge, for example.
What's to stop developers from prompting all the time?
In exchange for the new power, though, Apple's requiring new responsibility. Namely, developers can only prompt for review a maximum of three times a year. That's per 365 days, not per calendar year. Also, developers can't prompt again if you've already given a review during that period.
Can the prompt do anything more than ask for a review?
It doesn't look like it. Developers may have others ways of offering support or additional services, but not through the review prompt.
@reneritchie The way the review prompt is currently shown, there's no option for getting support instead of leaving a bad rating.— David Barnard (@drbarnard) January 24, 2017
Can the prompts be disabled?
You bet. Apple's adding a system-wide toggle to turn review prompts off. It'll be left on to start but can be turned off at any time if any user finds the process disruptive or annoying.
What about review responses, how will those work?
Apple is also going to start letting developers respond to reviews. Like with reviews, developers will be able to edit their responses. So, if they have updated information or simply want to change something they later regret sending, they'll be able to do it. Users will also be able to mark responses as helpful or unhelpful, and report them, just like reviews.
@reneritchie Key concerns will be the ability to provide useful replies - like including a documentation link.— Greg Pierce (@agiletortoise) January 24, 2017
Will that make the App Store a tech support channel?
Fair question. Since developers will be able to respond to reviews customers may start to expect responses. That could easily turn App Store reviews into an additional support channel developers may feel pressure to monitor, which means it'll require more time and resources. Indie devs will need to figure out how to make the benefits exceed the costs in that regard.
@reneritchie Conscientious developers with good customer service will benefit from being able to respond to complaints.— Jean MacDonald (@macgenie) January 24, 2017
@reneritchie simply put, we won't conversate within a review thread. We will direct them to the proper channel such as an email....— Dexter Talbert (@DexterTalbert) January 24, 2017
Any changes to how the App Store shows reviews?
Nope. No changes to the current filtering system, so reviews and responses to older versions of the app won't show up unless a user expressly taps or clicks to see reviews from all versions.
That's going to create some tension between developers who want new reviews for new versions and that hard 3-times per year limit on prompts.
Bottom line it for me?
The App Store has been making steady improvements since senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, took over sole responsibility for it in late 2015. While a lot remains to be addressed, things like submission turn around and abandoned apps have all gotten batter. Now, review prompts and responses.
Google Play Store has offered the ability for developers to respond to reviews for a long time now and, overall, everyone seems happy with the dynamic. Time — and the public availability of the new features — will tell how well it works on the App Store and Mac App Store, but I'm optimistic.
Any new feature invites the potential for new issues, but overall I think this will provide customers and developers of good intent a powerful new way to interact and that's good for everyone.
Reviews are a big component of the front-facing part of the App Store experience. They're important to how many people browse and ultimately choose apps.
And now, developers are part of that process as well.
Update July, 2017: Added information on the new Customer Support role.