Before the world could shop online, when people wanted to make decisions on what to buy, they’d often turn to their neighbors for stories and advice around their own experiences with products.
Fast-forward to the internet era and you’re still asking your neighbors about their experiences. The difference now, however, is that your neighbors are the citizens of the internet. And instead of knocking on doors and asking for opinions, you can simply read their recommendations in the reviews section of your favorite online store. The same applies to merchant reviews and the Shopify App Store. Insightful reviews on apps are helpful for merchants and we want to help you get them!
“Insightful reviews on apps are helpful for merchants and we want to help you get them!”
To guide you, we’ve written this article to help you navigate when, where, and how to ask merchants for reviews on your apps while abiding by the terms of the Partner Program Agreement.
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Merchant reviews of Shopify apps
After a merchant installs an app, they unlock the ability to leave a review that includes a star rating from one to five, and a brief write-up of their experience with the app. These reviews are incredibly important to merchants and can play a big role in their decision whether or not to install your app.
Because not only does having reviews provide proof of an active and engaged user base, it also provides merchants with more context on how the app will work for their store, and how likely developers are to provide support if there’s ever an issue with the app.
Given these factors, you may want to prioritize getting as many reviews on your app as possible. But, just as you put care and consideration into designing and building your app, the same deliberation should be given to your strategy for encouraging users to leave reviews. If you ask too many times or in an intrusive way, merchants could get annoyed and either leave an unfair, poor review, or leave your app altogether.
If you ask in a way that could be considered as inducing guilt or bribery, you could be flagged for incentivized reviews—a practice that’s against the Partner Program Agreement. This could lead to governance actions ranging from the removal of specific reviews, all the way to complete removal of your app from the app store and the Shopify Partner Program.
So, what can you do as an app developer?
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How to ask for app reviews: the right way
First, it’s important to note that creating, incentivizing, or encouraging inauthentic reviews is against our Partner Program Agreement. Merchants should never be explicitly asked for five-star reviews. Practices like this create untrustworthy app reviews and hurt the integrity of the Shopify App Store ecosystem, which in turn lowers merchants' trust and willingness to use third-party Shopify apps.
“Merchants should never be explicitly asked for five-star reviews.”
As well, we know that as a developer, you want positive reviews to validate your app’s value. But, reviews that mention your app’s short-comings and potential areas of improvement can be incredibly valuable for your app too. By learning what merchants wish your app had, you can create a better product that will help you continue to grow and gain more users. Also, the best advocates are often former skeptics.
With all that being said, here are our recommended best practices for getting the best quality reviews, to help you grow and improve your Shopify app.
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When to ask
Timing is everything. Asking too soon or at an awkward time can lead to a poor review and user experience. Here’s how to time it well.
- Do ask after a merchant has had time to experience your app’s features or see value from using your app. When your app has helped a merchant solve an issue or they’ve had time to see your app’s impact on their store, they may be more likely to share this success with other merchants. They might also recommend some new features to improve your app’s service.
- Do wait until your trial period is over (if you offer one). Merchant perceptions of your app may change once they start paying for it. As well, the fact that they’ve continued as an app user past the free trial period may indicate that they’re an active and invested app user. That’s why it’s important to wait until the free trial period is over before asking for a review.
- Don’t ask for reviews during onboarding. Users can’t provide a genuine review of your app if they haven’t spent enough time with it. Give the user time to create an informed opinion before they provide a review. As well, this could easily be mistaken by the user as a “you must leave a review for this app to function” scenario, which could be considered incentivization. Once again, this is against the Partner Program Agreement.
Where to ask
Now that you know when to ask for reviews, you need to figure out where to deliver the message. Here are some of the best places to make your request for a review, and places you should avoid.
- Do include in-product messaging where it makes sense. Create a section or area to ask for reviews in your app that doesn’t clutter other spaces. Make sure that merchants that want to leave a review can instinctively find the place to do it, and that it’s not intrusive (for example in the top banner or a pop-up), or causes a bad user experience.
- Do ask for reviews in email newsletters that merchants have opted into. If it makes sense, feel free to include a line in your merchant newsletters that encourages them to leave a review for your app. A reminder: asking for a good review outright could be considered as being incentivized, but simply asking them to leave a review to share their experience is completely fine.
- Do follow-up after a support interaction. The merchant may appreciate the care you’ve put into helping them out and may want to share this experience.
- Don’t be intrusive, overwhelming, or unorganized. Create a section or area where asking for a review is natural or expected. Intrusive design will create a negative experience for the user.
- Don’t send unsolicited emails. This practice is in violation of several spam legislations, such as the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) and CAN-SPAM in the United States. It’s also in violation of the Partner Program Agreement. Ask users if they want to receive emails from you and make sure that you are asking at a moment that makes sense for them.
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What to say and what language to use
So now you know how to time your ask for reviews and where to place the request. But, here comes one of the most important and trickiest parts of the equation: figuring out exactly what to say.
Below, we have some suggested samples you can use, as well as some examples of what is not acceptable to say. Make sure you read this section carefully, as using inappropriate language could land you with some serious governance infractions that could lead to removal from the app store.
- Do encourage merchants to share their experiences. Every review is proof of you having an active and engaged user base! Positive reviews verify your app’s value, while constructive reviews are a goldmine of feedback on how to improve your app. Additionally, you can always reply to these reviews. This can help you demonstrate your willingness to make app improvements and go the extra mile (when feasible) for merchants.
- Do allow merchants to say no. If you give merchants the option to not be asked again to leave a review, they will appreciate being heard.
- Do offer other support channels. If they have feedback on your app and don’t feel comfortable leaving a review, you can let them know how to reach you if they need support.
Examples of language you can use to ask for reviews
The following are some examples of language that is completely acceptable to use when asking for reviews:
- “We want to hear about your experience with our app! Leave a review on the Shopify App Store.”
- “We value your opinion. Let other merchants know how our app is working for you by leaving a review on the Shopify App Store.”
- “Your feedback means a lot to us! Please take a minute to leave us a review on the Shopify App Store.”
- “How is your experience with our app? Your honest feedback helps encourage us and make improvements to our app! Please leave a review on the Shopify App Store.”
- Don’t explicitly ask for positive reviews. Asking for positive reviews creates a bias in the call-to-action of leaving a review and goes against our Partner Program Agreement.
- Don’t offer a discount or other benefit in exchange for leaving a review. This is all considered incentivizing and is strictly against our Partner Program Agreement.
- Don’t make merchants feel obligated to leave a review. In addition to putting merchants in an uncomfortable spot, it also leads to ingenuine reviews, or comments from merchants simply trying to complete the task and hit a certain character count.
- Don’t ask merchants to edit, remove, or revise their reviews. Merchants want to be heard. We recommend using the Reply to Review function to address the stated issues, to show other merchants that you listen to and address complaints. Merchants will appreciate this and may be more likely to become an app user when they see your responsiveness to feedback.
- Don’t ask for reviews with leading questions. Leading questions assume that the situation has been positive, and can deter merchants from leaving a review if their experience hasn’t been that great. This type of tone can also be categorized as incentivizing. We provide some examples of this language below.
Examples of language you can't use to ask for reviews
The following are some examples of language that would be considered as “incentivizing reviews.” Using this language could lead to the removal of these reviews or other governance actions:
- “We need your help to grow. Please leave a comment on the app store.”
- “We rely on app store reviews to grow our business.”
- “Five-star reviews make our team work harder.”
- “Good reviews keep our apps free.”
Moreover, here are a few samples of asking for reviews with leading questions, which as we mentioned above, is not acceptable. We have italicized the portions that create the leading questions:
- “Has this app helped your business? Let other merchants know by leaving a review on the Shopify App Store.”
- “Are you enjoying this app? Let us know by leaving a review on the Shopify App Store.”
- “We’d love to hear how you’ve enjoyed our app! Leave a review on the Shopify App Store and let us know.”
All of these statements would make merchants feel guilty for not leaving a review, or feel swayed to leave a dishonest review even if they’re having a bad experience with the app. Furthermore, explicitly asking merchants for five-star or positive reviews discourages honest and constructive feedback, which actually could help you improve and grow your app.
You might also like: Replying to Reviews in the Shopify App Store.
App reviews help merchants and developers too
Well-informed reviews on apps really do epitomize the saying that “all feedback is a gift.” From providing important information to merchants, to surfacing how developers can improve their apps, asking for reviews at the right time, in the right place, and with the right language, can help your app to grow.
Did you find this guide helpful? Let us know in the comments below.