Apple Changes App Rankings

It was reported recently that Apple may have changed the way they rank top apps in their App Store so that usage and reviews factor into the equation.

Assuming Apple has taken a new ranking approach and apps are no longer ranked based solely on number of downloads, what is the biggest take-away for companies considering the development of an iOS app? In one word: Quality.

The biggest criticism of the Apple App Store is that it’s hard to find high-quality apps. Apple’s competitors brush aside the App Store’s lead in terms of number of apps by arguing that it’s about the quality of apps, or according to RIM, “super apps”. App rankings that take into consideration the frequency of usage and consumer reviews in addition to number of downloads is clearly aimed at highlighting the best apps so users can find them more easily. The message to developers is simple: If you want your app to be ranked at the top of the list, then focus on delivering a high-quality user experience. Apple is looking to reward developers who come up with compelling apps that are well designed, easy to use and useful.

The success of the App Store saw many companies rush apps to market. With downloads by millions of users, companies felt it was critical to stake a space for their brand in this exciting new mobile marketing channel. Some of these apps, like The Pizza Hut app, were user-friendly and generated real value. It wasn’t because so many downloaded it, but rather their customers’ frequent use of the app which led to its success. It made the process of ordering pizza simple and fun and ultimately drove up deliveries by $1M in the year it launched. The Loblaws Recipe Box app is another good example of a successful app. In nine months, the app generated one million recipe views, greatly eclipsing the number of views Loblaws saw through their website. However for every success story you hear, there are others who deliver poorly thought out, poorly executed apps. These apps are often little more than a link to a mobile optimized website. Proving highly unpopular, these apps receive terrible reviews, are rarely used and add little value to the company brand.

When considering a mobile application for any platform, it’s important to stay focused on your customers. Spend time figuring out what the value proposition is for the people who are going use the app. The Pizza Hut app did drive sales, but only because they took something people already did frequently (ordering pizza) and made it simple and convenient to do using an iPhone. They even managed to make the process fun for customers. By focusing on the user’s experience and improving customer service, the sales took care of themselves.

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