Disclaimer: this is my guide to all Shopify app partners out there. If you're not, you can still enjoy reading our journey and recipe. Hope it helps ;)

Over 3,700 apps were currently published on the Shopify App Store (a few years ago).

There is a good chance you’re here because you’ve tried to make money through Shopify apps, but haven’t reached the top position or haven’t had much success. Perhaps you tried to publish your app to the Shopify App Store, but you’ve found the competition is fierce, and it’s not that easy to be ranked on the first page. Or, your app hasn’t got any review even after three months being published, and you’ve been exhausted more times than you can count. We’d been that before.

If any of that sounds like you, then you need to keep reading. I’m going to reveal a recipe for getting your app to be ranked No.1 on the Shopify App Store. And believe me, you’re not going to find this recipe elsewhere on the Internet. The Secret Recipe to Rank No.1 on Shopify Appstore for Every App You Make isn’t based on theories. It isn’t an academic research paper. It’s certainly not a formula that promises success and happiness for a four-hour-per-week commitment. It’s about reality. It’s based on the blood and bone experience of real people in the real world.

This guide is an actionable recipe that my team and I have developed after over 10 years of being in the eCommerce space. It’ll help you get inside the head of over 100 people at Beeketing who have built million-dollar apps. It’ll take you on the journeys that we’ve been through. It’ll tell you what happened behind the scenes and behind the computer screens. It’ll share with you our costly failures and how we’ve learned and grown from them. It’ll show you how to get started making a successful Shopify app with practically no risk at all.

Whether you’re a newcomer to Shopify apps, a gifted developer, seasoned entrepreneur, or just intrigued by what it takes to get an app featured on the Shopify App Store in this day and age, I have no doubt that anyone with a great idea of a customer-centric app has the potential to turn it into money. This guide is the first step to making that happen. All the information is here, waiting for you to capitalize on it.

Let's get started with what you should expect in this guide first:

Our story

Fail Hard, Fail Fast

Fail Harder, Big Success

What Will You Learn From This Guide?

Part 1. Right Mindset, Right Move

1. Product-Market Fit

2. Growth-Oriented

3. Data-Driven

4. Love What You Do

5. Quick Tips and Recap

Part 2: Strategic Framework

1. The Recipe to Rank High on Shopify App Store

High Reviews & Ratings

High Installs in a Short Time

How We Found This Recipe

2. A Comprehensive Strategy to Grow an App

Pre-launch

Learn the app

Market research

Finalize app information

Create app listing

Write blog posts

Test the app

Prepare demo screenshots

Create a demo store

Set auto emails

Create promotional emails

Design in-app notifications

Prepare support materials

Pre-publish

Promote your app to your customer base

Support and get customer insights

Prepare to get reviews

Post-publish

3. Quick Tips and Recap

Part 3: Process to Boost Reviews

1. Customer Journey Mapping

What is Customer Journey?

Create a better product

Put the customers at the heart of your business

Ensure your marketing team’s efforts are in the right place

Easier to get customers to take actions

Map Out Your Customer Journey

Identify Touchpoints

Know When to Ask for Reviews

2. Smart Tips to Boost Reviews

Smart Tip 1: In-app Review Strategies

Onboarding

After customers get the first sales by using your app

Create contexts to request reviews

Tools to create in-app experience

Smart Tip 2: Auto Follow-up Email Strategies

The first week after your app is launched

The first three days after customers install your app

Smart Tip 3: Customer Service Strategies

Help customers find solutions on their own

Develop a customer service philosophy

Craft the best support experience

Reward the customer service team

Smart Tip 4: Think Out of the Box

3. Suggestions for Beginner App Developers

4. Quick Tips and Recap

Part 4: App Listing Optimization

1. Track and Analyze Data

2. Practices to Optimize Shopify App Listing

Key benefits

Detailed descriptions

Keywords

3. Quick Tips and Recap

Conclusion

About the Author

All right, the party has now begun. Fasten your seatbelt, grab some drink as it's going to be a long read. Enjoy!

Our story

To learn to succeed, you must first learn to fail.—Michael Jordan

In case you don’t know us (but we bet you may already know): We’re Beeketing—one of the top app developers on the Shopify App Store from 2015 to 2018. During that time, we reached tens of thousands of app installs per day, achieved 4.8/5 average rating for all apps and 5 out of our 12 apps were ranked on the first page of the App Store.

Building apps to make the business and the life of online merchants easier has delighted us and brought us so much energy.

We also know how hard it is to get your business up and running, to get everything in the right places. While it's difficult to attract new merchants, it's even harder to make your existing merchants return and become loyal customers, especially if you’re a small business owner.

We used to spend thousands of hours getting our business in shape, and we know that many businesses out there are also struggling with this. But before we tell you our recipe to success, let us share how we stumbled onto it.

Fail Hard, Fail Fast

In 2012, we launched a Sieu Web project. The overall goal of us running this business was to create a website builder for people who wanted to have an online store or a blog. Our motto was “everyone can make a web”. We spent one year building a great product before promoting it to the market. We started gaining traction and acquired 90,000 users within 1.5 years. However, only a few of them were willing to pay for premium features. We made just over $1000 to $2000 per month. Then sales continued to slow, and it felt pretty dark.

At that point, we realized that even when users could create a beautiful website using our platform, but they didn’t know how to sell on their store, we didn’t help them with anything. There were a ton of other things they didn’t know how to do, like product marketing and conversion optimization. Those were the pain points that needed to be fixed.

To fund Sieu Web, we also started another business called Phpfox, in which we created plugins and provided outsourcing services. We’d run it for quite a long time and generated a good profit. But not long after, we realized that we were building others’ dreams, not ours. All the products we made didn’t belong to us, and we had no decisions on them. We couldn’t bear the fact that many of those products were closed (by our clients) and we couldn’t do anything to save them. We had our own dream, and we needed to chase it.

So, we closed Sieu Web and Phpfox and then started from scratch. This wasn’t an easy decision because doing that meant we risked everything we had. Our people. Our lives. The most challenging part up until this point was really staying motivated and seeing the long-term possibilities. But when you lose everything, the only thing you have is to keep moving forward. We needed to turn this situation into momentum to rise up.

Our third business was built based on lessons we learned from the two previous ones. What users wanted didn’t stop at a beautiful website, rather, making money from it. If we helped them do that, we gave them real value. Based on those insights and our long experience working with foreign people, we decided to launch Selling Tribe and take it global in 2014.

Selling Tribe took advantage of Facebook and Instagram to help online merchants reach more customers and get more orders. Using the app, merchants could easily create a friendly store which was then connected with their social network accounts. All products were synced and published automatically. When someone left a comment with interest in buying a product, we found that comment and sent an invoice for shipping to the merchant selling that product. After two months of working through days and nights, we completed the beta version of Selling Tribe and attracted huge attention, which soon turned out to be a bit of a flop.

To promote Selling Tribe, we threw out a lot of money on Facebook ads but got nothing. We thought it was easier to promote our product, but it was actually much harder. Selling Tribe failed hard and fast. People started leaving, and eventually, only 6 stayed in our team.

Fail Harder, Big Success

Having three failures taught us many lessons. We’ll share with you the most valuable lessons that we’ve always kept in mind.

  • Come at your app idea with 100% thinking like a store owner. What would make people more likely to buy, and so make more money as a merchant? Do thorough research on eCommerce websites to find their pain points. Then select a specific problem to find the ultimate solution.
  • Test apps as soon as possible. The process should be test, release, analyze, learn, improve, repeat.
  • Pick a niche where the target market exists (and continues to grow) and focus on it. The goal is to become an expert in that field and win customers.
  • Try all marketing techniques that grow fast or fail fast.

We also learned that if we wanted to reach far, we needed to stand on the shoulders of giants. At that time, Shopify was a very powerful eCommerce platform with over 140,000 online stores which sold in 150 countries all over the world. We decided to choose Shopify as our giant, specifically, its App Store. This is the fastest way for us to approach and help as many online merchants as we can. In 2014, we became a Shopify partner and launched Beeketing.

Let’s go through some of our numbers by 2018:

  • We made 15 apps, including Checkout Boost, Boost Sales, Sales Pop, Better Coupon Box, Countdown Cart,  Quick Facebook Chart, Mobile Converter, Mobile Converter, Facebook Chat, Happy Messenger, Personalized Recommendation, Global Currency Converter, Recover Cart Pusher, Happy Email, and Beeketing Analytics.
  • We served more than 800,000 eCommerce brands all over the world.
  • Our most successful app Sales Pop got featured as the number 1 sales app on the Shopify App Store only after one week of launching (that should be ringing alarm bells).
  • We appeared to be the most popular app producer in the Shopify App Store in the first week of March 2018. The total number of five-star reviews reached 24,757.
  • We acquired 20,000 app installs every month.
  • Half our apps ranked top 4 in the most popular categories

From the old app store:

To the new Shopify app store:

To be completely transparent, the way we succeeded with Shopify apps involves using growth hacks, which we’ll explain in the next parts of this guide. But we don’t want to promote the idea of relying too heavily on growth hacks. Of course, they can help you, but without the strategic mindsets, frameworks, processes, and plans, you won’t become a rock star in the Shopify App Store. You may succeed in developing a beautiful app, but you won’t build a lasting presence for your business in merchants’ minds.

What Will You Learn From This Guide?

Through the years, we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of merchants build their online business, and we’ve reached out to people who are getting great results using our apps.

That’s why we’ve made it our mission to ensure you, as an app developer, will achieve the same result as ours. This guide will cover the following:

Part 1: Establish the right mindset. Your Shopify app needs to be product-market fit, growth-oriented, data-driven, and customer-oriented. You also need to develop great passion in what you’re doing.

Part 2: Form the core of success. You’ll learn a framework for getting a high rank on the Shopify App Store and a three-step process to grow your app. It’ll help you focus on the right things, as opposed to simply “build and publish” (which brings zero results).

Part 3: Boost reviews. To succeed in the Shopify App Store, you need to increase app reviews. The more reviews your app has, the quicker it’ll be featured, and the higher rank it may get. This part will guide you through all the secret tips we’ve been using to boost our app ranking.

Part 4: Optimize app listing. The surprising reality is that a lot of app developers don’t invest in the app listing optimization, even though it’s the secret weapon to rank higher in the App Store’s search results. This part will help you separate yourself from the crowd.

The recipe we’ve used isn’t meant to be perfect—or definitive—because the trajectory of every app will be different. However, it’s intended to provide clarity and structure—and distill the key challenges you’ll meet. There is no one-size-fits-all approach in the world of app startups, but, by following, or at least being aware of, the key things mapped out at each part, you’ll make sure that all the foundations necessary for building a successful Shopify app have been solved.

Now you’ve known enough. Let’s get started.

Part 1. Right Mindset, Right Move

The right mindset will lead you to success.

Mindset can make or break your business. If you have the right mindset, you’ll know what you should do to get the results you want. Otherwise, you’ll go in the wrong direction and end up achieving nothing.

The same philosophy applies to app development. You need to develop a product-market-fit mindset which helps you focus on creating a product that your target customers are looking for. The product should be in demand and potentially bring you real (and huge) profit. At the same time, you should always be passionate about what you’re doing and never stop until you accomplish your goal.

This part will explain four core things in terms of the mindset that you should have at the beginning.

1. Product-Market Fit

No market need is the No.1 reason for failure, proved by 42% of cases (CB Insights, Top 20 Reasons Why Startups Fail).

Shocked?

We know. And, the surprising thing is that the statement is so true when it comes to software startups.

If there is only one thing we’ve learned after over 10 years of building Shopify apps, it must be product-market fit. We’ve shared this with anyone who comes to us seeking advice. Unfortunately, we realize that many developers/founders believe they’ve found product-market fit, but it turns out they haven’t. This is a huge problem that you need to mind if you’re planning to build a Shopify app.

In plain words, product-market fit means (1) the market you choose contains a substantial number of potential customers, and (2) your product satisfies that market. You can have a great product, but if it doesn't serve the needs of the market, or you choose the wrong market, you never win. If you haven’t quite reached the point of perfect product-market fit, you’ll know it, as Marc Andreessen said, “You can always feel when product-market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of ‘blah’, the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close.”

It may not be because your app is useless. Just the market you’re targeting doesn’t understand how your app can help them solve their existing problems. What they need is something different in which your app doesn’t include the solution to fix it. In other words, you’ve created a product, and no one uses it. Three words: you’re dead.

There are two core things to remember about your Shopify app. First, your app should help merchants solve their problem. Second, your app should impress merchants in terms of how elegantly, quickly, and painlessly it solves that problem. The sooner your app receives at least 100 positive reviews on the Shopify App Store, the more likely merchants realize the value of your app.

To come up with the right market, an effective strategy is to become an online merchant. Being one of the participants in the market that has a problem with online sales, you’ll learn what you need to include in your app. Slack is a great example of this approach. The superstar team messenger has grown from an internal product of a globally distributed team of engineers: They needed efficient communication. Even today, the Slack team first tests its features on themselves before launching it to the world. Such an awesome idea to ensure they get the product-market fit.

At Beeketing, we adopt the same technique. We understand that not all app developers are merchants. So we build a separate team that handles testing features on a real store to get first-hand experience with those features. We also collect information about merchant pain points from different sources:

  • Check out forums at the Shopify community for common merchant frustrations.
  • Host merchant interviews, a contextual inquiry, and surveys to collect feedback.
  • Listen to where merchants talk, for example, Shopify subreddit, Shopify Feed (Quora), Facebook groups (Shopify Entrepreneurs, Shopify Newbies).

This is again why the advice of falling in love with the problem can’t be wrong. Because it forces you to think about the market and its needs, first.

Once you’ve identified some merchant problems which lead to potentially viable solutions, do some research into what solutions for these pain points already exist. The best starting point for this is the Shopify App Store. For each problem you’ve found, look for an app that claims to address it. Run a competitive analysis against the existing app. Focus not only on functionality but also on pricing and reviews. Gauge the success of these apps by looking at the number of times they’ve been downloaded and the size of the existing user base.

Don’t let the amount of competition within a particular niche put you off; it’s not necessarily an indication of risk. If there’re successful apps within the space, it indicates a healthy market. Think about how to improve on the existing solutions and identify features you could add. For example, perhaps there are existing apps that help reduce abandoned carts, but there may be room in the market for another app with more advanced functions.

If you see there are no apps for a particular function or market, you need to ask yourself why. There could simply be insufficient demand for those products.

By the end of the research process, you’ll have a list of potential ideas for a Shopify app. Once you’ve done your competitive analysis, you’ll choose the concept you believe has the best chance of being a commercial success.

2. Growth-Oriented

You have to be obsessed with growth. Saying that we mean everything you do in your business should be focusing on acquiring new installs, retaining existing merchants, and pushing them to refer you. You’re addicted to growth, and you'll be willing to try any channels to achieve it.

Sean Ellis put it best:

A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.

As a startup, growth is the essence of who you are. It’s growth that testifies to the world that your product interests people, that you have reached the important “product-market fit” milestone, and that you’re sexy enough for investors.

Think of your startup as a human being. Then, growing means surviving and evolving.  You need to grow to enter a market, to challenge the status quo, to become big enough to survive and to climb to the top. Growth is your DNA.

You can have the best app, but if nobody knows about it, you’re simply one (stunning) star in the universe, sparkling but unnamed. As a startup, you need to find the best way to make your app shine brighter than most others with the few resources you have.

3. Data-Driven

A data-driven mindset means you think outside of yourself and your personal biases. You focus on what the evidence, data, and metrics say. Having a data-driven mindset will help you build a data-driven app that exposes functionalities outside of code and lets the data define the behavior of the app.

You may still trust your gut, but you don’t act blindly. You challenge your consumption, collect as much data as you can, create hypotheses, run tests, analyze the information, gain insights, and repeat the process. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. You never lean on your assumptions only because your assumptions can be wrong (which is true most of the time), and data never lies.

A data-driven mindset loves testing. Testing is key. You make some good guesses, but you actually figure it out by testing. That’s when you really learn who’s interested based on the number of downloads or reviews you get. At the end of the day, you can’t be 100% certain until you put it out in the world and see who responds. Once again, it’s all about data.

4. Love What You Do

Have you ever heard the phrase “Startup love”?

Let us paraphrase it: Love you what you do, regardless of circumstances.

Seriously.

It means you’re always passionate about your idea. It means you love the work of coding every day. It means you love waking up at 6 am every morning and coming to work at 8 pm. It means you’re happy to stay late at the office several days trying to fix bugs with the hope of launching your app on schedule. It means you feel excited even when you have to spend long and lonely nights sitting in front of your laptop.

But how? How can you develop such love?

That’s where your vision comes to play.

Our vision from the first day we started Beeketing is simple:

To build a platform that helps people sell online cross-border and achieve their entrepreneurial dreams.

Take a look at other examples:

Google:

To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Twitter:

To be the pulse of the planet.

Amazon:

To be the earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

A strong vision lets you set a mission and goals that define your path and progress. For each goal, you can plan a strategy for achieving it. A strategy enables you to choose tactics, that is, different ways to go. Each tactic lets you determine your actions, the actual work to make it happen.

Your vision spreads love among your team. It helps you “sell” early team members and co-founders to devote their time and lives to the idea. It helps you “sell” investors to devote their money to your startup.

When you establish a strong vision, that vision becomes greater than you. It should guide each and every decision you make. It’s the embodiment of your brand and the reason your startup exists. It’s the reason why you can bounce back quickly and begin again, instead of wallowing in the sour soup of a failed idea. It’s the core thing you always need to remember in the full-of-ups-and-downs journey of building apps.

Ask yourself: How much do I want to sacrifice to achieve my vision? Do I still persevere every day, even if my idea didn’t work or if someone tells me that my idea won’t work? Am I still full of energy even after facing a bunch of failures?

Everyone wants to be successful, everyone wants to have multi-million dollars, everyone wants to be well recognized for what they’ve achieved. Not everyone, however, is willing to work 100-hour weeks, or consistently sells their idea to every person they meet to build up their team, or dares to kill their darlings to focus on only one idea or spend months chasing investment to keep their idea alive.

It's a hard- and long- fight. So, building the love-what-you-do mindset from the onset. If you’re willing to sacrifice and persevere, then it’ll be the most exhilarating journey of your life.

5. Quick Tips and Recap

  • You have to develop the right mindset from the very beginning.
  • Make sure your idea is product-market fit.
  • Your ultimate goal is growth. Your startup DNA is growth.
  • Every decision you make and every activity you do with your business should be backed by data.
  • Test, release, analyze, learn, improve, repeat.
  • You’ve got to love what you do. Your love comes from your vision, so make sure that vision is as strong as possible.

Part 2: Strategic Framework

You don't have to be a genius or a visionary or even a college graduate to be successful. You just need a framework and a dream.—Michael Dell

There is no easy way of making a high-ranked app; there is no single path. Your app will have to find its own path and determine its own destiny.

But the good news is that there is a relatively systematic way to approach your path to success that we’ll introduce in this part. It’s a strategic framework that we’ve spent years building from doing research on hundreds of Shopify apps.

Start with understanding what gets an app ranked high on the Shopify App Store. Then, develop a robust strategy for growing the app with specific steps from when it’s still on development until it’ll be published. The framework isn’t magic. It’s simple and easy to follow.

1. The Recipe to Rank High on Shopify App Store

Getting your app found on the App Store is hard. Getting it ranked higher or shown in the first position of the first search result page is even harder.

Regarding app discovery, we could divide merchants into roughly two groups. Those who know what they’re looking for and those who don’t.

For the first group, because they know what they want, they use either app names, company names, or specific keywords to search. In contrast, the latter group tends to simply browse categories, the Staff Picks section, or the Trending Apps sections for potential apps.

Your goal is to make your app ranked higher and shown at the top of the search result page regardless of who is searching or where merchants are searching. Better rankings mean more installs and easier discovery. In the world of apps, ranking is even more important when it comes to standing out in a sea of 3,700 apps on the Shopify App Store.

So, what factors impact your app store ranking? How to boost your app ranking to top in the App Store?

You might have come across a bunch of blogs or articles suggesting using the relevant keywords to get your app ranked. But from our survey of hundreds of our merchants and analysis of 100 top-ranked Shopify apps, we discover that keywords aren’t too important, at least, at the beginning when you just publish your app and want it to be ranked.

Don’t get us wrong. You definitely need to optimize keywords when creating your app listing. However, there are two other factors that you should consider as the top priorities: (1) high reviews & ratings, and (2) high installs in a short time.

High Reviews & Ratings

Ratings and reviews are not just for sales purposes but also essential for ranking. If your app doesn’t have enough reviews and ratings, it couldn’t be ranked high.

When we say “ratings and reviews”, we mean “a lot of them” with positivity, freshness, and relevance. A few ratings and reviews or negative ones will harm your app ranking.

From our analysis, merchants were clear that the lower the star rating, the less likely they’d be to install an app.

Still not convinced? Here are some surprising numbers for you:

  • 90% of merchants consider star ratings to be an essential part of their evaluation of a new app.
  • 79% of merchants check ratings and reviews before installing an app.
  • 68% of merchants check ratings and reviews before updating an app.
  • 60% of merchants check ratings and reviews before making an in-app transaction.

A high volume of positive ratings and reviews boost your app to the top of the chart and search queries, thereby making your app more discoverable to new merchants.

Additionally, there is a business value of thinking beyond ratings and reviews. That is, better ratings and reviews lead to better business performance, including:

  • Increased customer retention.
  • More app-initiated purchases.
  • Money saved on advertising.
  • Improved survey response rates.
  • Higher CTR on marketing campaigns.
  • Low churn rates.
  • High recurring revenue.

Ultimately, the data told us ratings and reviews continue to play a major role in app ranking and its performance in the long term. They serve as social proof to indicate an app’s quality and blind the evaluation process of merchants.

High Installs in a Short Time

Some people believe that an app, as long as it’s published in the Shopify App Store, will get found, will get downloaded, and will get the desired revenue.

Face it: Have you ever heard “The best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google”? It’s true! And it’s true as well if your app isn’t on the first page of the Shopify App Store. It’ll be almost dead.

Mario Kart Tour was launched on September 25th, 2019. It was ranked #1 in the Games category in the first week after its launch thanks to a high number of downloads it got at that moment.

You may think, “Of course. It’s a game. Everyone loves exciting games”. But the implication from Mario Kart Tour’s success also applies to Shopify apps or even all apps in all the app stores.

You need more differentiation than just some smart keywords in your app name and description. In a word, you need installs in a short time, ideally right after your app is approved by Shopify. That’s all.


Our analysis showed that the more installs an app has in a short time, the higher rank it gets.

Why does it have to be “in a short time”? The reason is simple. The more installs your app gets right in recent hours/days after it’s published (also called install velocity), the better its visibility in the App Store, and the better its rank will be.

How We Found This Recipe

Having a data-driven culture, we always use data to make decisions. To come up with this recipe, we analyzed the top 100 Shopify apps and surveyed over 1,000 merchants who have been using our apps. Then, we hypothesized factors that impacted the ranking of an app on the Shopify App Store.

From the results of the survey, we made this formula for our analysis:

Ranking = fn(Rating and reviews, Installs)

We also used the survey results to make three hypotheses:

  1. Most surveyed merchants consider star ratings and reviews to be an essential part of their evaluation of a new app. Thus, we assumed ratings and reviews had a significant impact on app ranking on the App Store.
  2. The larger number of installs an app got right after it’s published, the higher rank it achieved on the App Store. Thus, we assumed high installs in a short time lead to a higher ranking of an app.
  3. Merchants used keywords to find an app, but they still considered ratings and reviews and number of downloads to decide whether they installed an app or not. Thus, we assumed keywords don’t have much impact on app ranking.

To test the first hypothesis, we crawled reviews of all apps on the Shopify App Store every day.


Data collected in the first days of Beeketing. Note that it doesn’t have any implications for the current situation.

What we found was that higher ranks generally correspond to higher ratings. Apps with a large number of reviews and high ratings were noticeably ranked higher on the App Store. A closer examination, in tandem with what we already know about the App Store, also reveals that the average star rating of the top 100 Shopify apps is significantly higher than that of the average app.

To examine the impact of the number of app installs in a short time on its ranking, we selected two of our apps (which were in the Shopify App Store). Then, we attempted to boost installs for the first app by all means, but for the second, we let its installs grow organically.

From the data, we observed that the number of installs affected the rank of an app. That may sound “obvious”, but in fact, it’s only true for the Shopify App Store, which has a stable ranking system and algorithm. We did the same test on other platforms, but we didn’t find a clear correlation between app store ranking and install volume.

Regarding the third hypothesis, we tried to place keywords to different positions in the app listing, such as app name, app description, key features. But the results revealed that keywords only impact on the visibility of an app when merchants search for a specific keyword.

In a nutshell, you’ll need volume, or, to put it another way, you need a high install velocity in a short time. An increased number of installs over a short window of time will improve your app ranking quickly, which will then allow you to start testing keyword cohorts and listing page optimization. Another critical factor is ratings and reviews in the App Store. If your app is below 4 stars, you’re going to struggle to maintain visibility as a low rating puts merchants off installing, in turn reducing your install volume and velocity.

2. A Comprehensive Strategy to Grow an App

To make sure your app will get a good rank after it’s published to the Shopify App Store, you need careful preparation and a strategic plan. By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail - growing an app is no different. The preparation to grow your app should start from when your app is in development. Never wait until it’s already in the App Store because it’s too late.

Think about this: If your goal is to get your app ranked first in the App Store, what do you need to do to get there? If your goal is to get 100 positive reviews after three days of launching your app, how many merchants do you need to reach out to? Where do you find them, and how do you ask for reviews?

For your strategy to be truly comprehensive, you need three plans. Each plan covers all the tactics you need to implement in each of the following stages: (1) when your app is still in development process (pre-launch), (2) when your app is submitted and wait for approval (pre-publish), and (3) when your app is launched on the Shopify App Store (post-publish).

Pre-launch

Before you start to code, make sure your app is product-market fit. If your idea doesn’t help solve a specific problem of merchants, don’t build it. Try another approach until you find an idea that will help you make real money.

When your app is still in the development process, you need to learn the app, conduct market research, finalize app information, create an app listing, possibly write some blog posts to promote your app, test the app, take screenshots, etc. The sooner you get these things done, the more successful your app launch.

Learn the app

Work with the product development teams, check wireframe, and specifications to understand how your app works. If you don’t understand how it runs, and how it benefits your potential customers, what you do in the next steps is useless.

Market research

Conduct thorough customer research, competitor research, and keyword research. For customer research, take time to understand your customers and the core benefits your app will provide them with. You can even interview and survey your potential merchants to discover insights like what they were feeling when they were searching for an app like yours, or what motivated them to choose a same-as-yours app over other competitors.

In terms of competitor research and keyword research, you can research the entire App Store. Visiting every single page on the App Store, under every category and subcategory, will help you create a mental map of the ecosystem. You’ll find the answer to these questions:

  • Is there any problem related to a “keyword” in Shopify’s search autocomplete?
  • Are the existing apps for that keyword getting new reviews? New reviews are a signal that new users are searching, installing, using, and liking the app enough to write a review.
  • What keywords, categories, and subcategories are they ranking for?
  • What is the average rating that your competitor has?
  • How strong are recent reviews? Is it all 5-stars? If so, is there any way for you to beat them?
  • What keywords do merchants use in positive reviews and negative reviews?

Also, you can install the top apps in each subcategory. It’s not by chance that millions of people regularly use these apps—and spend thousands of dollars through them. By doing it, you can figure out the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. You’ll learn what promotion and marketing tactics they’re using inside their apps.

Finalize app information

Discuss with all related teams to decide app name, icon, slogan, banner, or even the domain name. These elements can have an influence on what people think about your app before they’ve even tried it out. Among these elements, pay much attention to your app name and icon. They’re central to the conversations merchants have when they talk about how good—or bad—your app is.

There isn’t a shortcut to come up with the right name. It takes a lot of time. Given that there are thousands of apps on the Shopify App Store—as we knew earlier—it’s not as easy as it once was to find an app. That means you need to make sure you do everything necessary to make your app as “findable” as possible. Don’t settle for an OK name. A great name is 1000 times better than a good name.

For the app icon, think about a beautiful, identifiable, and memorable icon because it has a massive impact on the popularity and success of your app. It serves as visual cues that help merchants immediately understand what your app does and sets your app apart from other competitors.

So invest the time in-app name and icon now, because down the line there will be a thousand reasons why it’s almost impossible to change them.

Create app listing

When submitting your app on the Shopify App Store, you need to submit a complete app listing page. Shopify is very clear about its requirements for app listing—what should be included and what shouldn’t. Your job is to ensure your app listing to comply with those requirements to get approval.

Here are some things you should consider to have a successful app listing page:

  • Simple video: Greet merchants with a clean, simple, and well-animated promotional video to sum up the app. The length of the video shouldn't be too long—one or two minutes is ideal.
  • High-quality screenshots: Provide further details on how your app works with uncluttered screenshots. Remember to crop them to exclude excessive white space.
  • Concise description: Make it short and get to the point. The description should go through the app’s features and take the opportunity to answer some underlying questions a merchant might have, without going in too much detail. Never overload the merchant with information.

Write blog posts

If you have a website or will create a separate website for your app, you should think about preparing some articles to promote your app on your blog. It’s beneficial, especially if your blog has a significant amount of traffic. Make sure your article is optimized for search engines so your app will be shown when people search for relevant keywords.

Test the app

Use the app by yourself and ask any questions you have. So you can fully understand how it works, how it benefits potential customers, and how to request demo screenshots or set up demo stores.

Prepare demo screenshots

You can take screenshots of your app by yourself or ask the design team to do that. In either way, make sure the screenshots clearly communicate the core functionalities and features of the app. It’s because screenshots are the most visible element on your app listing page. They give your potential customers a sense of what your app is about and what to expect from it even before installing it. They play a significant role in converting merchants as they would rather look at screenshots than read a long description.

Create a demo store

A demo store shows your prospects how your apps work when it’s installed in a store. You should design a complete online store with products, categories, pricing, checkout page, logos, and other elements. You can also show tooltips to explain what actions will occur when an event is triggered. This way, merchants will have a real feeling of your app’s benefits to their business.

Set auto emails

Auto emails are necessary to build a better onboarding experience. The goal is to help the merchants get as much value from your app as possible and ultimately convince them to become paying customers. To create emails for your onboarding sequence, you can use Customer.io. This tool gives you a powerful way to create events that you want to trigger emails such as install, uninstall, have used the app for 3 days, make the first sale with the app, etc. After setting the events, prepare content for your auto-email based on those events. The content should be concise, direct, and relevant.

Regarding onboarding, don’t limit it to the welcome emails. First impressions are important but think beyond them. Sometimes we focus so much on creating the first-run experience of our app that we fail to design onboarding that supports merchants as they grow. Right onboarding isn’t just a one-time, one-size-fits-all thing; it's a process that guides merchants through many problems over time, using different techniques for different situations. When done well, the seam between onboarding and everyday “merchant education” is invisible.

Create promotional emails

Using email marketing is a great way to inform your customer base about your new app. You can select a segment with high engagement and create several versions of emails with different content as well as subjects, which matches the segment, to test the conversion rate.

Design in-app notifications

In-app notifications aren’t just about engagement—they’re about creating a stronger, richer app experience. You can take advantage of these notifications to successfully onboard new merchants, connect with merchants who are highly active in your app, convert active merchants into paying customers, re-engage inactive merchants, and improve retention rates. Two of the many best practices for in-app notifications are:

  • Segment your messages: Send messages to specific segments rather than blasting a notification to every single merchant.
  • Celebrate customer milestones: For example, you can reach customers at two key milestones. First, the moment they install your app, and second, the moment they achieve the first sale by using your app. In these cases, proper notification will help you create strong engagement with them.

Prepare support materials

These materials could be help desks, how-to articles, or demonstration videos, etc., which helps merchants get the most out of your app. Start with a list of questions and issues around your app. Also, take the time to conduct user testing to see what other types of problems also need to be included in your support materials. Ensure you organize them in a way that makes it easy for merchants to find what they need quickly.

Pre-publish

Often, after we’ve just submitted something and have to wait for review, we think that it’s time for us to take a rest. All the following actions will be delayed until we get the result. But that doesn’t apply to app development.

The moment you submit your app to the Shopify App Store and wait for approval, you have to start promoting your app elsewhere and obtain as many (positive) reviews as possible. Besides, you need to think about tactics to grow reviews when your app is approved and shown on the App Store.

Promote your app to your customer base

Set up promotional emails you’ve created before on your email marketing system and run in-app notifications in your app. Also, track and evaluate the performance to make proper adjustments. This email campaign should aim at a small group of customers because your goal is just to gain initial insights into your apps and examine the effectiveness of the campaign.

Support and get customer insights

Respond to all customers’ tickets as soon as possible. Coordinate with the development team to ensure all the bugs and errors will be fixed. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t ask for reviews in this process because your app is being reviewed by Shopify, meaning your app listing isn’t still available.

Prepare to get reviews

There are some tactics to get reviews like adding a review request to the progress bar inside the app or to auto-emails or encouraging merchants to leave reviews to become a power user with some incentives. Be creative about how you can make merchants satisfied and enjoyable to review your app.

Post-publish

Congrats! Your app is now on the Shopify App Store, meaning the app listing page is shown, and merchants can write reviews about your app on the page.

Most of the time, merchants compare app listings side-by-side before making the final decision to install your app. Hence, you should peruse your app listing to ensure it contains keywords that merchants use to search for the app they want. Besides, a smart way to increase installs is to run A/B testing. You can tweak the following elements: icon, screenshots, title, description, and even pricing. Then, track the performance to choose the most effective elements for your app listing.

If you’re lucky, your app could be featured in the Trending Apps section or the Staff Picks section in the first week of its launch. This is the best chance for you to grow installs and reviews. You can run contests or other marketing campaigns to take advantage of this opportunity. The next part of this guide will give you more tactics about how to grow app reviews.

Another vital thing to do in this stage is to evaluate the potential of your app. You can use metrics like number of reviews, number of installs, and number of uninstalls, which can be seen clearly in the Shopify Partner admin dashboard. Remember to continually see how far you can push your performance.

3. Quick Tips and Recap

  • To boost your app ranking on the Shopify App Store, ensure you get as many ratings and reviews as well as installs as possible. The trick is to start collecting these numbers right after you submit your app.
  • Your job, as a marketer, starts right when the development team comes up with the first app idea.
  • Growing an app involves three stages: pre-launch, pre-publish, and post-publish. Do your homework because preparation is the key. What you do before your app launch decides your success in the next stages.
  • Make the best of Shopify app development resources.
  • Think about branding your app right from the first launch.

Part 3: Process to Boost Reviews

A good process produces good results.—Nick Saban

You’ve understood the power of reviews to boost your app rankings. Now, you’re looking for ways to increase the number of reviews for your app? We’ve got you covered. This part will tell you the actionable process that we’ve applied to get more reviews from merchants.

In a world where first impressions are more important than ever and at a time when merchants are growing ever skeptical of marketing, social proof in the form of app store ratings and reviews stand alone as the most significant driver of discovery and conversion.

Remember that a poorly rated app isn’t necessarily a bad app. Nor is an app with exceptional reviews necessarily a good app. What you need is simply a clear understanding of customer journey and tricks to get them to leave reviews. That’s exactly what we’ll tell you right now.

1. Customer Journey Mapping

You’ve spent a lot of thinking about every little feature and every single process running under the hood. You’ve attempted to make your app as great as possible.

But that’s not how your potential customers perceive your app. What they truly care about is the practical benefits that your app brings to them. They have no reason to care about how much time you’ve spent to develop the app or how technical it is.

That’s why you should take a customer-first approach. You have to think about what your prospects need and take action to fulfill their needs.

What is Customer Journey?

A customer journey is a diagram that illustrates the steps your customers go through in engaging with your app. It visualizes all of a customer’s interactions with your app, from their point of view. By using a customer journey, you can create a timeline of all touchpoints between a customer and your app, including all channels they happen in.

You might be telling yourself, “This doesn’t seem necessary for my team or me. We understand the needs and pain points of our target customers, thank you very much.”

That may be true at a surface level.

However, breaking down the customer journey phase by phase, aligning each step with a goal, and restructuring your touchpoints accordingly is essential towards maximizing customers’ success. Once you understand your customer journey, you can determine where, when, and how you could get their reviews or boost the number of installs for your app.

Here are some convincing benefits of creating a customer journey:

Create a better product

A customer journey diagram or map exists to explore behavior within your app experience, which yields learnings around how you can improve it. The more you know how merchants actually engage, the better you can understand what pieces of your experience work well or need adjusting.

Put the customers at the heart of your business

Using a customer journey map, you can develop a marketing strategy that puts your customers first. The more you know about how customers use your app, the more one-to-one your messaging with them can be. It means you can personalize popups, banners, notifications, or any other messages that resonate with your customers.

Ensure your marketing team’s efforts are in the right place

Marketing’s efforts should be driven not only by the company’s mission but also by the target customers. By understanding customers’ behaviors, you know where, when, and how to approach them and give them what they need without wasting a lot of money.

Easier to get customers to take actions

If you know how a merchant uses an app, you can easily track their behaviors and place incentives at the right time in the right place to get them to take an action you want them to do. No matter what your goals are—for example, getting customers to leave reviews, rate your app, or buy the premium version—it’s not too difficult to achieve it when you have a customer journey.

Map Out Your Customer Journey

Here is our customer journey for a Beeketing app:

The insights you’ll gain from a customer journey is priceless. Having said that, putting together a customer journey map for your app is worth time and effort.

To create a customer journey diagram, you need to understand that this journey often begins before a user opens your app. What are the reasons a merchant needs it? What prompts them to search for it? Are they interested in searching for prices, or are they looking for a specific feature to solve their problem? Finding answers to these questions requires in-depth research on your potential customers.

A good practice to map a customer journey is to create a spreadsheet with the following details:

  • A list of steps a customer performs.
  • Success criteria, for example, what can be considered as a successful customer action.
  • Retention rate when a customer reaches each step.
  • Conversion rate for each transfer from one step to another.
  • Point of contact, for example, push notification or popup.
  • Audience size at each step.
  • Emotional state description, for example, “It seems I’m confused.”, “Maybe I should give up?”, “I’m close to the target?”, “That’s what I want!”
  • Barriers to prevent customers from taking a specific action.
  • Ways to decrease the barriers to different points of interaction. These are points for development.

Remember to make changes for your customer journey regularly because it should be a constant work-in-progress. Reviewing it every month or quarter will help you identify gaps to streamline your customer journey further and opportunities to get closer to customers and ask for reviews.

Identify Touchpoints

Collecting reviews is critical to increasing app ranking and improving customer experience, developing better products, and nurturing customer love. Unfortunately, many app developers only collect reviews in a single place, and usually after a specific action has been taken, for example, installing the app. Even when customer sentiment or opinion is captured in different ways or through distinct channels, companies often fail to “stitch” together with the emotions expressed to build a more complete picture of a customer journey experience.

Through the customer journey, there are many points that you need to find out to “touch” your customers. Those points are so-called touchpoints.

Touchpoints are all the engagement points on your app that your customers can interact with you. Based on your research, you should list out all the touchpoints your customers are currently using and have the potential to use. This is an essential step in creating a customer journey map because it gives you insights into what actions your customers are performing.

Understanding customer touchpoints will help you know when you can interact with them and see where you can offer unexpected value. In other words, you can delight your customers and give them a convincing reason to leave reviews for your app.

Customer delight is the “Wow” moment that a customer gets while using your app. If you delight your customer more than once, you’re guaranteed to get a positive review.

Know When to Ask for Reviews

Whenever you ask your customers to review your app, the timing needs to make complete sense. If you don’t give them enough time to play with your app and learn how it works, you end up rushing them. When you rush your customers to make a decision, it’ll leave a bad taste in their mouths. That means they’ll translate that foul taste in as a negative review.

You can ask customers to rate and review your app at appropriate times throughout their app experience. Make the request when customers are most likely to feel satisfied with your app and ensure your request doesn’t interrupt their activity.

There are three situations where it makes sense to ask for an app review from your customers.

When they learn the values of your app. In other words, when they complete an intended action. For example, a merchant just created a beautiful popup using your Checkout Boost app. The popup is shown appropriately in the checkout page, which they expect. Problem solved!

When they get achievements from using your app: After two days of showing the popup on the checkout page, the merchant received two orders from two customers. Those customers used the code shown in the popup to place the orders. The merchant saw the benefits of using your app.

When their emotions are triggered by something from your app: Merchants are far more likely to take the time to write a positive review if they’re in a positive mindset and happy. For example, when they received great support from you, which made them feel caring.

You should never ask for reviews right after merchants install your app. They need time to experience it first as much as you do whenever you use any app for your life and work.

2. Smart Tips to Boost Reviews

To make your life easier, we’ll walk you through the best tactics we’ve applied to increase reviews for our apps. You can use these tactics for your app as well.

Smart Tip 1: In-app Review Strategies

To boost your app reviews and installs, the one thing you need to do persistently is to analyze how your customers are interacting within your app. This will not only help you understand your users’ in-app actions but also what they spend most of their time on. By doing so, you’ll find out why your merchants drop off and eventually churn.

Another practical benefit of asking in-app reviews is that customers will gladly tell you about any issues they may be having. Whether it’s that a new design is just not as useful as the old one or that a specific feature isn’t working correctly, you’ll want this information sooner rather than later.

Below are some in-app strategies to boost reviews for your apps.

Onboarding

Roughly 80-90% of apps are uninstalled if merchants aren’t immediately captivated by the app.

What happens right after installation can make or break an app. You may come up with the best-looking app, but if merchants can’t learn how to use it quickly, they’re most likely going to abandon it.

That’s why a clear, interactive onboarding flow is increasingly critical.

Unfortunately, it’s the one aspect app producers often overlook when considering how to increase reviews and installs.

Onboarding means helping a merchant understand how your app works. The merchant has installed your app, and you’re teaching them the most important features of the app as quickly as possible.

While the primary purpose of an onboarding flow is to inform and prepare merchants for your app, it also serves as an ideal opportunity to get reviews. With that data, you can discover how first impressions you made with your merchants and take steps to eliminate any bottlenecks and start improving the process for future customers.

A worthy note that, according to Shopify app analytics, 24 hours after installing an app, 14% of merchants on active shops have already opted to uninstall. So, if you don’t take advantage of the first 24 hours after they install your app, you’ll miss an opportunity to discover what they want to say with you, whether it’s good or bad.

You can show some options for customers to choose from, making it easier for them to leave reviews. For example, “The instructions are clear”, “It’s quick and easy to install the app”, “Everything works well”, or “I am well-supported”. You can even design different review request forms for free and paid apps like these:


A review request form for our free Countdown Cart app.


A review request form for our paid Checkout Boost app.

Also, remember that you’re trying to get positive reviews from first-time customers, make sure everything in the onboarding flow is as good as possible. A poor onboarding flow can make customers feel left in the dark. They’re unsure of how to use your app and feel overwhelmed with a maze of buttons, text, and menus. In this situation, you may end up getting bad reviews from them.

To prevent merchants from leaving negative reviews, you can tweak your review request popup by adding a button like “I have feedback”. Alternatively, you can add this button to the live chat box inside your app. By doing that, you give merchants a quick way to talk with you and contribute their opinion to enhance your app.

After customers get the first sales by using your app

This tactic works well if you’re developing an app that helps customers boost their sales, directly or indirectly. For example, it can be a popup app that encourages customers to use a coupon code to buy products, or a fast checkout app that helps smoother the checkout process, or an email marketing tool that helps reduce the abandoned cart rate.

The ultimate goal of a merchant is to sell as many products as possible. Hence, if after installing your app, they get the first sales, it means you’re helping them accomplish their goal. In this situation, your customers are happy, content, impressed, surprised, or delighted enough to type a few kind words about you (or your app). This is the core of timing that you shouldn’t ignore.

You can show a popup inside the app to celebrate their first achievement and politely ask for reviews. Doing this, you strengthen the connection between you and your customers, that you care about them, and always be there to support them whenever they need help.


A review request is shown when the merchant got the first sale.

Not only for the first sales, but you can also ask your customers for a review when they hit other milestones, for example, when their total orders exceed 50, or when a customer has been using your app for a full one year, or when a customer has been with you for three years. Milestones like these indicate that the customers see the benefits of using your app, and they’re loyal to you.

Pick good milestones, and send out your review request when merchants hit those milestones.

Create contexts to request reviews

Sometimes, you’ll need to strike up a conversation with your customers that will provide the opportunity to ask for a review.

Here are some situations you can think of:

  • Integrate a feature that your customers want to have in your app. After they experience it, ask for a review. Be careful with this method because if you ask for reviews in exchange for that feature, you’ll violate Shopify’s policy.
  • Integrate a new feature, and then give it to your merchants for free. After that, you can ask for reviews about whether they like it. If the feature is useful to the customers, they’ll probably leave feedback.
  • Add the power user feature. Then, invite merchants to become power users. After they do that, ask for reviews.


Invite merchants to become power users in the holiday season.


After a merchant becomes a power user, ask for reviews.

  • Create a holiday theme for power users. After they apply the new theme, ask for reviews.

Tools to create in-app experience

You can create your own tools like in-app notifications, in-app review-request buttons or popups, or progress bars. Then, run A/B testing to see which is the most effective tool. Also, you can use a UI kit to quickly create new popups without having to code every request.

Smart Tip 2: Auto Follow-up Email Strategies

Running review request email campaigns is one of the most effective ways to generate new reviews. There are two times you can run these campaigns: the first week after your app is launched and the first 3 days after customers install your app. To create auto follow-up emails, you can use Customer.io.

The first week after your app is launched

For this tactic, you should apply different approaches for free apps and paid apps to maximize the results.

Free apps

In the first week after your app is launched, high chances are that your app will be featured in the Staff Pick or Trending Apps section. Your app will possibly get a considerable number of organic installs, so you should implement tactics to boost reviews and installs as soon as possible.

You can use the insights from your customer journey to A/B test scenarios and choose the best practice that brings you the most reviews and installs for your app. Then, implement that practice throughout your customer base. Since the app is free, it’s more likely that your customers will leave reviews. Make sure your app is functional and useful for customers.

When doing that, keep the following in mind:

  • Add a review request inside the welcome email, and send the email right after a customer installs your app (about 5 minutes). It’s better to use a personal email address and showcase a human face since they create a personal connection with the customer. Remember that when it comes to software, the human touch can go a long way.
  • Ask for reviews in the first 24 hours after a customer installs your app. This period gives the customers some time to experience the app.
  • Ask for reviews after two days since the day a customer installed your app. This period gives the customers enough time to examine the effect of using your app.
  • Don’t ask for reviews too late because you may already lose a lot of merchants. According to Shopify, only 83.7% of apps are still installed on active shops after about 72 hours of launching.

Paid apps

Asking paid customers for reviews right after they install your app can be tough. The main reason is that they’ve just spent several dollars on an app, and so they need some time to test it early. Moreover, your app has just been launched; therefore, there can be a few paid installs during the first week.

In this case, the best practice is to focus on the experience of each paid customer. That is:

  • Don’t use auto emails. Instead, write and send warm, personal emails manually to them. It’s much better if you personalize these emails. Always show support whenever they need help. After a while, you can ask for reviews.
  • Build an account manager team to support paid customers. Each paid customer is assigned with an account manager who handles all of their inquiries about app tutorials and sales performance. After a while, you can ask for reviews.
  • For paid customers, showing dedicated support via emails is crucial. Your goal should be to get reviews along the way.
  • Asking for reviews in the onboarding process or during the free trial period is ideal because, in those cases, the first impression still carries significant influence.

The first three days after customers install your app

For this tactic, you should also apply different approaches for free apps and paid apps to maximize the results.

Free apps

On average, a Shopify merchant installs 4 apps for their store. If you don’t connect with them soon enough, you’ll lose them quickly. The first 3 days after they install your app are an ideal option to run a review request email campaign.

Hopefully, your merchants have performed some actions by now - but perhaps you can give them details on how they can optimize those actions as well as the next steps. If the first email works, you may want to send the following email that contains:

  • Suggested activities merchants can take within your app.
  • Any reports or benchmarks, for example, should the app have driven more traffic by now? Improve search rankings? Do you have any performance data you can share?
  • Links to any documents, blog posts, or FAQ links.
  • A reminder that support is available and how best to get in contact with you or your support team.
  • Touch the merchants’ hearts by saying like “Could you please give us some reviews? Your review will motivate our team to add more helpful features and keep this app free forever for you.”

This tactic works like a charm. You can apply it to ask for reviews for any apps.

Paid apps

Regarding paid customers, a smart way to ask for reviews is when they hit milestones, which we explained earlier.

Alternatively, you can give paid customers some X days to make sure they have enough time to try your app. You can follow up on the customers who haven’t opened review request emails, so you don’t lose the connection with them.

By looping back in with your merchants a few days after install, you can hopefully help keep them hooked.

Smart Tip 3: Customer Service Strategies

Customer service is as important as apps. Merchants aren’t looking for robust apps but also customer support around apps. Even when your app just gets a few installs, but if you can provide a level of customer support experience that no big apps can, you still have a significant advantage. A few of those customers who installed your app could give you valuable reviews that boost your installs in a way that you never know.

Supporting merchants is a great way to ask for a review. Here are a couple of comments we’ve had recently:

“Thanks for the awesome support, five stars!”

“Fantastic! All of my problems were solved when I talked to your team. This support is really amazing!”

These testimonials help us build trust in the minds of potential merchants. The more reviews you collect, the more trustworthy your app appears, and the more confident a merchant will feel about buying your app.

It’s almost inevitable that problems will arise once your app is released to the public. Expect merchants to flock to you with queries about bugs, technical capabilities, and functionality issues. Be prepared to answer these questions promptly, and invest in creating solutions for any serious problems. This continuous support will keep your customers happy and show them you are invested in their success.

The value of customer service goes well beyond the direct interaction, though. When a customer has a positive experience with a product, they’re more likely to share that experience with their peers. And when others hear about these positive experiences, they’re more likely to seek more information about the source. This sharing of positive customer experiences between peers is called brand advocacy, and it has the potential to exponentially amplify your promotional efforts.

At Beeketing, we supported more than 10 apps in the Shopify App Store. Having multiple apps that serve several different merchant types, we’ve come to understand how providing quality customer service is crucial to growing an app startup. Here are a few tactics we’ve used to improve our support process:

Help customers find solutions on their own

Wherever possible, we reduce the need for merchants to contact us for support. Although we always provide the best support if needed, the fact they have to contact us could mean something has gone wrong, and our apps aren’t as easy-to-use and clear as we desired.

You can use the checklist below to ensure you give your merchants as much information as possible so they can help themselves:

  • Create the Help Center. No one likes building it, but an effective support knowledge base is the best way to avoid unnecessary or repetitive requests. Depending on the complexity of your app, it could be an FAQ page, or a full, multi-page manual. Make sure your docs are predominantly linked to inside your app so that your customers can find them easily.
  • Tell merchants how to easily reach you. When all else fails, having your email address or support URL clearly linked within your app could make a difference between a slightly annoying email, and a poor review. Make it clear how merchants can contact you for help.
  • Make use of tooltips. If you’re getting frequent inquiries about a single issue, consider showing an explanation for it in the form of a tooltip.
  • Have installation instructions inside your app. As soon as your app is opened, show clear, step-by-step instructions - called onboarding.
  • Provide a way to get back to the instructions. In their excitement to use your app for the first time, merchants might end up skipping past your instructions. Always provide a way to review them so that merchants don’t need to contact you for help.

Develop a customer service philosophy

To maintain a more organized support structure, we’ve created a customer service philosophy. It reflects how we approach supporting our customers.

Here are some principles in our customer service philosophy.

  • Customers aren’t 100%, but 99% right. Keeping that in mind helps us understand our merchants’ perspectives and treat them the way we want to be treated.
  • Always prioritize customers. Use proper language, show patience, and never be too casual with customers.
  • Customer support screw-ups aren’t outcomes; they’re opportunities. Listen to what they want to say, show a deep understanding of their feelings, apologize when the right time comes, resolve the issue quickly, and discover why the mistake occurred to draw the lessons.
  • Go beyond expectations. Never promise more than we can do, but bring 120% more benefits to customers than expected.
  • If our merchants win, our business wins.

To smoothen our customer service process, we also use a helpdesk platform. We’ve been using Freshdesk and Olark for our support inquiries. There is a whole load of support solutions out there. Finding one that fits your workflow and budget can be one of the most worthwhile investments you make in your support process.

Craft the best support experience

We’ve spent a while trying to figure out how to provide our merchants with the best support process possible. We’re not perfect, but we like to think we’re always improving.

Here are some things we’ve learned about actually responding to support request that may help you:

  • Be friendly. Shopify is a pretty friendly platform, and we really like how approachable and readable their docs and support are. We’ve had the best responses when we try to emulate this as much as possible—by focusing on being approachable and pragmatic, and avoiding sounding too corporate or technical.
  • Be proactive in dealing with issues and contacting merchants. Occasionally, we mess up or discover a bug that’s been affecting our merchants. It’s a good idea to figure out who it has impacted and to get in touch, even if it's a brief email explaining that they may have seen some issues and that everything is resolved. If they notice, it puts their mind at rest and avoids a support inquiry—if not, you at least look accountable and honest.
  • Use media when things get complicated. When asking a merchant to do something more complex, consider illustrating what you mean with a screenshot or short video. Simple illustrations avoid a lot of confusion and can prevent a lot of back-and-forths.
  • Take advantage of the resources provided by Shopify. Link to the Shopify docs rather than explaining core Shopify features. Use collaborator accounts to quickly request access to someone’s store.

Reward the customer service team

We get happy merchants through happy employees. That’s why we’ve established some policies to reward our customer service team based on their support quality and positive reviews/feedback they get from merchants.

You don’t need to use money to improve employee satisfaction. Sometimes, relaxed hours, a dynamic break room, or a free lunch with the boss can make a complete difference. So remember, one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to rewards and recognition. Your staff will recognize your appreciation as genuine if you take the time to offer praise that appeals to their personalities.

If you think your job is done once your app is in the App Store, think again. The most successful app developers are those who are continuously involved with their product and customers well after the initial launch.

Smart Tip 4: Think Out of the Box

If you’re still struggling with increasing app reviews, here are some creative ways you can try:

  • In-app experience:
  • We might have to shut down the free version due to a lack of resources. But a nice review from you can keep it alive and free forever.
  • Offer holiday themes, give them for free, and then ask for reviews.
  • Follow up emails:
  • We're raising funds from investors, and our KPI is 2000 good reviews. We're only XX reviews away. Can you help?
  • I'm running for star member of the month, can you help?
  • Customer service:
  • Show a review request right after a live chat.
  • Ask for reviews right after supporting customers.
  • Send an auto follow-up email after X days of closing tickets.

The key to these tactics is to try to bring about situations where you can start a conversation with your merchants. As long as the merchants find that your purpose of asking for a review makes sense, they’ll likely do it. You can be as creative as you like with your review request strategy. Just make sure to make good on it!

3. Suggestions for Beginner App Developers

It’s hard for a beginner app developer to get reviews and installs for their first app while they don’t still have a customer base. That’s not to mention that they have a lot of competitors on the Shopify App Store. We were there when we launched our first app. It’s harder than we ever imagined.

Running ads to boost installs is expensive because your app has no reputation on the market. The most practical way is to focus on increasing reviews for your app to establish credibility and trust with potential merchants.

However, that’s the chicken-and-egg problem. Installs and reviews: which come first? You need installs to get merchants so you can ask for reviews. But you also need positive reviews to boost installs.

So, what are the solutions?

From our experience, here are 3 best practices that we used to promote reviews for our apps:

  • Develop a free app. Giving merchants a useful app for free is an excellent way to attract merchants. You can even create a set of free apps and use them to draw merchants’ attention. After a while, ask for reviews from all merchants you get.
  • Create touchpoints with customers to boost reviews in a short time, for example, the power user feature.
  • Optimize keywords for app listing to draw traffic from the search engines.

When we first entered the Shopify market, of course we had no customers. We browsed the entire Shopify forum to understand the pain points of merchants, what were under-served and how we could better-serve that. Creating ourselves a chance to talk directly to customers, we ran a campaign called “UX review” where we would review the UI & UX of a store and give recommendations. We built up our customer base by “doing things that didn’t scale” for 2 months. By talking to customers, we found out what to build next (as I already showed you in part 1) - at that time we just had our first app - Better Coupon Box, and how to actively create touchpoints with them. Lucky for us, it was the beginning of the holiday season, so we created holiday themes for the coupon pop ups and gave them for free. A lot of our customers loved those themes which brought the holiday spirit to their stores, so they sent us many good reviews to say thanks. And Better Coupon Box was our first #1 app, after 4 months since we joined the app store. It gave us a great boost to grow our customer base, and that’s how our next apps scaled so fast, as we already had a large number of merchants to promote to whenever we released new apps.

4. Quick Tips and Recap

  • Mapping out a customer journey is important to understand how potential merchants will approach your app. Having it also helps you develop effective strategies to request reviews and boost app installs.
  • Identify touchpoints where you can “touch” the hearts and minds of your merchants. Try to create an emotional connection with them right the moment they come across your app.
  • In-app marketing is critical to engage and retain merchants you’ve worked so hard to acquire. Your goal should be to trigger prompts while a merchant is enjoying your app. In-app prompts can be messages, notifications, or popups.
  • Email marketing is useful for collecting reviews. But make sure you know the right time to send emails to your merchants. Too late or too early can backfire.
  • Even when you build an awesome app, if your customer service is terrible, no merchants want to stay with you, to say nothing of giving you positive reviews. So, pay enough attention to your support team because it’ll pay off.
  • There are a lot of unconventional ways to get reviews from merchants. Always be creative.

Part 4: App Listing Optimization

Always remember to a/b test & optimize your app listing —Beeketing

The listing page of an app is the heart of its presence on the Shopify App Store. It’s also your opportunity to brand your app to make it stand out from other competitors. The app listing page is the make or break moment with merchants—it’s where they’ll go to find the information they need to make the decision about whether to install your app to their store. It’s the primary source of information for both the app store search engine and the recommendation algorithm. It’s where you should spend time and resources creating something great.

Every part of your app listing page is an opportunity to share your brand, build trust with merchants, and communicate with potential customers. Every one of these opportunities should be used to convince your target merchants that your app is the best solution for their needs. Below, we look at tactics to analyze the data from your listing page and how to optimize the app listing page to maximum effect.

1. Track and Analyze Data

The Shopify App Store search engine is designed to show the most relevant apps to merchants. We found that keywords are used to determine that relevance—meaning you need to understand which keywords are suitable for your app and then add them to your app listing page.

Keywords are words or short phrases that merchants can use when searching the app store for a solution to a specific problem. For example, if a merchant wants to reduce abandoned carts, they’ll likely search for one of the following phrases:

  • Abandoned
  • Abandoned carts
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Abandoned checkout
  • Abandonment protector
  • Cart recovery
  • Recover cart

Spend some time brainstorming which keywords are potential. A tool like Google Analytics will help you in this brainstorming process.

2. Practices to Optimize Shopify App Listing

Some components that can affect your app listing optimization are key benefits, app descriptions, and keywords. Let’s take a look at these components.

Key benefits

The key benefits section is where you tell merchants about your value propositions.

Your value propositions are the values that you want your app to deliver to merchants. They’re your promise that can’t be broken. They highlight the benefits of your app and explain why it’s different from your competitors.

Your value propositions should be clearly delivered and kept relevant to your customers. A strong value proposition includes, at a minimum:

  • One sentence explaining the end benefit to merchants in one sentence (also headline).
  • Two or three sentences explaining how your app creates that benefit.

The value propositions that you showcase in the core benefits section of your app listing page will also guide you through crafting your detailed description. Think of your value propositions as the core messages that you’ll want to keep coming back to in all of your marketing communications.

Detailed descriptions

The purpose of having a compelling title and icon is to get merchants to click to access your app listing page. Once they have clicked, however, it’s time for app description to do the heavy lifting.

The detailed description section of your app listing page is where you can really make your app shine. It gives you space to express your value propositions, explain your key features in detail, and show how your app solves a particular merchant problem.

Besides, the description is another place from where the search and recommendation algorithms draw information. Therefore, you want to ensure that all the information here is clear, concise, and relevant.

  • Follow the principles of on-page SEO to help surface your app in relevant searches.
  • Produce a short but informative copy. Deliver the most important information merchants need to know quickly.
  • Use clear and straightforward language. Don’t say “utilize” when you can just say “use”, for example.
  • Edit, leave for a day or two, and then edit again. Ask someone to check it for you as well. Typos and bad spelling will be considered unprofessional and can threaten your credibility with merchants.

You can take a look at your competitors in the Shopify App Store to compare value propositions and analyze their messaging. Ensure your message is up to date and relevant from a competitive perspective.

A detailed description is an opportunity for you to win merchants over. Let the benefits of your app shine through with clear, concise, and professional writing.

Keywords

Merchants will search for very specific problems, and you want your keywords to speak directly to those problems. Here are some tactics to use keywords effectively in your app listing.

  • Try to have keywords in the URL of your app. You can do that by inserting keywords in the name of the app when submitting to Shopify. Remember that your app name will be the first thing that potential merchants see in the Shopify App Store.
  • If your app doesn’t have a keyword in its original name, rename the app to insert the keyword.
  • Insert keywords in the headlines, tagline, alt tags of images, and app description.
  • Choose a category that is relevant to keywords. For example, when we added our Boost Convert app to the Countdown timer subcategory, the ranking of the app on the keyword “countdown timer” was improved.
  • Choose the subcategory that appears on the App Store homepage.
  • Use variations of your keyword, for example, abandoned cart and cart abandonment. Don’t worry about singular versus plural. The search engine accounts for that automatically.
  • Do research on the app listing page of your competitors. Then, add keywords that are relevant to those of your competitors to your app listing.
  • Don’t stuff your keywords. Using too many keywords can hinder your success. It’s best to keep it laser-focused.
  • Never incentivize merchants to write fake reviews. If fake reviews are discovered, you’ll be published strictly by Shopify.

Test and optimize your app listing frequently to ensure you’re targeting the best keywords for your product.

3. Quick Tips and Recap

  • Using the right keywords helps increase your app’s visibility when a merchant uses a relevant phrase to search for an app in the Shopify App Store.
  • You can use Google Analytics to track and analyze data to create a set of relevant keywords for your app listing.
  • App listing optimizations involve using keywords appropriately and writing a powerful app description.
  • When writing an app description, focus on the benefits that merchants will get if they use your app.

Conclusion

Congratulations on making it this far! Now you have a wealth of information and tools to get your app ranked higher on the Shopify App Store. But the journey doesn’t stop there! I imagine that many of you are reading this because you have big ideas, big dreams, and big goals that you’re trying to make come true. It’s not about building a startup and being known. It’s about helping merchants succeed with their entrepreneurial dream.

Idea, test, analyze, and repeat is your new mantra. The framework is simple—the hard part is figuring out what to test and how to analyze it. You need to test many different tactics that bring you positive reviews and installs. Then, based on those tests, you find out which tactic yields the best results and keep investing in the ones that do. Or, if none of them are working, you need to pivot—go back, set a new hypothesis, and start the process over again.

The recipe to increase your app ranking is also a combination of a great product, extensive data, strategic marketing, and best customer experience. Focus on these factors, and your app will soon climb to the top of the Shopify App Store.

At Beeketing, we always honor failures because they make us more excited to work on new ideas. We never stop being innovative because if we do that, we’re the one who dies, not our competitors. Just because you’re not on a rocket ship doesn’t mean you’re not growing. So, don’t be afraid to fail because success isn’t a race; it’s a marathon. The more failures you have, the more resilient you are.

Don’t play the short game; play the long game. Period!

About the Author

I am Alice Ha - Co-founder and CMO at Beeketing. I was the one behind the growth-hacking success of Beeketing and have gained more than 10 years of experience in eCommerce. I thrive on helping online merchants build a successful cross-border business and achieve their entrepreneurial dream.

As a digital marketer and analytics junkie who is addicted to data-driven methods and marketing automation, I have a great passion for marketing, startups, and growth hacking. Contact me at [email protected]

Oopssss, did I tell you that…

Beeketing stopped our partnership with Shopify from August 2019. We're focusing on building an open commerce ecosystem - starting with ShopBase – the first eCommerce platform for White Label, DropShipping and Print On Demand.

I would like to invite you to join our partner program. Let’s join hands together to build an open commerce ecosystem! We don't take any commission or shared revenue from your profit. All you earn is 100% yours.

We look forward to having you in the community! Thank you.

Phuong Anh Ha (Alice)