With the holiday season comes people embarking on gift-buying frenzies for their loved ones. Holiday season in 2019 is projected to enjoy retail sales of around $1 trillion in the US, with 48 percent of the total sales attributed to mobile e-commerce. Holiday e-commerce spending in 2019 will rise 13 percent – more than three times the rate of total retail spending growth.

For Shopping brands, it is critical to understand the customer sentiment for their app usage and find ways to improve the overall customer experience, particularly during this peak season. Many brands leverage customer app reviews and feedback across various channels to perform sentiment analysis. But what are the common themes companies in this industry identify in their feedback? Are there certain behaviors or pain points their customers have in common? How does your brand stack up against the competition?

In this blog post, we’ll help you answer those questions and more by diving into results we discovered by analyzing apps in the Shopping space. Our hope is that by understanding key phrases and the sentiment attached to them from last year will help inform your mobile marketing strategy and product roadmap.

Mobile engagement benchmarks for shopping apps

Benchmarking Key Phrases in App Store Reviews

In our recent analysis of the category, we collected and analyzed more than 1.7 million app store reviews for more than 300 iOS and Android apps in the Shopping category. The data consisted of raw text from customer reviews extracted in their native format. Text mining techniques were used to convert textual data into meaningful phrases relevant to the analysis at hand.

We identified key topics and significant phrases at a macro level, based on the frequency of their occurrence in the customer reviews analyzed. Each phrase was then mapped to a three-tier sentiment classification for positive, neutral and negative sentiment directions. With sufficient data, these aggregated measures can act as high-level benchmarks to help a customer gauge the performance of their own app against. For example, topics that have high overall positive sentiment associated with them signify features customers love using in mobile apps. Brands could then invest their efforts in including related features in their app(s) and enhance their UX. On the other hand, phrases with high negative sentiment indicate major areas of improvement and brands could proactively try to address any problems in their own apps before they occur.

App review benchmarks not only help in defining product roadmap for a brand’s app but can also help surface insights on app features and functionality that the entire market’s customer base looks for.

Key Insights from Last Year’s Holiday Season

For the 2018 holiday season, customers shared feedback regarding customer service most frequently, and the overall sentiment for this topic was primarily negative.

Mobile engagement benchmarks for shopping appsBased on sampled reviews for this topic, customers showed unhappiness towards not being able to reach customer service for refunds, order status, account information, order placements, and more. Here are a few examples of reviews reflective of these commonalities:

“(I) will never shop this app again still haven’t received my refund and there is no customer service line or any response to emails!” – Android review, negative sentiment

“(The) biggest problem is the poor customer service your customer service is what is bad. If there are problems, difficult to resolve when it is not the standard problem you present in you automatics attendant. That’s why talking to an American live customer service person is important. But, you no longer provide that” – iOS review, negative sentiment

On further analysis of the “customer service” category, two main trends emerged:

  1. Customers showcased strong negative sentiment for not being able to reach a customer service channel. Brands must not ignore the importance of providing a dedicated customer support platform for their customers. Such a channel is key to high customer satisfaction and increased trust as a result.
  2. Customers overwhelmingly preferred human interaction over chatbots or automated IVR (interactive voice responses) for issue resolution. While chatbots can help augment the support experience to some extent, it must not be the only support platform for business.

Additional common topics and phrases that denoted negative sentiment include logging/ signing in, fixing specific app functions, sections or features in the app that does not work, credit card, ordered items not received, connectivity, Apple Pay, error messages/app crashes, search functionality, and app loading issues.

On analyzing “credit card” and “Apple Pay” for deeper insights, we gathered that:

  • Customers state that they were not able to easily update, add or delete credit card information. They also encountered issues with orders due to credit card validation and were not able to use any payment option other than credit cards.

  • Some iOS customers also experienced ordering issues. They mentioned that they couldn’t edit/ cancel orders when using Apple Pay.

But it wasn’t all negative. A few customers expressed positive sentiment in their comments as well. They mentioned that they had a great experience with Customer Service teams. Going that extra mile to answer customers’ questions creates long-lasting loyalty.

“Great product selection and pricing! S&H a little slow. I love the things that I bought, and the Customer Service great.” – Android review, positive sentiment.

“They do have what I need!! Easy to order, Fast deliveries, Easy returns, Awesome Customer Service. If you have a question about any product they will find the answer. Best place I’ve ever shopped!! Thank you thank you thank you! I’ve been shopping with you since 2016 keep up the Fantastic work!” – iOS review, positive sentiment.

We also found some interesting phrases that denoted positive sentiment including thank you, user friendly, low price, online shopping, highly recommend, quality product, really enjoy, local deals, and fast shipping.

Looking at “highly recommend,” “really enjoy,” and “user friendly” phrases at a granular level, customers shared features that they liked about Shopping apps and suggestions to make improvements. For example, displaying all-inclusive pricing on product pages and making signing into accounts effortless.

“I love the app and the reviews are really helpful, my only issue is it will claim an item is say $1 but then it will have $2 shipping. Normally the item is still a great deal, but be aware when checking out that what your paying for will increase, I hope in future updates the app will tell you the price of the item including shipping. Still this is a great app and I highly recommend using it.” – iOS review, positive sentiment

“I really enjoy this site. Just a few upgrades. Like when you set for 10 within miles of your area it goes back to original. And if they put price right on picture that would be great. Other then that this site is great. With these changes added I wood of given 5 stars.” – iOS review, positive sentiment

“Easy fast fun!!!!! This site is simply The Best!!!! BUT…. I HATE the new format!!!! I can’t figure out how to sign in and when I request an item it gives me items many many miles away. I used to get things ALL the time but now it is TOO difficult. Help would be welcome This is a very user friendly site I Love It!!!” – iOS review, positive sentiment

Key Topics to Watch for This Holiday Season

For the six months (period ranging from April to September 2019) before the holiday season kicks in this year, “thank you” has been the most frequently mentioned phrase. Customers appreciate the features that are easy to use and leads to a trouble-free experience. They also recommended feature requests and areas to fix in the apps.

Mobile engagement benchmarks for shopping apps

“Awesome and thank you for the great prices and products. Love it was not what I was expecting. I will definitely recommend it to everyone else I can get a chance to see that they’re going to love it too” – Android review, positive sentiment

“It would be great if you can show the prices of the items in the feed photos, so we don’t have to click on the post to know the price. Thank you.” – iOS review, negative sentiment

“Customer service” was mentioned fewer times in this time period than in 2018, but was the second most popular phrase in the Shopping category. Customers continued to share a high negative sentiment for logging/ signing in, fixing specific app functions, sections or features in the app that does not work, credit card, apple pay, search functionality, connectivity, error messages/ app crashes, and app loading issues.

There were additional topics this year that denoted negative sentiment regarding latest update released of the app, gift cards, click actions, payment method, shipping cost, zip code and return policy as compared to the last year.

From our analysis, “click actions” referred to the following:

  1. Clicking on certain buttons didn’t result in any action or app flow. Brands should recognize when things are not working at an industry-level, and take actions to fix such broken links promptly or take proactive measures to make sure that these specific issues don’t affect their customers.
  2. Some customers also mentioned they didn’t like clicking on certain buttons in the app and shared suggestions for action items that could be provided as an option. Here, by listening to their customers’ requests, brands ensure that they are keeping their customers influential.

“The screen always freezes and it won’t let me scroll through the feed or click on anything. It’s not my phone either because every other app works fine.” – iOS review, negative sentiment

Some of the interesting phrases that denoted positive sentiment this year included pick up, long time, user friendly, low price, gift card, free shipping, fast shipping, and wide variety.

Customers who have been with specific Shopping Apps for a “long time” were pleased with the helpful customer support teams and ease of use of various functions like processing returns, shipping, and more.

“I have been on the app for a long time now, I have ordered a lot from them and have to say that their stuff is great(make sure you read the full description though). Their support staff is amazing and have never had a problem get a return if something is wrong. Keep up the great work” – iOS review, positive sentiment

To conclude, we observed that due to increased traffic during the peak holiday season, customers seek customer service help relatively more than the combined six month time period before that. We also inferred that for both time periods, some issues related to account logins, payment, connectivity and technical errors are common. For the non-peak time period, customers share additional feedback on app features they would expect to see in the next app updates or functions that they have difficulty using in the Apps.

Why are App Store Reviews Valuable?

App Store reviews are generally skewed towards negative sentiment because customers are more likely to leave a review if they are frustrated or having a bad experience. This is why it is essential to deeply understand the general perception of your app and your brand. Reviews directly impact new app downloads as a majority of new customers trust these when considering downloading an app. Therefore, too many bad reviews and low ratings could deter new customer acquisition and app store visibility. For example, a high number of crashes reported by customers could lead to a reduction in higher ratings and positive reviews, and thereby a reduction in app downloads.

A study conducted by Apptentive shows that mobile apps can positively affect a brand’s reputation. Customers are eight times more likely to download a highly-rated app of an unknown brand than a poorly-rated app of a known brand.

Importance of ratings and reviews

Looking at an overall app store category, benchmark phrases and key topics would help brands understand how they stack up against their competitors. By analyzing the category as a whole, companies can identify if issues are unique to their brand or an industry-wide concern.

When you keep taking a constant pulse of your customer base, you’ll be able to identify areas of opportunity. For example, if your competitors make a mistake, your company could implement a specific fix before any issues occur. If there’s a common industry pain point that your brand excels in, this is a great competitive advantage to highlight.

Diving into key topics and recurring phrases mentioned by customers will help in understanding brand sentiment, discover feature requests/ suggestions, make improvements to the product roadmap and address quickly any technical errors reported by customers. The goal here is to improve customer experience, shift sentiment to positive and higher ratings, and increase a brand’s overall app downloads. It is important that brands resolve issues before customers churn out and delete/ uninstall the app.