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Finance apps dominate Play Store and App Store – but have surprisingly low ratings

  • Consumers across app categories are increasingly looking at store reviews and ratings to decide which apps to use.
  • Finance is one of the fastest growing categories across Apple and Google stores, though lacking dominant players as in other categories.

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Finance apps dominate Play Store and App Store – but have surprisingly low ratings

The first couple of pandemic years of the 2020s may be defined by the boom in mobile application usage and spending. In the increasingly competitive mobile app market, store ratings and user reviews are critical to an application’s success. A recent study by AppFollow found that 77% of people read at least one review before downloading an application, and 100% of users that find applications while browsing an app store see app ratings.

2020 saw 218 billion app downloads, rising significantly from 140 billion downloads in 2016, according to Statista. Revenues earned from the two big app stores also rose significantly, with mobile spending swelling to $112 billion in 2020, from around $85 million in 2019. And in the first half of 2021 alone, around $65 billion was spent on apps. 

How do people decide what apps to invest their time, money, and screen space in?

“2020, and 2021 so far, have been defining years for many apps and categories in the app stores,” said Anatoly Sharifulin, founder and CEO of AppFollow, a SaaS platform for application management. “Now more than ever, consumers are looking to friends and families for recommendations on what brands and services to use. With this comes the increased importance of reviews, and the future of apps is limitless if brands can understand the needs and wants of consumers,” he said.

The report, ‘Reputation Management for Mobile Apps’, studied applications’ online reputation across categories and the two stores, Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store. The report studied how much time and effort applications put into their reputation management, ratings and reviews, and how effective their efforts have been. 

The study found that finance is a highly competitive category across the two stores. The field is still largely unclaimed by dominant players. With the fintech boom led by neobanks, traditional banks expanding with digital services, amateur trading and fund management applications, the number of customers looking to tap into the rising trend is increasing. The players in the space still do not have the defining market share that players in other categories do, like Facebook or TikTok in the social category, or Spotify and Audible in the Music & Audio category.

AppFollow found that in the top 50 applications in the US category on the Google Play Store, the finance category dominated with 38 apps making the list. Within the finance category, the study found there was a lot of competition for visibility, which might explain why finance applications have a relatively higher response rate on average, at 25%. Replying to a customer’s review might motivate them to change their ranking, which is a key factor in how apps are ranked on stores. 


Finance applications were also found to be very effective and timely in responding to reviews, taking just 0.8 days on average. The competition in the category drives players to be highly involved with their customer experience, making sure they are satisfied.

However, the study also found that finance applications on the Play Store, on average, had  ‘surprisingly low’ ratings by stars on average when compared to some of the other leading applications genres, like Social and Music & Audio. Total ratings of finance applications by stars on average stood at 457,344, far lower in comparison to the 2,596,071 for Social applications and 2,315,862 for Music & Audio apps. 

The reasons for fewer reviews are threefold. Firstly, the market reach for finance apps, 25.75%,  is much lower than those categorized as social (95.02%) and Music and Audio (88.38%), according to Statista. Secondly, the fintech boom is still relatively quite recent, and unlike the other categories, still does not have defined leaders. And lastly, users of other categories tend to explore them, trying different applications and leaving reviews for them. In the finance category, users tend to hone in on and use a single application for all their needs, primarily their bank’s app. Users just don’t explore the finance category, trying different players before settling on a few.

In Apple’s App Store, finance apps once again dominated the top 50 list. This may be attributed to the fact that, in the US alone, finance applications spent nearly $1 billion in user acquisition. As Apple users, on average, have larger salaries and greater spending power, they became an obvious target for financial apps. The report found that a third of financial applications’ users take their apps’ reputation very seriously. Hence, acquiring customers in the space is about brand reputation, and “not about which brand or company can scream the loudest, so to speak”.

There’s no lifetime guarantee of financial clients in this generation. Instead of marketing through parents to reach their children, newer generations want to learn about offerings themselves. They generally trust online reviews before they look to a family member for help with their decision. It is critical for financial service providers to meaningfully interact with their customers, manage their trust, and build brand reputation. That means that good applications reply timely to customers’ negative feedback, to make existing customers feel heard, and build trust from potential customers. Similarly, with positive feedback, customers should know that the firm cares about their opinion.

The study also found users who leave reviews on the App Store to be more critical than their counterparts on the Play Store, leaving an average rating of 3.4, as opposed to 4.1 on the latter. In addition, only 1 in 10 reviews on the Play Store get a response, as opposed to 2 in 10 on the App Store. 

AppFollow is an app review insights platform, aimed at helping publishers gain key business insights from their user feedback throughout the app lifecycle. Headquartered in Finland, the firm was founded in 2015 and operates remotely with employees spread out across 14 countries.

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