January 30, 2013, 3:02 PM

A Yelp for app developers

A new analytics tool quickly tells e-retailers what consumers think of their apps.

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It can be daunting and time-consuming for e-retailers to keep tabs on how their mobile apps resonate with consumers and measure up against the competition. In many cases retailers must visit app stores such as Google Play and the Apple App Store and read consumer ratings and reviews for both their own apps and those of their competitors to get a good snapshot.

Now a new mobile app analytics tool aims to give brands and businesses that snapshot more quickly. App testing service uTest today unveiled Applause, a free mobile app analytics product that analyzes more than 50 million app reviews for one million iOS apps and Android apps designed for Apple Inc. smartphones and phones using Google Inc.’s Android mobile operating system.

The Applause technology crawls consumers’ reviews and ratings to look at keywords and consumer sentiment to grade apps from 1 to 10 in the following areas:

  • Content—relevance of an app’s content across locations and cultures.
  • Elegance—how attractive, cool or slick an app’s design is.
  • Interoperability—how well an app integrates with other services or hardware.
  • Performance—how fast and responsive an app is in standard usage.
  • Pricing—how an app’s perceived value compares with its cost.
  • Privacy—comfort with an app’s terms of service and handling of privacy.
  • Satisfaction—how well an app satisfies users’ core expectations.
  • Security—perceived risk to logins, passwords or other sensitive information.
  • Stability—how often the app crashes or freezes.
  • Usability—ease of navigation and discoverability among an app’s features.

The total tally of the scores for those areas creates the app’s Applause Score, which can range from 0 to 100. If there is not enough ratings and reviews pertaining to a specific area, Applause will not assign a score.

Brands, including e-retailers, can use the Applause score to consolidate all their app store ratings and reviews and quickly get a general feel for what consumers think of their apps, uTest says. They can also look at the specific scores in each of the 10 areas to analyze user feedback about features, performance and usability and better understand what consumers like about their apps and what can be improved. The tool also aims to help app developers compare their apps against competitors to see how they stack up, uTest says.

For example, the average score for of Walmart.com’s Android app (all versions) is 59 out of 100.  The retailer scores high in usability and lower in privacy. The average score for all iterations of Walmart.com’s Apple app, meanwhile, is 56, with similar strengths and weaknesses.

Brands can see one score for all versions of their app or break scores down for each. For example, Walmart.com competitor Target.com scores a 67 Applause score for its Apple app, helped by higher scores for recent versions of the app. For example, the newest iteration of the app garners an Applause score of 73, and the version before that a 78.

Applause says it will eventually include several pricing plans for those brands that want more features and functions but it plans to always offer a free version of the program.

“This type of actionable, explicit app analytics fills an enormous blind spot for brands,” says Yvonne Genovese, managing vice president at research and advisory firm Gartner Inc. “Until now, companies merely knew how many stars their app had received, occasionally read reviews, or looked at implicit analytics to infer how users felt about their apps. Now, brands can see results of deep data analysis and make informed decisions about where to best direct resources so apps perform as intended, delight their users and, in the process, maintain an edge on the competition.”

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is No. 6 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 400. Target is No. 34.

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