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Mobile Marketing

How to Rock your Global Mobile App Business with Localization

Katerina Zolotareva  //  September 12, 2017  //  6 min read

According to GSMA Intelligence, there are already more than 4.8 billion unique mobile users worldwide, and over a half of those are located in Asia and Pacific regions. This is a huge number of users, and chances are that the majority of them do not speak your language.

In fact, only about 15% of all the people speak English as a first or second language. App installs hit the record of 25 billion worldwide in Q1 2017, but where do these downloads come from?

Localization has become a vital strategy for any mobile app or game business with the goal to get an access to these outstanding numbers of new customers. You never know where the demand for your product might come from – and without localizing your product there is no proper way to find that out. If you want your app to succeed, localization will become the vital strategy for your business.

The mobile economy 2017

Source: GSMA – The Mobile Economy 2017

Without doubt, localization adds an endless value for mobile businesses, and if you are reading this, you are probably already doing it or considering it.

How can mobile apps benefit from localization?

1. Extend your customer base

Nowadays, in a global mobile app economy, having an access to a constantly growing customer base is vital for any business. And a key to the international growth is providing a product that is properly translated and localized.

Localized products can lower cultural barriers, educate new users about your app, and evoke the interest in the potential customers. Properly localized apps fit local market conditions and may serve a specific need.

In case you don’t have resources available to localize all the content of your app (which can be costly), it definitely makes sense to localize listing elements: texts, such as app name, description, etc., and graphic elements (for example, provide localized screenshots and videos).

Expand your customer base

2. Enter new markets faster

Localized app store listing (product page) and a strong ASO strategy opens the doors for your app to access the foreign markets. It provides the fast entrance and the ability to make a quick check of this market and see if there really is a demand for this kind of app or game.

Current localization services and companies provide their translation services really fast —within a few hours, or up to 24 hours, you can already have a ready translation whenever you have a desire and budget to try out your product in a new country.

3. Improve user engagement and satisfaction

It goes without saying that a localized app (not only the product page, but also content, notifications, etc.) will demonstrate higher percentage of engaged users. It is true that English is one of the world’s main languages, however the customers will always be more likely engage with an app in their own language.

4. Diversify your customers profiles

Happy customers will likely spread the word about your app—any product has a higher chance to go viral if it is localized. By localizing an app, you can create a great competitive advantage by diversifying your clients and getting a bigger market share.

What are the best markets to localize for?

When talking about localization, we should keep in mind that there can be several spoken languages with a certain country or region (like in Belgium, Switzerland, or China). So instead of a country or language there is a combination of both, that is called a locale. For example: en-US or en-UK would have their differences as of wording, displaying dates, etc.

What markets are the best ones to target? There is no single answer.

You need to do thorough research to evaluate the possible pros and cons of expanding your audience in a certain locale. Maybe it will not make a commercial sense for you to invest in localization for some very competitive market.

Mobile world is still dominated by English speaking audience, however in terms of revenue or downloads there are several markets to keep an eye on:

Top countries by downloads and revenue

Source: App Annie

Besides the giants of the mobile world: United States, Japan and South Korea, we can already see the new prospect superpowers: Brazil, China, India, and Mexico.

The best way to check and analyze if the market is worthy for your business, is to first localize the app store listing (product page) and see if the customers from new locales who install your app are meeting your expectations. Master your ASO and if you see a great potential for your business, invest in localizing full content.

Average minutes per day in apps Android

Source: App Annie

Don’t ignore app localization and start preparing your content for it on an early stage of development so that later it will cost you less to localize it for new languages!

How to prepare an app or game for localization

The localization process consists of three key activities:

1. Internationalization (or making an app language-independent)

Internationalization is the initial preparation of the app and making it localization-ready. Once done, it allows to estimate the time and effort needed for a translation and localization to any language, and make strategic decisions about worthiness of localizing for different locales in terms of ROI.

In the process of internationalization, all user-facing text and graphic content need to be separated and stored in strings and separate files ready for translation and localization. Separate functions are built to retrieve the format of dates and numbers and display them for different locales. The developers have to do this process only once, and the earlier the better as it’s more cost-effective.

2. Localization of the content

This step directly implies translating and adapting text and graphic content for a certain language. All the small details matter here: colors, forms, dates or plural forms, and so on. Don’t trust the blind automatic translation—put in the work!

Poor translation example

The translation and proofreading always needs to be done by native speakers of the target language. To the end user, an app that is localized to their language should feel as natural as if it was developed in their native language.

Small grammatical and punctuation errors that are invisible to you can be a pain for a native speaker, and this will soon mirror in your app reviews. To avoid these complaints, work with human translators and always proofread your texts.

A few points to keep in mind:

  • Your app name is well-adapted to the target language and doesn’t transmit a different meaning.
  • You are using the correct numeral systems and formats (1.000 vs 1,000), and applying the correct list ordering rules.
  • Type and format of punctuation are appropriate (e.g. spacing).
  • Symbol meanings and calendar systems are respected or adapted.

Bonus: Find a list of top tools and services for app localization here.

3. Implementing on the app stores

Both App Store and Google Play provide anything needed to facilitate developers to build language-independent apps and localize them. Both stores include:

  • Built-in internationalization: The locales are chosen by end users and applied automatically by the platform.
  • Quick export: Developers can easily extract their text strings and store them in separate files.
  • Auto-layout: Screen layout is automatically changing to adapt to different text length in localizations.
  • Auto-formatting of numbers, dates or plurals, according to user locale.

Read more about how to localize an app or game for Apple App Store or Google Play.

App localization checklist and final thoughts

Localization is one of the best measure you can take to open your product to the broad public and get access to new audiences around the world.

To sum things up, here is a short checklist for app localization:

  • Study the market and be sure to provide positive experience for all users (customers). Research what users on different markets value from similar products, what price are they ready to pay, and what tactics are your competitors using.
  • Take a look at the devices and/or stores that are dominant in your target country or region. (for example, in China the usual App Store and Google Play are hardly even present).
  • Make sure your UI can handle foreign characters and support RTL languages and vertical scripts. Ensure your app accepts user-generated text in any language and in multiple languages at once, independent of the language of the user interface.
  • Don’t ignore checking the images with a localization expert. Just like poorly translated text, the irrelevant images can fail to convey the right message to the users.
  • Make sure you are not only translating, but also adapting to the target locale in a cultural way, provide local sharing options, messaging or support to earn the new users’ trust.
  • Don’t forget App Store Optimization (ASO) and make sure you make a profound keyword research for your target language. You will also need to build a solid marketing strategy and create promotional materials in the target language.
  • Test localized version on all devices, platforms and mobile browsers to ensure consistency and absence of mistakes.
  • Act fast! The earlier you localize your app, the better and more cost-effective it will be.

Have you already localized your product? What were the main challenges you’ve come across during in the process? Tell us in the comments!

About Katerina Zolotareva

Katerina Zolotareva is Marketing and Customer Success Manager at TheTool, a powerful and easy-to-use platform that helps developers with ASO in over 90 countries. Katerina writes about App Store Optimization and mobile growth, and gives actionable tips to improve app marketing strategy.
View all posts by Katerina Zolotareva >

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