Localization is one of the most important post app development step for app publishers who want to launch their app in different countries. How much are you ready to invest in localization? How local do you want to get? The answers to these questions are subjective and thus the answers are different for different app publishers. Are app localization attempts always successful? If done well, most of the times, yes. It opens up new markets. Let’s look at two cases where the app publishers were able to reach out to the users of a completely new country successfully. Evernote and Pacer both these apps have had inspiring journeys. Evernote got through the great wall of China and Pacer endeared itself to fitness loving Russians. Let’s find out more.
Evernote in China:
The journey of Evernote in China is inspiring. China is huge but unique. It has been a dream of many app publishers to be successful in China. Let’s now look at the strategies Evernote – the popular note taking app used to crack the Chinese market.
#Change of Name
Evernote became Yinxiang Biji. Yinxiang Biji means a memory note in Chinese. The name was changed to ensure it was easy to speak- easy to roll off the local Chinese tongue and it was based on Evernote’s actual function.
#A Data Center in China
To provide better customer service and faster synchronization Evernote established its first overseas data center in China. The new data center made the response time very short.
#New features in Yinxiang Biji
All of Evernote’s features were made available to Chinese users. Access to 3G is expensive in China and most Chinese use WiFi to use Evernote. Yinxiang Biji therefore includes a “sync only with WiFi” feature for users in China.
#Integration with International and Local Apps
Yinxiang Biji integrates with popular international apps like Pocket and IFTTT. To be local, it integrates effortlessly with apps such as Weibo, WeChat and Duogo etc.
#Realtime Customer Support on Messaging Apps
Chinese rely heavily on messaging apps. While international users may not always get a quick response from Evernote on Twitter or facebook, in China, users of Yinxiang Biji get prompt replies when they communicate with Yinxiang Biji’s official accounts on WeChat and Weibo.
#Right Local Online Payment Partner
Alipay is a popular third party online payment solution. Evernote found the right partner in Alipay. It helped it in getting into the Chinese online financial and marketing system smoothly. Yinxiang Biji’s users found the familiar processes convenient too and they adapted faster.
Through Yinxiang Biji, Evernote succeeded in getting more than 4 million users in a year. The success of Evernote in China has many lessons for app publishers who want to take their apps to global audience. But Evernote is a big budgeted affair, let’s look at how small and indie publishers get into new and different markets by studying the case of a fitness app called Pacer.
Pacer in Russia
Pacer is a pedometer plus Weight Loss and BMI Tracker app. It tracks your activity and counts your steps all day whether you keep your phone in your hand or in your pocket or purse. Russia seemed a good market to the publishers of Pacer, Pacer Works. Pacer Works wanted to break into Russia. Their research and marketing team sat down to test the feasibility of launching Pacer in Russia.
#Positive Market Report
Pacer in its initial research found that Russia ranked at no. 6 in the “Top 10 countries for Health & Fitness Category” in Google Play. Russia was averaging 3.57% of global daily downloads of Health & fitness apps on average. It was a foreign territory and Russians were interested in Health & Fitness apps. Russians were using Pacer in its English version and the daily download was 1.31%.
#Testing the Russian Market
The makers of Pacer felt that the Russian market had potential. Pacer was in its start-up phase. It wanted to test the market. It hired a language student to do the translation of a few important phrases and words as it did not want to invest a lot in the translation. It had a tight budget. After the basic translation Pacer’s number of downloads increased from 1.31% to 2.51%.
#Acting on Feedback
More Russians downloaded the app and more importantly they started reacting to the poor translation job. The translation apparently was not of quality. The team at Pacer had no way of judging the quality. There were complaints and poor reviews which prompted the publishers of Pacer to hire professional translation service.
#Professional Translators at Work
Soon professional translators started working on Pacer. Translators first translated the app’s name and description at the Google App Store using relevant key words. Then the work started on the assets of the app and every word and phrase was professionally translated into quality Russian.
#Good Translation – A Rewarding Strategy
After two weeks the numbers started showing up. The Russian share of daily downloads from the app store increased from 2.62% to 17.49%. Average rating improved from 4.03 to 4.34. Rank of Pacer app in the Health and Fitness category which was at #102 earlier climbed upto #7.
Pacer used the power of translation effectively to reach its users in foreign lands. It is a great lesson for small app publishers who want to localize their apps in different countries. Test the market and if you sense the potential, invest in quality translation.
We saw how these two very different apps approached localization. We now have quite a few pointers. When you want to localize your app you need to keep a few things in mind.
#1 Check the potential of the market
If you are an Arcade game developer from US and you want to expand into other markets, you will have to study app store reports to zero down on the countries which have a user base for Arcade games. You would need to find out if the infrastructure and the internet connectivity available there supports your game app. Proceed if you find suitable connectivity and encouraging numbers of Arcade game lovers. See if you can adapt to user habits.
#2 Localize your App resources
Everything that is not code is considered a resource. Content, images, videos are all resources. To localise your app, put your resources into external files. Create new version of resource (translate content, improvise layouts, and add context to images) files and use them into your code everytime you have to localize for a new region. For Android app you can read the method of localization here. For iOS app the process of localization is documented here.
You can localise your brand name. Remember Yinxiang Biji ? Evernote succeeded with a new brand name. You can too. And yes while going local in store listings don’t forget to localize App Descriptions, App Screenshots in phones and tablets and promotional videos.
#3 Add local Context
Localization is more than translation. Context is important. Study the culture of the region you want to localize your app in. When Fruit Ninja was launched in China, app publishers put local fruits like starfruit and peaches in the Chinese version. The wooden textured background was replaced with a coloured oriental background with Chinese dragons.
#4 Introduce New Features
It is important to understand the app using habits of users in different countries. You might need to add new features or tweak them to suit the requirements of the new users in new countries and you need to be open to that. To be popular in Japan, China or Korea you would need to integrate your app into the popular messaging apps that the users locally use, else you could be invisible. And yes, Evernote added WiFi syncing feature in China. It was needed.
#5 Choose Right Partners
You would need local support. It could be for app publicity, for online payment that enables in-app purchases or for finding suitable app stores (Yes, there are more than 300 app stores in China), do your research and find right bankable local partners. And yes, don’t forget to include quality translators in your team. They are invaluable.
These few facets of localization we discussed are important and can definitely help you. ASO expert Steve P. Young from Appmasters claims that his clients see upto 10X increase in downloads post localization.
Localization often is more than the translation of your apps in a different language. You need to pay attention to quality and subtle regional and cultural nuances too. Localization helps you expand your market. A good localization strategy will make your global footprints bigger and your revenue will grow too. So do not be hesitant of entering new markets. Have a sure and steady strategy. Internationalization and then localization of apps is now considered an organic growth path for an app. Test, experiment and enter new markets in stages if you will, but do not hold back. For all you know, your app might just endear itself to new sets of users in foreign lands and you may hit jackpot in new territories. So go ahead, take a chance. May the force be with you.