Developing an app can be an expensive and time-consuming task, so it’s natural that you’d want to expand into new markets to boost your reach and claw back your investment as soon as possible.
When done correctly, localisation can increase the value and appeal of your app overseas, resulting in a considerable jump in subscribers and revenue.
According to data from Statista, there are now around 2.53 billion global smartphone users, and 1.1 billion of those are largely from countries in the Asia Pacific, where English is not the primary language.
Localising your app allows you to scale up around the world and deliver a service that offers value to users in many territories – not only in English-speaking markets.
However, releasing an app internationally can be a challenge – it’s much more than sending your copy to a translator. Below, we outline exactly what to expect when localising an app…
Choose the right markets
You could launch your app in every country in the world, but that doesn’t mean you should.
If you’re ready to take your app global, spend time identifying the most suitable markets and develop an international marketing strategy to help justify an expansion. Take into account mobile usage, data allowances, payment methods, local competition, and whether there’s a genuine demand for your products and services, or you could be wasting time and money.
If you’re running an e-commerce business with a dedicated mobile app, you’ll also need to develop relationships with shipping and distribution partners to ensure you can scale fast.
Think about cultural differences
Once you’ve determined new markets, analyse your new target audience and the way they use their devices – which may be very different from here in the United Kingdom.
In China, for example, you might decide to develop a WeChat Mini Program rather than localise your app, as Chinese consumers spend the majority of their screen time inside the country’s “app for everything.”
In markets like India, on the other hand, where Apple Pay and Google Pay are yet to launch, monetising your app could prove difficult, especially if you rely on in-app purchases for virtual currency. Switch to card payments or ads as an alternative.
Each country will likely have its own set of challenges – weigh up the pros and cons of each.
Translation is perhaps the most important aspect of localising your app for a new market, but you should be careful not to see it as a cut and paste approach.
Work with a local translator who can focus on the nuances of your app and translate your content from one language to another, taking into account cultural sensitivities and your brand’s style and personality.
Parts of your app may need to be rewritten from the ground up, such as user onboarding, to maximise engagement. Don’t be afraid of making changes, but stay true to the core values of your app and refer back to your mission statement whenever you can.
You only have one chance to make a good first impression and as a new entrant in a foreign market, mistakes could be very expensive – or result in you having to withdraw from the market entirely. Take your time and listen to local experts; they likely know your target market better than you do.
Customise your app
On the subject of making changes to your app, don’t be afraid to customise to increase its appeal in foreign markets. Colour schemes, fonts, logos and even brand names may work well in the West but translate poorly in foreign markets – research and adapt accordingly.
Of course, how far you customise your app depends on your commitment to a new market and the demands of your new target audience, so set some boundaries and don’t try to reinvent the wheel for the sake of it.
Only customise and make changes based on data and research, or you’ll quickly begin building a new app rather than localising your existing app, creating unnecessary expenses.
Focus on metadata
Now that you’ve translated your app and have made aesthetic changes, focus on your metadata and optimise it for local app stores.
Don’t assume that a copy and paste translation job will do your app justice – localising your app could mean rewriting your metadata from scratch to focus on benefits local consumers will enjoy, written in a way that speaks to them.
Remember that you’ll need to adhere to character limits and that short words in English may be much longer in other languages – or might not exist at all! Localise keywords rather than translating them so that native app users can find and engage with your app easily, and don’t forget about localising currencies, symbols, subtitles, and other metadata aspects to further encourage downloads.
Research best practices for each location to maximise engagement.
Test, test, test
Finally, test your localised app before it launches – and continually test and optimise once it’s been released.
The truth is that you’re never going to be 100% confident releasing an app in a language you cannot speak, targeted towards consumers you’ve never met, so working with a local app development and branding specialist will give you more faith in your product.
If possible, find an app developer who is familiar with your English-language app to test your new localised app, as they’ll be able to point out any inconsistencies and ensure you’re comfortable with the changes.
Technical errors such as UI display issues as well as cultural errors, such as incorrect translations, are also easily overlooked, so be thorough with testing.
User focus groups and A/B tests are great ways to gather feedback and optimise your app for conversions, too. Conduct tests regularly – not just when your app launches – to keep users happy and continually improve your service.
Some of your findings may even come in useful when updating your English-language application to further increase engagements.
There’s no denying that localising your app for a foreign market can be hard work and a little daunting, but it’s a necessary step if you want to capitalise on new opportunities. At Zudu, we offer a range of app development services – including WeChat Mini Programs for UK brands looking to expand into China. Get in touch today on 01382 690 080 to find out more.
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