App Localisation: How to Unlock Revenue Overseas

By Dom Bracher | May 22nd, 2015

The mobile ecosystem has expanded rapidly over the last 5 years, with smartphones and mobile applications now being accessible in nearly every corner of the earth. The Apple App Store supports 155 countries in 28 languages, whilst Google Play has free applications available almost worldwide and supports 46 different languages.

In combination with global growth, app monetisation channels have matured considerably and emerging markets are now being recognised as much more lucrative than before.

Global Revenue Distribution

In recent years, content availability has improved considerably. However, revenue distribution has remained fairly limited, with Distimo reporting last year that the top 5 revenue generating countries account for 80% of global mobile revenues.

app-localisation-revenue-by-market Source: Distimo

In terms of the developer earnings on iOS compared to Android, when looking at the average revenue per user, iOS is still the leader. However the sheer size of the Android market means that overall, more money is now made on Android vs iOS (when including all of China’s app stores).

app-localisation-app-store-revenue

It’s also important to understand exactly how each revenue model performs in different regions around the world. Sure, the freemium model is the most successful and popular monetisation strategy globally, but this brings challenges when it comes localisation.

app-localisation-rev-share-vs-country Although the chart is 12 months old, this breakdown has changed very little.

The main issue is that to monetise on a freemium model, generating an install alone is not enough. In order to make a freemium model profitable and sustainable, the post install experience needs to be fully optimised. This is a challenge not only from a language perspective, but different demographics and nationalities often have unique user behaviour characteristics which have an effect on engagement, and ultimately monetisation.

Translating your app’s meta content is an extremely important part of both discoverability and your app store conversion rate, but in order to generate engagement and freemium revenue, you need to localise your app’s content too.

Choose Your Translation Tool

The first step to localising your app’s content is to establish how you are actually going to translate your content. There are many companies online that do offer professional translation services and one of our favourites is OneSky, who are suitable for both Android and iOS. Apple also provide an extended list of approved third party translators, and you can view this at the bottom of this page.

Meta Content

Your title, keywords, screenshots and app preview videos influence both your discoverability and app store conversion rate. Sadly, you can’t simply translate all of your editorial content word for word, as this could lead to a number of issues.

Your App’s Title

It’s a common question as to what extent you should translate your app’s name, and the answer isn’t as simple as it might seem.

Ultimately, it depends on whether your app name is a trademark or brand which you want to be the same across multiple markets. If the answer to this is yes, then you should consider leaving your title in English. As a quick example, WeChat keep their name in English across all languages, and only translate the additional text in order to maximise ASO value.

However, if your title is not a proper name and it is translatable, then I’d recommend you translate this in order to gain ASO value in other stores around the world.

app-localisation-we-chat

Keywords

When it comes to discoverability, translating your app’s keywords is essential. Users searching for a football news app in spain are not going to be searching for ‘football’, they’ll be searching for ‘fútbol’. If you don’t translate your keywords, your chances of discoverability diminish rapidly.

With keywords, you are always looking for a healthy balance between high search volume and low competition, and you must be aware for the potential changes in both word meaning and potential search volume/competition when you move to overseas markets.

For example, if you were promoting your football app in Europe, but wanted to start pushing the app to the US too, you’d have to change your keywords to soccer (to avoid confusion with the NFL) even though the actual language is the same.

Support Pages

If possible, ensure that your support pages link through to a localised site from which users can get help and information in their native language. If you’re serious about monetising users in a new country, then this is an important box to tick!

App Content

We know that globally the freemium model is the most popular and successful way to monetise on mobile. But to generate freemium revenue you need to localise your app’s content too, and this involves more than just translating words.

Time, date and units

Since iOS8 was released, Apple have actually made it easier for developers to manage unit localisation. An improved API means that developers can now display time and other units to users in their native languages, with minimal hassle.

Editorial Content

Finally, all your editorial content must also be translated, and you need to ensure that you apply the same common sense here as used when translating meta content.

app-localisation-internationalization

Third Party Plugins

China for example has banned many sites that are used daily by millions of users in the west, including Facebook, Google and YouTube, and this does have a knock on effect for app engagement

User behaviour

Analysing exactly how users from different countries actually engage with your app is key to being profitable overseas. As mentioned earlier, with freemium being the most popular monetisation strategy on mobile, there’s a huge amount of focus placed on post install user engagement.

The mobile ecosystem now contains a very diverse mix of users, and the way each of these cultures behaves is often quite unique. I think it’s important to understand that very few of your assumptions on user behaviour can be translated to other global markets, particular when a western developer attempts to localise for easter regions (and vice versa).

One of the best blog posts I have seen on this topic in recent times is Dan Grover’s post on his learnings when he moved from San Francisco to Guangzhou, China, in order to join WeChat. You can check out the post here.

Distribution

Finally, the mobile landscape is very different in the east compared to the west, particularly on Android. As you probably know the vast majority of consumer app downloads in the US and UK are generated through either Google Play of the iOS App Store.

However in China, things are completely different. In a country where 73% of mobile devices are built on Android, Google Play doesn’t exist. Instead, Chinese users have many stores from which they can purchase Android apps, and the ecosystem is very fragmented. However, as seen on the chart earlier in this post, whilst the setup is fragmented it still accounts for billions of downloads and revenue each year.

In a fantastic interview with Venture Beat, Chukong Technologies U.S general manager Lei Zhang shared the following:

“We estimate that about 20 percent to 30 percent of the total revenue for the Chinese mobile-gaming space this year will be from WeChat,” said Zhang. “That’s how big this one single platform is in the market.”

“The difference is that all of those Google-based devices are running more than two dozen different proprietary app markets. This makes it extremely complex for Western developers looking to release their games there.”

Summary

Fully localising your app for another market is not a quick or easy process. I think this is demonstrated by the fact that very few developers successfully expand their operations from west to east (or east to west for that matter).

Research is required before you can have enough knowledge to fully exploit the opportunity that exists in other territories, and localisation goes way beyond just translating the editorial content within your product. I’d strongly recommend you have a level of understanding on the user behaviour trends in your target country, and make product iterations based on the your data.

For western developers, 41% of global mobile revenue is generated in China, Japan and South Korea alone, and this is simply too greater amount of money to be ignored.

This article was originally published on Tapdaq’s blog and it can be found here.

Dom Bracher
Dom Bracher is co-founder and CMO at Tapdaq , a direct mobile advertising network. Grow your app by trading installs with other developers, or by cross promoting your own network.

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