A version of this tutorial originally appeared in the free Primer app.
You’ve successfully launched a mobile app, and now it’s time to take your good work to global markets. On the surface, releasing an app in international markets seems straightforward. Just make sure the text is translated correctly and you’re done, right?
Not so fast. In reality, different markets have different app preferences. On top of that, people value experiences that feel personal, which means an app that’s simply a translation may not translate to success.
It’s important to go the extra step: localizing your app for each new market. Done right, app localization can increase the amount of people who understand your app’s value and want to install, use, and recommend it.
Here are five steps that will help your app connect with users in a variety of markets.
Step 1: Choose the right international markets
Just because you can launch your app in any market doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Make sure to research what the best possible markets are for your app.
Tools like Market Finder by Google can help you make an initial list of suitable markets to enter and help you create an international market strategy based on data, such as mobile usage, app revenue, payment methods, and app localization options.
To refine your list of markets, check whether or not people in these markets are already installing your app, using it, leaving feedback, and talking about it on social media.
Step 2: Consider the culture
After you’ve finalized your list of target markets, research the people who live there and study how they use their devices. Cultural differences can impact the way people interact with their devices, whether for social media, shopping, banking, gaming, or anything else. Tailor your app to match the local culture and existing behavior.
For example, let’s say your app helps users find local restaurants. Some markets might be accustomed to ordering food via their mobile phones, so you could consider adding a delivery element to your app. However, food delivery might not be popular or even available in other markets, so you could eliminate that option from your app for those regions.
Step 3: Customize your app
Use your market research to evaluate your app’s design and UX. Make sure the graphics, colors, style, tone of voice, functionality, and payment methods are appropriate for and relevant to your markets.
It’s also important to make sure your app can still work even with certain markets’ challenges. For example, the new audience you’re pursuing might use older hardware than your current user base or have fewer chances to charge their devices’ batteries. Depending on the market, connectivity issues could also be a challenge.
App customization can even extend to how you set the price. Find out if what you’re charging matches local living costs and consumer purchasing power. It’s also worth taking a look at how the competition is priced. The Google Play Console can automatically convert the price of your app, in-app purchases (IAPs), or subscription fees into the local currency. And the Play Store can also apply local pricing patterns and add tax for select countries.
Step 4: Be thorough with translations
Before you begin the translation process, find out your target markets’ language preferences. Countries like Canada or India, for example, use more than one official language. And languages like Arabic, Chinese, or Spanish have distinct regional dialects.
Next, figure out how you’ll do translations. If you’re using a professional service, make sure to provide context on your target audience and guidelines on your app’s personality and tone of voice. Brand-specific style guides and glossaries can be a big help here. If you don’t have a dedicated translation service, Google Play Console’s translation service can help you translate app, Play Store, and IAP text.
As you’re translating your app-related text, don’t forget to do the same for your marketing materials. This includes your app’s name, description, and any image, video, and audio files.
Step 5: Test before and after launch
After you’ve localized and translated your app, have people in your target markets test it with commonly used devices. Look for mistakes in formatting, presentation, and text.
Update your app based on this first round of tests, and then conduct beta testing by releasing your localized app to a small section of the public. Once you’ve incorporated this second round of feedback, you’re ready to officially launch.
Watch your post-launch ratings and download stats to stay on top of any issues affecting users. Pay particular attention to reviews and address any problems immediately.
You can also experiment with how your app is listed in the Google Play or the App Store after launch. As visits to your listing in your new markets grow, look at which text and graphic combinations work best to drive more downloads.
Keeping your app relevant to new markets is an ongoing process. However, if you choose the right markets to launch in, are thorough and thoughtful with your localization, and test before and after launch, you can help your app make a strong international debut.