ASO Academy

Mobile App Localization

November 2nd, 2022

Mobile App Localization
Anh Nguyen

by Anh Nguyen

COO & Co-Founder at Gummicube, Inc

Okakura Kakuzō famously immortalized the truth in all adaptations that, “the art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings”. Nothing stands truer in the quest for global app store success. It’s not enough to be the best thing since sliced bread to succeed on the app stores. You can cross your t’s and dot your i’s, but the global market for mobile apps requires more than the tried-and-true mobile marketing tactics developers use for domestic markets.

From the global pandemic to new technological advancements, smartphone use worldwide shows no signs of slowing. According to Statista, it is estimated that just in this past year alone, the number of unique smartphone users around the world grew by nearly 100 million – with a global grand total of 6.4 billion current and unique smartphone users. That’s more than three-quarters of the total global population.

The rising demand for smartphones and mobile apps across the globe calls on developers to meet user needs wherever they are. However, there are barriers in language, variances in usage, and complex trends that leave many developers scratching their heads wondering:

How can I effectively reach out and speak to my international users in a meaningful way?

When it comes to global app store success, adapting your App Store Optimization (ASO) strategy to capture international users is paramount. Domestic search trends and the visual components of your app may not be effective at converting and engaging users abroad.

The global smartphone population counts on developers to bring them new services and app store features. It’s the new face of techpreneurship. So, how can developers effectively enter the app store market internationally? First, let’s take a look at the state of mobile growth and some of the highest-performing app categories across the world.

Why You Should Localize Your App

Mobile use is on the rise around the world, and its statistics and effects are hard to ignore. As mobile technology becomes more advanced and production becomes streamlined, smartphone use is becoming more ubiquitous around the world. Now, people across the world who may not have had the means or opportunity to buy a smartphone can now purchase one for relatively cheaper compared to previous years. Paired with seismic growth in R&D and mass production of these smartphones, people can now stay connected and entertain themselves in ways like never before.

This begs the question – How are mobile users using their smartphones to connect with the world? The answer is simple – apps. A typical smartphone on the market now can do practically anything a computer can but from just about anywhere. For example, big-name games like Final Fantasy and Minecraft have been notoriously considered to be gaming consoles or computer-exclusive experiences. Now, those same games along with other big-name gaming developers populate the app stores. You may be asking yourself, is the market really that lucrative to be producing a new game on a whole new mobile platform? Absolutely, especially for global mobile gamers.

According to Businesswire, 1 in 3 mobile users in the Asian-Pacific region such as Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines consider themselves to be weekly mobile gamers. Alone, this is an impressive statistic, but those regions’ mobile gaming use surpasses PC and game console gaming combined. Hybrid reports that 55% of the entire mobile gaming market resides in just 6 Asian-Pacific countries. We can also see this mobile trend across other countries like Russia, parts of Africa, and a handful of Eastern European countries.

As global mobile accessibility use goes up, the opportunities to reach those markets provide developers with a lucrative opportunity to capture them – for all app categories. Yet, with more opportunity comes more competition. How can a developer best increase their visibility and discoverability despite cultural differences and language barriers in addition to global competition?

Mobile App Localization & ASO

App Store Optimization, or ASO for short, is the process in which an app developer can help their app rank for relevant keywords, increasing their potential for downloads from a relevant audience. It’s the backbone of all organic and successful mobile marketing. This process involves optimizing both metadata and the creative elements of an app like the app title and, screenshots.

Apple reports that 70% of all organic downloads stem from Search. Whether international or domestic, users typically do not spend more than just a few seconds deciding whether they want to download an app. It’s up to developers to make that decision sway in their favor in the vast and ever-expanding competitive app store environment. If a developer adds international app expansion into the mix, the need for adaptation to appeal to a specific segment is all the more important. So how can a developer effectively optimize their app to gain an international competitive advantage through ASO?

App Metadata Localization

Is your app mixing with the locals? Or is it a tourist? The process of ASO allows developers to successfully penetrate international markets in the “language” they speak through Localization. Yet, optimizing for global app store success far outreaches just a simple translation of language – it involves a deeper understanding of what users in that region resonate with the most.

Languages across the world have breadth and depth to them that far outreach any simple translation. For example, let’s take the English figure of speech of having a “frog in your throat”. A literal translation of this phrase from an app page to any other language will surely stir some confusion in the user. This also applies to international figures of speech. If you have ever traveled abroad, you may have noticed that language barriers are just one of the many key differences in communication. Popular culture, language structure, and consumer trends all vary as well. So how can developers adapt?

Localization is the process of adapting your app metadata and creatives to capture global users. It’s a similar process to what businesses like McDonald’s do when entering a new international market by offering augmented menus and service offerings. Whether on Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store, developers must reflect on the country's trends, culture, and terminology. By doing so, developers convey relevance and establish a rapport with their target audience simultaneously. This could come in the form of using popular and culturally-specific colloquialisms, using terms like “auto” instead of “car” or showcasing copy on screenshots that read from right to left.

App Creative Localization

App store creative elements vary across the Apple App Store and Google Play, but their purpose remains the same. Since creative elements do not get indexed for keywords, their sole purpose is to inform, engage, and ultimately convert the user. However, when it comes to creative elements, there are visual components that just like metadata, may not resonate with the global audience at large.

Apart from figures of speech in metadata, the value propositions, features, and functions of the app that are popular in domestic markets may not speak to international consumers. For example, a seasonal Instagram template app showcasing Halloween templates in their screenshot set or app title may miss the mark in another country like Mexico, where El Dia de Los Muertos is the resounding Fall celebration.

This example illustrates the impeccable need to adjust to users across countries with localized app listings. ASO and localization account for these changes. However, all developers should also note that different app categories have certain user expectations for creative presentation. This is especially emphasized abroad.

For example, if an American-based cashback app wants to use colors associated with money in their screenshot set abroad, green would be the obvious option, right? Not necessarily. Apart from the obvious fact, that currency isn’t green everywhere, green colors can trigger emotional and subconscious responses in users where that color may have a stronger and different association with it like nature or the military. Which objectively, are very different from cashback. To better gauge what your app category should look like, look at what competitors in that category are doing in that particular territory. That way, you can begin to see what users expect from your particular app.

Start Your App Localization

Opportunities for global success are ripe for the picking, but market research is imperative to take advantage of them fully. App Store Optimization is an iterative and adaptive process that builds upon the very foundations that make the app valuable in the first place by highlighting them to fit global demand, trends, and insights.

To compete globally, developers must use metadata and creative optimization practices that change with different user bases. One size does not fit all in the app store marketplace. By localizing app store metadata and creatives to the global market, developers can yield better conversion rates, improve their visibility, and see continued global growth.

Want to learn more about ASO? Contact Gummicube and we’ll help get your strategy started.

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