Chinese export apps: The verticals and markets driving international success
App performance is often measured by home-market success, with localized versions and international performance being factored in later down the line. This is not the case, however, for many Chinese apps, where developers and marketing teams focus specifically on external markets. Chinese-developed gaming apps like PUBG, Genshin Impact, and Honor of Kings were in the top four grossing apps in 2021 globally. All three titles posted revenue totals higher than USD$1 billion—PUBG reached an incredible $2.01 billion. The other app that made the top four was none other than China’s own TikTok.
With this in mind, we’re taking a look at the performance of Chinese apps around the world to see which countries are the most lucrative markets and which verticals are seeing the biggest upticks.
Three key takeaways
- Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines are crazy for Chinese apps, with large install volumes across almost all verticals. India, the U.S., and Brazil also rank across the board.
- The top three countries by app share (availability of Chinese apps) are the U.S., India, and the UK.
- Broken down by vertical, it’s utilities, entertainment, and gaming where Chinese apps make up the biggest share of installs globally.
Chinese app installs by geo: Overall performance
Let’s talk distribution. Below you’ll find the top five countries by app distribution. From all of the Chinese developed apps in our sample, how many of those are available in any other given country?
Of our sample, 78% of Chinese-made apps are available in the U.S.—with India (59%), the UK (49%), the Philippines (47%), and Singapore (47%) rounding out the top 5.
Now that we can see the overall percentage of Chinese apps available in key global markets, we can dig a little deeper. What install share do Chinese apps represent in these countries? I.e., If 78% of Chinese apps are available in the U.S., how big of the entire install share do these apps account for?
When we look at it this way, the deck shuffles significantly. Myanmar comes out on top with 32% of all apps in the market being Chinese, while the U.S. and the UK are at 7% and 5%, respectively.
Installs by geo and vertical
So, we’ve established that utilities are making the biggest impact for Chinese apps globally in terms of installs, and while all countries and markets are downloading a healthy number of these Chinese utility apps, the market share in some countries is bigger than others. In the Philippines and Indonesia, around 45% of all utilities app installs come from Chinese apps, with Egypt (44%), the UAE (37%), and India (36%) following.
For entertainment apps, the rankings shift, and Nepal comes out in the top position, with Chinese apps making up the overwhelming majority of entertainment installs (68%). Behind but still impressive are India (41%), Bangladesh (40%), and Pakistan (31%). Overall, Chinese entertainment apps seem to be making the most impact in Asia and the Middle East. Brazil also deserves an honorable mention at 6%.
Looking at games, it’s Indonesia and Singapore that have the highest share of Chinese app installs—both with an impressive 28%. Next are the Philippines (24%), Cambodia (23%), and Vietnam (21%). As we saw with entertainment apps, Chinese gaming apps are extremely popular throughout Asia, but they make a bigger impact in EMEA and North America than the other verticals. Russia’s share of Chinese gaming apps sits at 11%, followed by Germany at 9%, France at 8%, and the UK and U.S. both at 7% (interestingly, the same number as Japan). Brazil also slots in at a sizable 12%.
Key markets and top payoffs
Different verticals resonate with different markets, but it’s clear that the potential for Chinese apps from all categories to succeed globally is immense. The specific countries and markets that mobile app developers and marketers from within China should focus on depend entirely on the app’s monetization model and how relevant it is internationally.
Regardless of vertical, there are essentially two potential paths that can be taken. One focus could be on driving huge amounts of install volume (perhaps for hyper casual games) and the other on finding longer-tail users offering higher LTV, like for an entertainment app. Certain markets, like the U.S., are a safe bet for revenue but the cost of acquisition is much higher than in some other regions. Indonesia and India are both great markets to focus on for volume but the revenue generated is comparatively lower.
Once you gain a thorough understanding of international markets, and find countries, like Indonesia, that can work as a launchpad for your app. They can be a great place to test before launching in the lower volume but more lucrative markets.