How do China's apps perform outside of China?
Very often, an app’s performance is gauged by how well it performs at home. And while app marketing teams are likely to focus on the market they’re based in, this can mean that they miss out on bigger growth in international markets. Today, we’re focusing on China, but not on the Chinese market. Instead, we’re looking at how apps made in China behave elsewhere in the world, to show you what is popular, and where.
Three key takeaways
- India is crazy for Chinese apps! There are more installs of Chinese apps in India than in any other country outside of China. Indonesia and the USA came in second and third place.
- The top three countries by app share are the USA, Japan and Indonesia.
- Broken down by vertical, India drives the highest number of installs for utility and entertainment apps. Indonesia, the USA and the Philippines love gaming apps, with the US spending the most money in-app.
We ran this study the same way we do with our mobile benchmarks, except that we filtered the sample by creating a cohort of apps that had more installs located outside of China than domestically. From a sample of 1,897 apps, 1,205 apps had more installs outside of China than inside of it. From this cohort, we gathered and averaged the data into the figures we reached below. We took our information from a combination of iOS and Android applications.
For those three verticals, we looked at the top 10 countries in terms of install share. Then we calculated the following for these top 10 countries:
- Average retention rate on day 30
- Average number of sessions per user during the first 30 days
- Average number of events per user during the first 30 days
- Average number of transactions per user during the first 30 days
By geo: Overall performance
Let’s talk distribution. Below you’ll find the top five countries by app distribution - from all of the apps available on the domestic Chinese market in our sample, how many of those are available in any other given country? We show this with a percentage figure. In the chart below, a score of 94.6 percent means that 94.6 percent of all apps available in domestic China are available in this particular country (in this case, the USA). This means that 5.4 percent of all Chinese apps are unavailable in the USA.
% of Chinese apps available
Of our sample, 94.6 percent of apps appear in the USA. Japan, India and the Philippines follow behind with a significantly smaller share of available Chinese apps. In all three countries, roughly the same percentage of Chinese apps are accessible to users; the geos vary no more than one percent from another.
Now that we know over three-quarters of all Chinese apps in our sample are available in our top international locations, we can dig a little deeper. Which countries actually drove the highest share of installs for those apps?
% of Chinese app installs outside China
This chart shows that out of all installs of Chinese apps outside of China, 10 percent of all installs took place in India. Though Chinese apps have a strong showing in several markets, installs of Chinese apps are widely spread, with only one country - India - responsible for a double-digit share. Indonesia is close behind, with a 9.2 percent share of all Chinese installs outside of China. This is likely due in part to Indonesia’s large ethnically-Chinese population (23 percent of Indonesia’s total population), though this could also be the case with other countries on this list.
Let’s take installs further with a breakdown, by vertical, of those top performers from earlier.
Install share by vertical
Installs are a prized metric, so we took a look to see how a country’s share of Chinese app installs changed when we isolated the three most popular verticals. Of all Chinese gaming app installs outside of China, which countries were responsible for the greatest share over a given period of 30 days?
Indonesia is by the far the top performer; installing more Chinese games than any other. Their neighbours Thailand and the Philippines, who also have large ethnically Chinese populations, also download a large amount of apps, coming in at eight and seven percent, respectively. The United States is also not to be ignored, coming in second with nearly 12 percent of the total installs. Not bad considering that US gamers have a plethora of choice and more than their fair share of gaming developers vying for their attention. According to MightySignal, there are over 200,000 unique gaming publishers on iOS alone, representing 10x the number in China, who only boast 25,000 unique gaming publishers.
Of all Chinese utility app installs outside of China, nearly thirteen percent took place in India, closely followed by Brazil and then the United States. Finally, India tops installs for their share of Chinese entertainment app installs, too. Brazil, the USA and Indonesia all appear in each of these lists more than once. Let’s investigate the patterns we discovered within our data sets by country.
Notable regional trends
Within gaming, the same countries appear at the top again and again. Indonesia leads in performance, with the highest share of installs, retention rate, overall sessions and events. The Philippines appears near the top in almost every list as well. Myanmar may not drive a large share of installs, but users from the region consistently place second in other performance metrics, including an exceptionally high retention rate at day 30.
Gaming app performance by country
% of Installs
Retention Rate - Day 30
Avg. revenue events
The USA is a consistent driver of installs, appearing in the top three of all countries for that metric. However, they don’t tend to play games for all that long, relatively, as they don’t appear to return, or trigger near as many sessions or events as others in the list. This suggests US app users just check out new apps, but don’t really engage with them for a long period of time.
Chinese gaming developers wouldn’t be wrong to view Indonesia as a high-performing market that could be strongly considered for potential international growth, depending on the importance of performance vs. revenue events. By vertical, performance metrics in Myanmar suggest that it would also be considered an interesting market, though (like Indonesia) the region is not a heavy driver of actual transactions (with only 0.02 revenue events occurring per user over 30 days, half that of even German performance). With high retention and low revenue performance, these regions could be a great place for freemium model games who rely on advertising revenue to monetize.
When talking high revenue, the USA is the second highest in the table of revenue events, so though performance metrics are low (with 8 percent retaining by day 30) - for free games, it’s likely the best market in terms of total revenue. This extends to Entertainment performance as well, where the USA is the only significant market where transactions occur. American users also retain best over time, and trigger the most sessions (as mentioned).
Though Russia doesn't represent the largest volume of installs and also has a lower retention rate than markets like Indonesia and the Philippines, they do have a high rate of in-app purchases for the users who do download, indicating that Chinese app developers could be better off focusing their effort acquiring users there over countries.
Entertainment app performance by country
% of Installs
Retention Rate - Day 30
Avg. revenue events
Looking further at the entertainment category, India may drive the most installs, but in terms of performance after the install, they’re nowhere near the metrics of other markets. Indonesia, Vietnam and Russia all have widely different performance metrics here - some trigger more events vs. sessions, and vice versa. It’s an interesting observation, and backs up the fact that Chinese apps are looking at a variety of international markets and are willing to experiment globally to find the best fit for their product.
The biggest payoff
The US is a reliable bet for revenue, though cost of acquisition is much higher in that region than others. Indonesia and India are both interesting markets in terms of performance, and while users seem tied to their apps, the low numbers in terms of revenue generated could mean limited interest from app developers - so long as the region is supported. That said, as a launchpad for your app, Indonesia could be a great place to test before launching in more lucrative markets like the US and Russia - from soft launches to A/B testing, with performance being a strong suit of the region.