How to expand an app internationally: A complete guide
Even after a successful launch and long-term performance locally, app developers will need to develop a rigorous expansion strategy to succeed on a global scale. And although users are more connected than ever before, each region will present new challenges and considerations that must be solved by data-driven insights and research into the target market. This guide outlines everything you need to consider when expanding into new territories and localizing your app for new audiences.
Where to begin with App localization: Market research
Regardless of app vertical, marketers are sure to face tough competition within the App Store and Google Play Store. In November, Statista reported 2.8 million apps in the Google Play store, making it the single largest app store in the world. The App Store came in second place with 1.96 million apps available for iOS. Combined, it’s clear that users have an overabundance of apps to choose from in every vertical. This means you’ll need to perform extensive market research before launching your app internationally, identifying possible unexplored niches, marketing channels and the shortcomings of your competitors. You will also want to get to know the nuances of the local market, to better understand how and localize your app — even with small tweaks — for the market at hand.
When performing market research, you’ll need to define:
- Your app’s target audience
- Your app’s USP (unique selling point)
- What your competitors have to offer
- The best time to launch your app
While your budget will determine the extent of your marketing capabilities, your market research will uncover the best way to spread the word – giving your app the best possible start when launching in a new region.
Your priority should be on identifying ways you can provide a superior service to your competitors. For example, you can read the reviews left on your competitor’s app store page to understand where their features and functionality are falling, explained by your target audience themselves. You can also look at YouTube reviews and blogs to learn what users think about your competitors.
A checklist for competitor research
Market research into your app’s competition should answer the following questions:
- How is your competitor successful (and to what extent)?
- What are the shortcomings of your competitor’s app?
- How does your USP better suit the needs of your target audience?
- How streamlined is your competitor’s user journey, and how does this compare to your own?
- Does your competitor’s app have a functional and optimized UI design?
- How is your competitor marketing their app?
Define your app’s KPIs
In order to know whether your app is succeeding in a new region, you need to define your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Setting measurable targets will be key to achieving the results you need to move forward.
- Active users: This is commonly measured by DAU (Daily Active Users, WAU (Weekly Active Users) and MAU (Monthly Active Users)
- Cost: This can be measured by CPA (Cost Per Acquisition), CPI (Cost Per Install), and CPM (Cost Per Mille)
- CTR (Click Through Rate): The efficacy of your ad creative
- Conversion rate: The percentage of users who completed an action
- Retention rate: The percentage of users who use your app after X days
- Re-engagement: How many users were brought back to your app
- Churn rate: The rate at which users stop returning to your app
- Uninstall: How many (and when) users uninstall your app
- ROI (Return On Investment): The measure of an investment’s gains or losses.
- ROAS (Return On Ad Spend): The returns of your advertising spend for each channel
- ARPU (Average Revenue Per User): The average profit made per new user
- LTV (Lifetime Value): How much a user is estimated to spend in total before they churn
Other examples of performance targets include your ranking in the app store and how users rate your app. The average for these KPIs will be different per region, so it’s helpful to know and set expectations according to the industry benchmarks for the regions you are targeting. Once you have defined your goals per region and the KPIs relevant to you, the next logical step is to develop your marketing strategy.
Before beginning to market your newly localized app distributing your ad spend across various channels, you need to ensure that your app is fully functional and ready to be shared with a larger audience. App performance issues can lead users to churn and uninstall, so it’s critical that every aspect of your app’s performance is tested - and localized - before launching in a new region. This prevents you from wasting your ad spend on bringing users to your app, only for them to churn, and will avoid poor reviews on your app store listing.
Mobile app functionality: three critical tests
- Performance at increased traffic: The last thing you want is to successfully bring users to your app, only for the app’s functionality to be compromised after a large number of new installs. Make sure you know how your app performs during heavy usages prior to expanding internationally.
- Hardware test: Mobile tests should be able to confirm that your app’s performance won’t be compromised due to hardware, for reasons such as low server storage.
- App performance at critical condition: It’s important to also test the limits of your app’s performance to ensure a low risk of crashing. This can be performed using mobile app testing tools such as Akamai CloudTest
Going global: Developing a localized marketing strategy
Below, we’ve outlined aspects of your marketing strategy you need to consider when developing your international strategy.
Providing a great experience for your target audience
Your marketing efforts should focus on creating the best user experience across the regions where you’re planning on growing your app. Although you will need to localize content and make similar adjustments per region, the user experience must be optimized before introducing users to your brand.
Localizing your app is the practice of tailoring your product for a specific market. For instance, you might translate your app into a new language or change graphics to reflect the local market. This is a critical step when launching your app internationally. A study by Distomo showing that users are 128 percent more likely to download an app that is in their native language. Companies also recorded a 26 percent increase in revenue for each country as a result of app localization.
How to localize an app in four steps
The first step to app localization is to gather all the content that will need to be adapted for new markets. This includes all copy, images and videos.
We strongly recommend providing translators with the context relevant to your product’s niche. This will avoid complications when translating and save resources further down the line. Translation tools with management software are available to help app developers provide the right context for translators.
Language changes will also impact your design layouts as a result of different characters, sentence lengths and reading direction. Your design team will therefore have to adapt your app’s design according to localized translations.
Once your content have been translated, you’ll need to test the results. This includes checks for context and design across different devices.
App Store Optimization localization
In addition to the content of your app already translated, you should also localize your app store entry for each region. ASO determines your ranking in the app store, helping you gain more organic users and ensuring discoverability.
ASO includes using keywords in your app’s name and description, using the right app categories and sharing useful screenshots that give a clear, positive impression of your app. A case study by The Tool and car marketplace app AutoScout24 found that localized ASO resulted in a 74 percent increase in app visibility in the App Store and 38 percent more downloads: “By taking into account the dialect in its country and adapting its keyword strategy, [AutoScout24] got impressive results that increased their visibility and number of installs significantly.”
In-depth research is important to successfully localizing your app store entry. ASO Expert at AppTweak Sarah B. Touimi says “research helps you then create the right app’s visuals that are culturalized to the specific country you are targeting as codes, color nuances, type of fonts, and symbols vary from one country to another. The right visuals will make your app feel as though it was originally developed for the target market and thus make it more visible on the app stores.” Sarah also advises developers to create a keyword dictionary - a list of keywords relevant for each country or region.
Consider soft launching your app
In an Adjust webinar, “How to launch your App out of Asia”, we spoke with Grégoire Mercier, the CEO of ROI-focused mobile agency Addict Mobile, to gain insight into how to successfully launch in western countries. Grégoire explained that his team organizes soft launches to make sure an app is ready for a wider launch further down the line. Developers planning on launching an app in English-speaking countries can use soft launches to assess their app’s potential before a more significant launch. In addition to soft launching in countries such as Canada and Australia, it is also possible to target Nordic countries in Europe. Grégoire explains that users in these areas “have a more European way of life and European tastes, and it allows you to test both English speaking countries, Anglo-Saxon countries and European countries. If it’s easier for you, you can also target Asian countries like Hong Kong and Taiwan - and why not the Philippines?”
Post-launch performance analysis
Once launched, developers can gather performance data and analyze the results. Your attribution provider can provide you with analytics reports and the raw data needed to identify the best marketing channels and how to optimize your campaigns going forward. Investing in app analytics enables you to understand users in new target markets, what makes them unique and how they can be targeted. These data-driven decisions will help you increase conversions, retention and LTV.