Everything you need to know about marketing apps in Asia’s mobile market
The Asian mobile market is supplying app marketers with ample opportunities to reach their target audience and scale their business. A report by Dentsu Aegis Network revealed that Asia Pacific (APAC) is a leading contributor to global ad spend growth with 42% of the worldwide increase in 2019. Mobile usage dominated this growth, accounting for 58%. Mastering your mobile marketing strategy for APAC is complicated but not impossible, as proven by apps like Spotify and Facebook. Marketing to countries throughout Asia requires unique strategies tailored to the cultural trends of each country. In this guide, we share everything you need to consider when developing your marketing strategy for Asian countries such as China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia.
What is Asia’s fastest-growing app market?
According to data analytics firm PubMatic, APAC is the leader in scale and growth rate of mobile apps. Moreover, our Mobile Growth Map revealed that APAC is leading the global mobile app growth index, with three countries within the top five fastest-growing markets – Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia.
Think with Google described India and China as “Impossible to ignore,” adding that “China, Japan, and Korea are second, fourth, and sixth in global digital ad spend rankings. Indonesia, with over 220 million people, is the world's largest Muslim market.”
Localization is critical to Asian markets
With a population of 4.5 billion people and more than 2,300 languages spoken across the continent, localization is an important practice for a successful mobile marketing strategy. Many users will demand a localized product, not just an app that has been translated into Chinese. Mobile apps must also align with the cultural nuances of the target market. Todd Lin, Client Partner at Adjust, highlighted this in our ebook for How Not to Fail in Asia. On the topic of localizing for the Chinese market, Todd explains, “The companies who succeed on mobile are the ones who understand the needs of those across the population, not just tier-one cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Localization should be the priority for every advertiser. You need a good localization team, and translation team, and to grasp the trends and hot topics in China.”
When localizing your mobile app for Asian markets, it is critical to start early and identify the many ways your app can cater to your target region. Here are four best practices when localizing your mobile app.
- Prepare for text expansion during your design phase: This is a critical step because languages will take up different amounts of space, so text expansion and reduction is inevitable. It is important to make your text easy to read with only the most important information available. This practice ensures that you plan early and save time further down the line.
- Map your localization approach: Considering how localization will be implemented in the early stages of developing your app will allow you to avoid unnecessarily time-consuming tasks down the line. For example, you may want to find localization services and discuss the process in advance.
- Discoverability is key: Improving the discoverability of your mobile app with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will drive organic installs in your target region. SEO practices include localizing your app store entry’s language, adding primary and secondary characters relevant to your app, regularly updating your app description and including useful images and videos. This is a smart, cost-effectiveway to bring in high-value users that will increase ROI and retention rates.
- Beta test your localized mobile app: Once your translations are complete — and your localized app is functional — you should beta test it with native speakers that represent your target audience. This is a sure-fire way to know that your localization has been successful before launch. You can choose to have an open or closed beta test depending on the specifics of your mobile app. During the testing period you should request user feedback and be ready to respond.
Understand which social media apps are most popular in your target market
In addition to localizing your mobile app, you will also need to do extensive market research. For example, this can help you develop a fool-proof social media strategy. Popular social media networks you need to know in Asia includes WeChat, Sina Weibo, LINE, SNOW and Youku. You may need to become naive to some of these platforms if you want to leverage their popularity in your social media marketing strategy.
App marketing best practices for Asia’s leading markets
According to Statista, there are more than 1.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions registered in China. The country has a mature mobile market with an abundance of juggernaut apps by Chinese developers, such as WeChat, QQ and Baidu. These apps dominate the market, so developers must be prepared to work with Chinese app partners to succeed. Working with one of China’s most popular social apps is a smart way to penetrate the market in a fast and efficient way.
- Free-to-play games are commonplace: Mobile gaming developers should consider that free-to-play games are extremely popular in China. A report by mobile advertising platform Mintegral, which specializes in bridging the gap between advertising in East and West, found that 61% of users prefer to play for free — so you may want to consider a freemium model if it is suitable to your mobile game.
- Video campaigns: The success of short-form video apps such as TikTok are proving the value of video-based campaigns, even if they come at a higher price. Since the app’s meteoric rise in popularity, TikTok has been downloaded over 2.6 billion times worldwide and achieved 62 million downloads in January 2021.
- Android is the dominant operating system in China: Google Play is blocked in China, resulting in a fragmented market with several Android stores. According to the AppInChina App Store Index, Huawei App Market is the most popular app store with 37.38% of the market share, followed by Tencent My App (30.97%) and OPPO Software Store (26.53%).
- Mini-programs are popular in China: Also known as sub-applications, these are small apps that run natively on larger platforms. Being part of another app allows them to run faster. Tencent and WeChat are examples of apps that host sub-applications.
This is another mature APAC market, offering the world’s third-largest market for app store spending at $14 million. Naoki Sassa, General Manager (Japan) at Adjust explains “The smartphone as a desktop replacement is on the way. It’s a trend that’s showing in lifestyle apps, such as food delivery and shopping that’s a golden goose for advertisers looking to move into Japan.” The most downloaded app categories in Japan include video streaming (63.5%), weather (60.7%), communication (60.5%) and SNS (59.7%).
- Japan as a test market: The country isn’t an ideal test market for app marketers and should be treated as a primary market, launching once you have tested in other regions.
- Don’t underestimate alternatives to Facebook and Google: While the tech giants are popular in Japan, they do not have a monopoly. For example, Facebook has less market share than in other markets, with 20% of the population using the social network. Mobile apps such as LINE and Yahoo! Japan are also smart options for advertisers when developing your overall strategy.
- Gamers are willing to spend their money: Mobile gaming in Asia has different behavioral trends in eachr country. For example, Japan is the second-largest mobile games market in the world, and gamers are willing to make in-app purchases for their favorite apps. In fact, almost half (46%) of all mobile gamers pay for in-game purchases.
- Interactive ads can help you reach your goals: Gamification is a smart way to approach the Indonesian market. Rengga Tranfianto Nurvigya, Senior Digital Manager for leading pregnancy and health apps Teman Bumil, Guesehat and Teman Diabetes, explains that “Gamification or theme-related ads for campaigns tend to perform very well — these are particularly successful if linked to important holidays and events such as Ramadan or Harbolnas, Indonesia’s national online shopping day.”
- Innovative fintech offers a path to success: Fintech companies are offering many Indonesians opportunities to have online finance management tools for the first time. For example, Netzme is a socially-focused mobile payment platform that changes the way Indonesians access and interact with financial services. When asked about the company’s goal, Netzme Co-founder and CEO Vicky Saputra explained the company “realized that financial inclusion and financial literacy is quite a big issue [in Indonesia], especially for people in small cities and rural areas. As far as we know, these people are the majority, and we expect to have a really good social impact for people all around Indonesia.”
South Korea is a mobile-first market with 95% of the population owning a smartphone. Video-focused apps have the highest usage of any app type in South Korea, with nearly 60.18 billion minutes spent on mobile video players and video editing in 2020.
- Understand the app store ecosystem: Android devices are the primary devices in South Korea but Google Play doesn’t dominate the app store market the way it does other regions. The country has a diverse ecosystem that means mobile operators and platforms like Kakao also offer downloadable content.
- Increased monetization on Android: The telecom infrastructures in South Korea means that data carriers offer billing options for in-app purchases and downloads. This allows users to make purchases without a credit card. According to mobile discovery platform App Next, this ecosystem results in higher ROI on Android apps than with Apple.
- Include influencer marketing in your overall strategy: Partnering with celebrities and social media influencers is a good way to market your app in South Korea. From K-pop groups to micro-influencers, this marketing method can help you penetrate the South Korean market and improve brand reputation. Examples of influencer marketing in the country include BTS’s partnership with mobile games company Netmarble and Son Heung-min’s role as ambassador for MMORPG’s martial arts-themed game Hero Shinsword.
If you found this guide to the Asian mobile market useful, you may also be interested in learning everything you need to know about playable ads. We also have resources for developing re-engagement strategies for subscription apps and marketing on a shoestring budget.