According to data released in July of this year, about 2.5 million apps are stored in the Apple App Store and the Google Play App Store. As new apps are added to the stores every year, the level of competition increases; App publishers are pushed to use every available advantage at their disposal to boost their app downloads and make greater profit.
One option app publishers use to stay ahead of the competition is to localize their app, which involves language translation, so that it can reach audiences in other countries. However, this can be a major undertaking, particularly for complex apps. Is it worth the hassle?
In this post, find out why localization is usually a good idea. And check out the simple, relatively inexpensive test process that will help you decide whether you should localize your entire app or not.
Definitions of Internationalization and Localization
The terms “internationalization” and “localization” are frequently used interchangeably in the world of apps but actually are shaded differently in meaning. Properly distinguishing the two terms will help you understand the app localization process better.
Internationalization entails the entire, overall process of tailoring an app to a foreign market. Localization is the specific item-by-item translation and customization of each app asset (e.g.: text, graphics, etc.). This largely involves language translation but also includes the conversion of units of measure and assessment of culturally appropriate images.
The Localization MVP Test
Localization of an app requires a large investment in time and money and can be a sizeable undertaking. You have to make sure it’s worth it because the truth is, not all localized apps have successfully penetrated foreign markets. Some have experienced failure.
For example, when mobile game app Plants Vs. Zombies launched in China, they experienced several months of failure because they were optimizing the monetization too much. They misread the market and charged too much for their game app, which made the app unpopular. Luckily, they figured out their cultural mistake and reversed their unpopularity, but many other apps on the market continue to fail due to a bad app internationalization process of the kind Plant Vs. Zombies went through temporarily.
To assess your risk, carry out the following minimum viable product (MVP) test to find out if your app will be well received in other nations. The test consists of only localizing your app store profile (aka your metadata) rather than going through the whole process of localizing your entire app.
You start by translating your app’s keywords, its name and screenshots. This should be enough to prompt people in the foreign market to download your app.
Of course, these same people might leave negative reviews once they find out the app’s assets have not been localized. To minimize the amount of bad reviews, you can do either of the following:
- Run your MVP test for a limited period of time. How much interest your app garners in the foreign market during the test period will tip you off as to whether you should fully localize or not. If there’s enough interest, pull the app from the foreign app store until you are able to fully localize.
- Develop and introduce a similar version of your app under different branding. This method allows you to run as many localization tests as you want without hurting the reputation of your original app.
Whatever path you take, be smart and consult with professional localization translators before undertaking the localization process. They will help you target the right translated keywords and conduct localization tests which will make the overall internationalization process smoother.
Which Countries Should You Target?
If you’re clueless as to what countries you should target first, think of countries that have high smart phone usage and large populations. India, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia are good candidate countries that fit these criteria.
Target as many of these countries as you can with the budget you’ve set aside. The more markets you test, the better.
A Case Study
When app developer David Janner just localized the keywords of his app Harlem Shake Yourself, leaving the rest of the app unchanged, downloads of his app jumped by 767%.
Before he localized his keywords, English language downloads of his app accounted for 76% of the total. After localizing the same, it accounted for only 19.7% of downloads. His total downloads increased to more than 23,000 per month from 3,000 per month as a result of just localizing the app’s keywords.
This is a clear cut case of how localization tremendously boosted the popularity of an app. Though not all apps can experience the same level of success, it’d be wise for you to do your own research on before/after cases of localized apps before deciding whether you should localize. Generally though, most apps that are localized to different target markets tend to do well.
iOS vs Google Play
If you’re keen on doing the MVP test and partly localizing your app, keep in mind that localizing for the two largest app stores -- the Apple App Store and Google Play – will require similar yet different approaches.
Your strategy for selecting keywords for App Store Optimization will basically be the same for the two stores. This entails looking for low competition “download” keywords on both stores – the keywords people will search for to find and download an app.
Yet how the two app stores allow a user to discover an app’s keywords is different. Google Play seizes keywords from the title of the app and its description, and lends more weight to title keywords. Since the title can only be 30 characters long on Google Play, most of your keywords will be in the app description. Though you’d be tempted to keyword stuff the description as a result of this fact, write a well-written app description that is natural-sounding instead.
Like the Google Play App Store, the Apple App Store also takes keywords from the app’s title, but it’s different in that it does nothing with the app’s description. Instead, it finds an app’s keywords from a specialized 100-character keyword field. Your objective here is to pack this field in with keywords that will reach the widest audience on the app store.
Next Steps Following the Test
If your app passes the MVP Localization Test, then fully localizing your app will be highly beneficial for your company. Let’s delve into what this will require:
Hire Professional Localization Experts
You may be tempted to pinch your pennies and localize your app using Google Translate. This road will lead you to nowhere as Google Translate’s work will not be very good.
Running a translation through a machine can help you with certain phrases and help you better understand a language but it will end up hurting you when it comes to localization. Opt instead to work with professional human translation services to obtain the best results.
Localization Goes Beyond Translation
When you localize, it’s not just a mere translation job – different conventions that other countries follow, such as units of measure, are taken into account.
If your country subscribes to Fahrenheit readings of temperature but the foreign target markets of your app subscribe to Celsius, you’ll have to change and localize your app accordingly. People don’t want to think out the conversions – make it easy for them instead.
Other cultural nuances are taken into account when a professional localization service handles the process. App publishers that go the Google Translate route take a risk of remaining uninformed about different societal conventions. They may inadvertently offend the foreign audience and alienate them as a result of their carelessness.
For instance, the hand gesture of making a peace or victory sign with the index and middle fingers is positive in many countries and may show up in your app or app instruction video. However, in countries like England and Australia, when the hand palm is facing the signer, the gesture offends. In 1992, George Bush Sr. made this mistake in Australia and created a scandal. Don’t go down this path yourself with your app.
Carefully analyze your app and consult with localization experts to make sure that the culturally friendly and positive aspects of the app translate well to the local audience.
Localization has been proven to significantly boost app downloads, give your app more exposure to foreign audiences and grant you a serious competitive advantage over other similar apps. There are many, many benefits to localizing your app.
If you believe your app could be used by people in a different country of the world, employ the localization MVP test to find out if your app would likely be successful there. This will curb your risk and give you a solid idea as to whether you should go ahead and localize your entire app.