What is Localization?
It’s a phrase that gets tossed around a lot these days. Generally speaking, localization is the process of targeting your app to a certain market, often a specific country. According to the numbers, app developers can seriously boost downloads and revenue if they cater their apps to specific foreign markets.
How to Localize:
The easiest way to cater to a foreign market is to offer your app in the native language. Only about 8% of the world speaks English as their first language (although the app market is skewed towards English speaking countries). 50% of the countries on the top 10 list for app downloads and revenue are non-English speaking countries from Europe and East Asia. That alone is reason enough to offer your app in more than one language.
Translation is just the first step. You can localize by teaming up with local businesses to offer promotional campaigns, offer locally relevant in-app purchases, or promote local news content. Often, game developers will alter character ethnicities based on the areas they are selling to, change backdrops and cityscapes to reflect the target audience, or pay attention to subtle elements like music and cultural preferences.
If you translate your app, make sure to also translate your app store description and all related text. If your potential users can’t find your app, they can’t download it! Keyword translation is extremely important. It may be a no brainer, but just copying your keywords into Google translate probably won’t do the trick. Ideally, you should localize all screen shots, keywords, and language strings within the app.
One useful tool for finding keywords that works well for many languages is Google Adwords. Within Adwords, set the parameters to “exact match”, “mobile devices with full internet browsers,” and select the country in question. You can leave the language to “all languages,” to account for multilingual countries. This is an easy way to find relevant keywords for each country.
Is Localization Worth the Effort?
If this sounds like a lot of work to you, you’re right. You’ve already put a lot of effort into your app, and the thought of creating multiple nuanced versions probably sounds like a headache. The thing is, localizing your app is worth it. If you hope to optimize your app for the world market, catering to different foreign markets will deliver more downloads and more revenue. It’s as simple as that.
Take a look at this graphic from a AppAnnie report, The Implication of App Translations. The graphic compares revenue and download rates of iOS apps that support native languages, and those that don’t. The green bars show apps that do not support the native language. Take a look at China, one of the largest and fastest growing app markets in the world. According to the graph, the revenue produced by non-Chinese language apps is tiny compared to the rest of the market.
On average, apps that introduced a native language version increased their download volumes by more than 128%in the week following the update. Average revenues over the same period increased by roughly 26%. East Asian countries were the most impacted by the translation: China and Japan experienced the highest improvements in total downloads, and China and South Korea saw the biggest jump in revenues. Oddly enough, these results only apply to iPhone apps. iPad apps in the same regions in the same time period were not affected.
English language apps dominate western markets where the standard of English language understanding is higher. The iPhone free downloads charts for France, Italy, Germany, and Spain all have close to 90% penetration by English language apps.
However, companies like Zynga and 6waves have seen major success when they launched localized versions of their apps for foreign markets. For example, Cityville’s launch in French, Italian, German and Spanish was Zynga’s most successful game launch ever).
Seize the Opportunity
Applications that support multiple languages have increased their share of global free downloads and revenue since January 2012. English is by far the most common language for applications, while most other languages are divided geographically. In our highly saturated app market, anything you can do to help make your app stand out and attract users helps. For most apps, it may not make sense to try to localize your app for every country. Look at your analytics, and see which markets you think have potential, but are underperforming. Target those countries with your localization efforts.