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5 Steps for Giving Your Mobile App Exposure on a Global Scale

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Transcreation:  The process of adapting a message from one language to another, while maintaining its intent, style, tone and context.

If you’re a mobile app developer or have a business with a mobile application, you’ve likely already put hundreds of hours into building, testing, and launching your app(s). With all of that time and energy invested into your application, why aren’t you translating your application in order to maximize your global exposure?

We are in the midst of a mobile app explosion. Here’s a look at what the research firm Gartner is projecting in the mobile app market:

Table 1. Mobile App Store Downloads, Worldwide, 2010-2016 (Millions of Downloads)

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Free Downloads 57,331 92,876 127,704 167,054 211,313 253,914
Paid-for Downloads 6,654 9,186 11,105 12,574 13,488 14,778
Total Downloads 63,985 102,062 138,809 179,628 224,801 268,692
Free Downloads % 89.6 91.0 92.0 93.0 94.0 94.5

Source: Gartner (September 2013)

When drilling down past this global data and looking at specific countries, more nuanced trends emerge. App Annie reports that Japan has surpassed the U.S. as the number-one country in app-generated revenue. Simultaneously, the BRICS—Brazil, Russia, India, and China—made formidable gains in app downloads, setting the stage for strong future revenue growth in multiple languages.

At the end of last year, Google Play announced translation services for Android developers.  Here are three highlights from Google:

  1. Zombie Ragdoll combined app translation with local marketing campaigns. In doing so, they found that 80 percent of their installs came from non-English-language users.
  2. Dating app SayHi Chat expanded into 13 additional languages and saw 120 percent install growth in localized markets and improved user reviews of the professionally translated UI.
  3. The developer of card game G4A Indian Rummy saw a 300 percent increase with user engagement in localized apps.

When parsing through the global data and looking at these three examples, it becomes clear if you’re only distributing your app in one language, you are missing out on a large portion of potential consumers. Here’s how to take your app global and ensure that your hard work is getting the respect and recognition it deserves.

1. Set Clear Goals

Before you dive into the world of translation, figure out what your goals overall are. Mobile app developers generally want four things:

  1. More downloads
  2. Better app store rankings
  3. More revenue
  4. Continued user engagement

There are hundreds of ways to get to these goals, of course. Translating and localizing an app is only one of them, but it’s an increasingly important one. Once you’ve weighted how important each of these categories are — i.e. we’re only focused on downloads or we’re predominantly focused on revenue — you’ll be ready to start setting clear consumer targets and build strategies to have consumers find you.

2. Set the Strategy

If localization is on your goal list, the next step is to set a clear strategy in terms of target market. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What markets do we want to enter?
  • What languages are needed?
  • What content within our app will be translated?
  • Who will handle the actual translation?

Certain apps fit into certain markets better than others. The Wall Street Journal reported that China was the largest market for Fotopedia, a company that makes photo travel magazine apps — representing 20 percent of visits (compared to just 14 percent from the U.S.). Just three years before, China was their 10th biggest market. Today they operate in 10 languages, including simplified Chinese.

3. Get Found

By the end of 2014, ITU predicts there will be nearly 3 billion Internet users worldwide. Between English, Spanish, and Chinese, you’ve covered more than 50 percent of the global online population. Add in 10 more of the world’s most popular languages and you’ll have 90 percent of the world’s online spending power covered.

To boost your chances of tapping into these growing online markets, consider appeasing search engines and app stores by taking these four steps:

  1. Generating quality content that is culturally sensitive
  2. Utilizing relevant key words in the local language
  3. Gaining positive reviews that are relevant to the app store reviewers
  4. Listing all relevant languages and app features

Once you’ve found your consumers and they’ve found you, you’ll need to have your app translated and localized to ensure you maximize user engagement and don’t lose users.

4. Streamline Your Translation

Updating any app can be challenging. Updating a multilingual app can be an even larger challenge — one that requires adaptability and integration. When transcreating app experiences for our clients, we focus on three things: the strings and remove the executable code, the context of their app, and delivering clear instructions to the translator — nobody is a mind reader.

We did this for Baby Chords, an app that arranges notes so that music is very easy to play. By helping them expand into more than 10 languages, Baby Chords is now gaining customers from all corners of the globe.

5. Don’t Settle

Whether you decide to translate your app internally, through a translation agency, through crowdsourcing translation platforms, or through machine translation, you’ll need to revisit your initial goals and determine the level of quality you’re looking for — and how much you’re willing to pay.

Remember that app localization is just the tip of the iceberg. When you’re selecting a translation provider, be sure that they can help you translate other modes of communication — confirmation emails, fulfillment for in-app purchases, translation of newsletters, localization of websites, etc. — or at the very least advise you on how to navigate ensuing language barriers, so that you can truly capture the attention of the users you’ve been missing out on thus far.

I’ve written about transcreation and translation pricing in the past, and would interested to hear your thoughts on these two topics as they relate to mobile app translation. Feel free to email me directly at ryan.frankel@verbalizeit.com or leave a comment below.

Ryan Frankel is the CEO of VerbalizeIt, the company that connects businesses and travelers directly to a 19,000-person translator community to deliver real-time quality translation. He is considered an expert on global communication and international customer engagement. Ryan is also a Wharton MBA alumnus, former private equity investor for Goldman Sachs and an endurance athletics enthusiast. You can reach him via email at ryan.frankel@verbalizeit.com.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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