Why is mobile app localisation key to business success?

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Effective mobile app localisation drives huge revenue for some of the world’s most successful businesses.

Airbnb. Uber. Slack. Revolut. Other brands that have become household names only years after launch.

But what is mobile app localisation? In short, it’s the process of adapting your app so that it matches the individual language and culture of your target consumers in specific markets.

This isn’t just a translation. Everything from your visual design to functionality is adapted. The goal is to make your app such a natural fit that your users don’t notice you’re not a local brand.

Done correctly, there are huge benefits to localising your mobile app. Here is how brands like Airbnb and Uber have leveraged app localisation to achieve global success:

The key benefits of mobile app localisation

Expanding into new markets

English is still one of the most popular languages spoken online. But around 74% of potential mobile app users speak a non-English language.

This is a gigantic base of potential customers that could be almost entirely untapped by your competitors.

Take India as an example. Around 660 million people in India have smartphones. However, there is very low English language proficiency in the country and a staggering variety of languages.

Being the one app in your niche available to speakers of languages like Bengali and Gujarati alone could see you reach 100 million more people.

Improved user experience

People recommend apps that deliver a good user experience to their friends. A good experience requires an app that is adapted to someone’s language – but also their culture and preferences.

This means that if you want to improve your app’s visibility and active users, a UX that has been localised – carefully adapted – to individual regions and cultures is vital.

Because while modern users spend almost 5 hours per day on mobile apps, they don’t spend them on apps that don’t match their needs or aren’t easy to use.

But with nearly 9 out of 10 users happy to recommend brands whose apps they like, delivering a better user experience is a rewarding strategy in itself.

Higher conversion rates

Convincing your users to buy from you – whether your app itself, via e-commerce, or in-app purchases – is largely a matter of trust. This means providing a native-like experience.

  • 60% of modern users won’t buy from an app not in their native language.
  • 92%+ prefer to purchase in their local currency and preferred payment method.
  • 78% of customers are more likely to buy if an app is in their native language.

Again though, localising means going deeper than language. Take mobile games in China as an example. China is the world’s fastest-growing mobile market. Chinese users account for around 40% of all global app spending.

In China though, in-app purchases in games are not the norm. They’re not the way users are accustomed to interacting. Understanding that a different monetisation approach is required is both part of and key to gaining all the benefits of localising your app.

Increased revenue potential

Reaching a larger audience gives you a much higher potential revenue and chance for monetisation. It’s the key reason brands like Airbnb have swelled to their current global size.

If the localisation of your app is a natural fit for each of your target markets, you become a highly competitive choice. If you deliver a great user experience, users recommend you.

This is the way the global market can be the lever your app needs to catapult it to its true potential.

Top strategies for effective mobile app localisation

Translation and localisation of text

Most people think localisation of an app stops at the text. It doesn’t, but it’s still vital. Ensure you adapt every element of text in your app, including:

  • UI elements
  • Labels
  • Descriptions
  • User-generated content like reviews
  • Your Google Play or App Store listing

You need these translations to be accurate and culturally appropriate. This requires expert translators who are native to your target region.

Do ensure you send as much information and context as possible to your translator about the purpose of UI elements. A few screenshots with comments can go a long way.

You might also check if your app translators will use technology like Translation Memories (tools that automatically suggest already-agreed translations of phrases) to improve consistency and speed.

Localisation of visuals and multimedia

Like text, localising visual and multimedia elements is key if you want your app to appeal to different audiences. This needs to be done with cultural appropriateness and sensitivity in mind.

This isn’t just about not causing offence. What might be viewed as natural, evocative, amusing – whatever impact you’re aiming for – in one region might not be elsewhere. This can make your app fail to connect with your audience.

Understand and adapt to each target market to replicate your app’s success. Adapt everything, including:

  • Images
  • Video content
  • Icons (are not universal)
  • Visual elements and imagery
  • Images, banners, and other App Store assets

There are several steps to make this easier. For example, make sure text isn’t embedded in images or graphics before sending them to your Language Service Provider (LSP).

Localisation of functionality and features

Truly effective localisation goes further than text and multimedia too. What about your app’s functionality and features? Do they match your target audience’s preferences?

For instance, Clash of Clans – the hugely popular mobile game – experienced zero purchases of their in-game currency when they launched in China despite 200 000 users downloading the app.

The problem? They hadn’t realised that Google’s App Store doesn’t support paid apps in China.

This underscores how important it is to customise every aspect of your app’s functionality if you want to leverage the power of the global market. For example, in China, you might need to work with a local partner or one of China’s third-party app stores.

Make sure your app supports local currencies, payment methods, meets local regulations, and local sizing or weight systems too.

Testing and Quality Assurance

So many companies would have saved millions or made millions more if they had properly tested their localised apps before deployment. Engage in:

  1. Linguistic testing – by several native speakers of each language and region. Check for untranslated text, confusing functionality or layouts, and even general “feel”.
  1. Functional testing – across devices, platforms, and language versions.

Use the best practices for mobile app localisation

Research and understand your target market

Thorough market research drives all effective mobile app localisation. This research needs to include, at minimum:

  • Local language dialects and variants
  • Local user preferences for mobile, apps, and apps like yours
  • Cultural norms and nuance
  • Potential opportunities
  • Possible challenges to overcome

Always treat each region as distinct and unique. Don’t expect a single “Spanish” version to work for the very different Spanish speakers in Argentina and Spain, for instance.

It is also vital to understand how the mobile market works in a region as part of your localisation process.

For instance, data in China is comparatively expensive – roughly ten times as pricey as in the US. This means asking someone to download a 100MB game in China is potentially a big ask.

Collaborate with native speakers and experts

If you’ve ever seen a poorly translated version of an app, website, or marketing in English, you know you never want your brand to be associated with this kind of quality.

At best, it’s amusing. At worst, you’ve put users off your brand for life.

This makes collaborating with native specialists absolutely critical to the success of your mobile localisation project.

Use native translators and localisation specialists. Employ regional experts to ensure you are working with up-to-date local knowledge.

When it comes to testing expertise and relevance, you can’t beat actual test users from your target region.

Consider local regulations and legal requirements

Nowhere is regional expertise and knowledge more vital than when it comes to local regulations and legal requirements relating to apps and payment systems.

GDPR privacy regulations in Europe is the classic example of this. You need to know about this if you are planning to collect or process the data of EU citizens even if you’re based elsewhere.

We’ve already touched on the importance of understanding app store policies and guidelines in the case of Clash of Clans and Google’s App Store payment policy.

Another example comes from Japan, where Airbnb saw its available properties drop by 75% overnight when Japan’s 2018 Private Lodging Business Act came into effect.

Luckily, Airbnb’s extensive research of the Japanese market allowed them to institute a partnership program that got around the regulation. They recovered rapidly.

Maintain consistency across platforms

One of the dangers of localising for different markets on top of different Operating Systems and devices is that you dilute your brand and your user experience.

This requires planning pre-, during, and post-localisation, including things like:

  • Sending image source files to your LSP so they can change visuals
  • Bearing in mind the different values and key names used on iOS and Android
  • Assessing your branding across app locales to ensure it is recognisable

Localisation case studies and success stories

Apps like Slack and Uber have reached global audiences (and incredible revenues) through the effectiveness of their localisation processes.

Here are two other brands that have blown the competition out of the water by localising their apps:

1) Airbnb

Airbnb is available in over 220 countries and has a valuation of over £73 billion. Its app is available in over 60 languages.

The company carefully adapts its platform to different global audiences. This is much more than skin-deep. It’s based on in-depth knowledge of local preferences and customs.

For instance, in parts of Asia where there is a strong culture of risk aversion, the brand concentrates on group travel, a common practice.

Another example is Canada, where Airbnb focuses on offering deals to a market where over 9 out of 10 people count perceived savings as a determining factor in where they travel.

2) Revolut

Fintech leader Revolut is now available in over 30 countries. It points to fast and effective app localisation as the cause of its impressively swift growth.

Utilising a hybrid localisation strategy with a partly in-house team and two Language Service Providers, the company achieved incredible initial expansion – 186% in just a few years.

Revolut’s goal is to facilitate cross-border currency exchange, so localisation is vital. It also indicates that localisation has helped it reach non-native English speakers and older generations who would be less happy with an English language interface.

Make localising your mobile app work for your business

Today’s market is global. Or it can be – if you localise your app with different target users in mind.

Because mobile app localisation isn’t a matter of hitting a few keys on Google Translate. Deep knowledge of your target market and using regional translation specialists are vitally important.

But if you want your business to reach a wider audience, increase your potential revenue, and provide a seamless user experience, localising your mobile app is the way to do it.

Want to work with one of the world’s leading experts in localising apps for European and Asian markets?

Kwintessential already enables internationally famous brands including to reach global audiences.


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