Smartphone adoption is on the rise, and by 2016, there will be an estimated 2 billion smartphone users worldwide. The U.S. will constitute a mere 10 percent of this overall figure, with much of the growth coming from the developing world, including China and India.
For forward-thinking app developers, scaling internationally is the best way to drive growth. International expansion offers access to an increasingly lucrative market, an edge over the competition and an opportunity to be perceived as a “global” brand.
If you’re like many U.S. based startups, the prospect of marketing your app in countries that don’t even speak the same language may be daunting, so here are five ways to get started.
1. Do your research.
There’s a reason Tinder hasn’t made its way to Saudi Arabia. Not all apps are suitable for international expansion, so it’s important to choose the target geographies where you can really make a difference. Create a list of potential target markets to penetrate and be sure that the app is culturally acceptable. You need to be certain your concept can realistically resonate before trying your hand internationally.
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2. Localization in the age of globalization.
Once you have identified the appropriate countries or geographies, start localizing your app in terms of design, UI and even name to fit the local culture. When Evernote entered China in 2012 it named itself based on the app’s actual function (Yinxiang Biji or Memory Note) rather than directly translating the name from English. This resonated with the Chinese and within a year Evernote reached 4 million users in the market, shattering analyst predictions.
Separately, when entering a multi-lingual country such as India, make your sure app platform supports all possible languages in the region. Hint: If your app supports English, Chinese and Spanish, then you’re already covering more than 45 percent of users globally. Also don’t forget to localize the metadata of the app for different geographies.
3. Secure the right app store distribution.
Promote your app in local markets. Google Play is unavailable in China, so savvy app developers turn to Baidu, which just surpassed Apple to become the world's second-largest app distributor. Many countries have several popular local app distribution platforms that can be used for disseminating your app locally and, ultimatel,y drive more downloads.
4. Use cloud services for content delivery.
Whether you’re creating a game, digital magazine or e-commerce app, all transactions should be done using a cloud services such as Amazon (AWS), Akamai, Microsoft Azure, etc. This will ensure the transactions are fast without any latency issues and that users enjoy the best possible experience with your app. A cloud-driven business model also allows you to scale more easily abroad and drives greater adoption.
5. Don’t forget social integration.
Make sure you app integrates with popular social media platform logins. That eases data collection and allows users to register with the app without additional hassle. The social media platforms should, of course, be localized as well. That is the important part. Typically, apps have a Facebook and Twitter login integration, but these platforms don’t work in all countries. As with the local app stores and distribution channels, be sure to identify the most relevant social media platforms like Renren in China or MXit in South Africa.
While scaling your app internationally can be a challenge, it’s a great way to build your business, monetize and grow the userbase. Smartphone usage and adoption continues to grow abroad, making the opportunity quite attractive for startups. In the end,