Why Apps should be localized from the very beginning

Business insights
Posted by Athena Parthenos

The application world is a real business—one that is quickly becoming one of the biggest. Most likely, this is because apps were designed from the very beginning as products to be sold globally. Thus, if you invest in the creation of apps you should keep in mind that as an international product, the content needs to be equally available to people all over the world. Therefore, localizing an app needs to be included in the early developing phases in order to effectively take advantage of the market possibilities of the app.

If you assumed that the nations with the biggest territories are the ones that top the charts for generating the biggest revenue from app downloads, you weren’t exactly correct. In 2012, The Guardian presented a report created by AppAnnie on revenues based on monthly downloads in Google Play and the iOS App store. It turns out that Japan reached the highest revenue with 29% on Google Play, followed by US and South Korea, with 26% and 18%, respectively. For iOS, things looked slightly different; the US came in first with 33%, followed by Japan at 14% and the UK with 7%. Following that first analysis, AppAnnie published another report that shows that in 2014, the US, China, Japan, the UK, and Russia were the top five countries for iOS revenue. Japan, the US, South Korea, Germany, and the UK are the top five for Google Play (in that order). So applications have a great advantage in that they can be sold all over the globe with just a few taps on a smartphone. Yet all this could be irrelevant if while developing the app you don’t make them easy to understand for the people using them.

So we have the certainty that there is a percentage of the entire world that downloads applications, and that not all users are in English-speaking countries, but how can we be sure that they need their native language rather than simply relying on English? Well, first of all, if you translate, your content will be available to a larger number of people, and that is certainly not a bad thing at all, considering that not all countries have a good knowledge of English as a second language. You can definitely use your content in some English-speaking countries, like the UK or Australia, or you could market your product in European countries that are relatively fluent in English, like Sweden and Norway. But that’s about it.

If you think about it, there are more or less 194 countries in the world, and if we limit our analysis of English-speaking countries to the 20 most economy-driving countries, only the UK and the US speak English. Russia, India, China, France, and Japan are just a few examples of powerful countries that are not so at ease with English. An article in Japan Today reported that Japanese high school students fell below government expectations on the national English test. Contrary to expectations, more than 50% of high school graduates scored below or equivalent to Grade 3 of the Eiken Test (practical English test). Furthermore, the article pointed out that 29.2% of students scored zero on the writing section, and 13.3% scored zero on the speaking section.

Japan might be having a hard time learning English, but other countries are in no better position. According to the Euromonitor, when it comes to English knowledge in EU countries, France comes in with 40% of its population speaking the language at least at a conversational level, Italy 33%, and Spain 22%. The rest of the world seems to have its fair share of difficulties too; in Brazil, only 5% are conversational, in Russia 5.48%, and China 8%.

Numbers point out that aside from creating an app that people want to download and use, you also need to think about how to make that content available and understandable. This is what I mean when I say that your application needs to be global—I mean that your application needs to be localized and should be available in all the languages of your current (and possibly new) markets. Localizing can be complicated, and if it’s not well organized from the beginning, it might be pricey; you can waste resources, time, and money. For this reason, it is useful to rely on a localization company right from the start who can advise you on strategies to implement translations in addition to providing you with the best translations for your target audience.

Remember, just as in other e-commerce situations, the average internet consumer feels more comfortable when reading and purchasing things in his or her own language. That is because he or she understands 100% of the text. The ability to ensure that customers understand apps in their own language during any given task—from raising a farm or cloning zombies to referring to the help desk of your training or health program—becomes a key hook for your app to be downloaded when compared to other apps offering a similar product.

The truth is that English doesn’t get you anywhere. if you want your product to effectively sell internationally, you need to think of translations as an important part of your product. If you translate, not only will you open up new markets or raise your revenues with more downloads in your current international markets, but you will also be able to offer a better experience to your users.

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