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For many app marketers, localizing an app to fit new markets simply means translating it into different languages. Entrepreneurs then sit, and wait, hoping this will instantly turn their app into an overnight success. But in order for an app to successfully penetrate a foreign market, there’s a whole lot more than translation that needs to take place.

Scratch the Surface

If you want to keep effort to a minimum but still localize your app as much as possible, ASO (App Store Optimization) is the way to go. This means optimizing what users in a certain country see in the app store: title, description, and visuals.

Using Google Translate is extremely risky, and thus I strongly recommend working with a professional translator who is also experienced in ASO and localization. It’s important to ensure that your description includes the most common relevant search words in that specific country and that your visuals correlate with the local culture. The Spanish language, for example, contains dozens of different jargon – jargon that is not necessarily used across the board among all Spanish-speaking countries. Therefore, using native speakers as translators (instead of resorting to Google Translate) is the only reliable way to overcome such cultural differences.

As always, it’s best to run A/B testing for creative materials, keep up with ongoing industry changes, and optimize the text and title on a regular basis.

Copy & Paste

This is still a basic level of localization, which includes translating not only your app page but the content of your app word for word (of course some UI tweaks are required to make sure the interface accommodates the text). This means that people everywhere are exposed to the same type of app regardless of their cultural differences.

While this can be enough for utility apps (such as Google Maps), it’s not enough for apps that either offer a more “complex” experience, have more than one feature, or attempt to engage with the user on an emotional level.

Beat the Culture Shock

In order to successfully penetrate a foreign market, you’ll have to do more than just perform the two steps above. You’ll have to make in-app alterations beyond basic translation. To make appropriate tweaks, you must first conduct extensive market research that examines various aspects: the use of mobile devices in the country, competing apps, and users’ purpose for using the app.

The conclusions you draw from such a study should give you a better clue as to how you should adapt your app to the desired market. If the target audience, for example, seems to like highly expressive emoticons, a messaging app should make the emoticons button more accessible to users than the photo attachment button.

The same app could also be aiming to penetrate another market where locals are fond of utility features. You could expose those locals to a version of the app where the voice recording button is more prominent than the emoticons button. Successfully penetrating this country could also mean having to alter the emoticons themselves to make them more culturally appropriate.

Even the most basic steps are somewhat tricky, but it is definitely worth investing in these measures. Remember: These minor tweaks can turn out to be the difference between success and failure.

Lior Eldan is the cofounder and COO of Moburst, a global mobile marketing agency.


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