One year spent building a business case and securing a budget.
Several months spent confirming requirements and recruiting talent.
Countless nights spent designing interfaces and debugging code.
Considering all the time, money, and attention you invested in mobile app development, why restrict your returns to a single market?
Global mobile app revenue is expected to expand from $50.9 billion in 2016 to $101.1 billion in 2020 — and that growth will not be driven by any single language, country, or culture.
By localizing your app, you can multiply the impact of your initial mobile investment and capture a prime piece of a $50 billion opportunity.
Which markets make the best targets for your app localization strategy? The answer will vary based on your unique business traits and goals.
But we do know that the following three destinations definitely deserve a place in your discussion.
China Chases U.S. Lead
Current Status: #2 in mobile app downloads; #3 in mobile app revenue
Future Promise: 880 million smart devices and ⅓ of the world’s mobile app downloads in 2020
The ascendance of the Chinese market may have been the biggest mobile app storyline of 2015. China now ranks #2 (behind the U.S.) in terms of total mobile app downloads and #3 (behind the U.S. & Japan) in terms of total mobile app revenue.
This success is even more impressive when you consider the difference between iOS and Android app distribution patterns.
From an iOS perspective, China may be Apple’s most important outpost. The Asian superpower officially became the global leader in iOS app downloads last year, doubling its 2014 iOS revenue along the way.
But from an Android perspective, the glaring absence of Google Play continues to cast a shadow over the Chinese market. With Android users forced to rely on a patchwork of third-party platforms, convenience and security issues are almost certainly suppressing downloads.
There is cause for Android optimism, however. Lenovo executive and Motorola Mobility chairman Chen Xudong has already revealed his intention to mediate with government officials and bring Google Play to China sometime in 2016. And reports have suggested that Google may be open to creating a regional version of its store to better comply with local regulation.
Regardless of where Chinese consumers ultimately do their downloading, though, the upside of app localization may be too big for developers to ignore. By the end of the decade, smartphones and tablets will represent 80% of China’s projected 1.1 billion mobile connections.
Brazil Sets Firm Foundation
Current Status: #3 in mobile app downloads
Future Promise: ¾ of mobile population will have smart devices by 2020
Seeing Brazil rank just below China in terms of total mobile app downloads is not entirely surprising at first glance. But how it achieved that ranking reveals several key differences between the two countries.
At a surface level, Brazil’s overwhelming reliance on Android devices stands in sharp contrast to China’s growing attraction to Apple products. Digging a bit deeper, though, the South American country seems to have a much stronger appetite for mobile app exploration.
Although Brazil’s mobile audience is less than 20% the size of its Chinese counterpart, Brazil was able to match more than 50% of China’s mobile app download volume in 2015.
Additionally, the Brazilian mobile market is far more receptive to foreign app publishers. While nine of China’s 10 most downloaded apps of 2015 were developed by Chinese companies, only two of Brazil’s 10 most downloaded apps were developed domestically.
Foreign brands localizing mobile apps for a Brazilian audience can be assured that there is still plenty of ground to gain, however. Smartphones and tablets are expected to account for 73% of Brazil’s mobile connections in 2020, up from 42% in 2015.
But executives should be aware that it may be several years before app monetization catches up to app engagement. Brazil still remains outside of the Top-10 in terms of mobile app revenue, trailing several small-but-mature markets like France, Taiwan, and South Korea.
India Eyes Aggressive Growth
Current Status: #4 in mobile app downloads
Future Promise: Smart devices to grow from 11% to 54% of mobile connections over next five years
While China and Brazil tend to be defined by a blend of urban technology hubs and remote rural communities, India remains an emerging market in the most traditional sense. But digital developments are moving quickly.
India has already risen to the #4 ranking in total mobile app downloads following 50% year-over-year growth of Android downloads in 2015. And Indian consumers seem to be heartily embracing the era of mobile commerce.
Last year, India outpaced the U.S., U.K., and Japan in terms of download volume and growth among its 10 most popular retail apps. What’s more, six of those 10 apps are mobile-first businesses with no desktop or brick-and-mortar interface at all.
This thriving young market comes with one minor caveat, however. Local brands are currently dominating the space, so ambitious foreign brands will have to be especially thoughtful in their app localization efforts if they hope to steal market share in more established segments.
Alternatively, India may be the perfect stage for a penetration strategy centered on creating an entirely new market. Between 2015 and 2020, industry analysts expect India to add nearly 192 million users to its mobile marketplace.