How to Enter the Chinese Market as a Mobile App Developer?
The Chinese mobile app market is unique due to several factors. It had over 1 billion mobile Internet users back in early 2021; ignoring such a market should be considered a deadly sin. Today we’ll talk about why you should enter this challenging market, and how to get ready for conquering the local app stores.
A special approach for Chinese users
The first thing to consider about the Chinese market is that users tend to act very differently there.
It was thanks to mobile devices that fast Internet access has become common in the country, so China trusts mobile payments more and ranks the highest in paid app user lists. WeChat Pay and Alipay are the most common payment services while credit cards are hardly used.
Apps that you have to buy to use are not at all popular. Users are accustomed to take a look at the basic app functionality first and then make some in-app purchases. If your app doesn’t support the local payment system, it basically won’t be possible for you to release it. Same thing goes for QR codes as they are a must-have for all local apps.
The second important thing is that an average Chinese user would spend about 5 hours a day creating and consuming content with their smartphone. This figure is almost equal to weekly ones for Europe.
Gaming apps get extra attention, but the culture is such that users would let themselves be guided by generally themed search queries rather than search by specific titles.
The Chinese market is entering the age of 5G, which will change both consumer habits and app creators’ actions completely. First of all, you may want to pay attention to multiplayer options that will become available thanks to this technology.
Promoting iOS apps is moving along familiar lines, whereas the situation is more complicated with Google Play.
In China, there are dozens of local app stores instead of a single one. For this reason, store requirements for text and visuals may vary greatly. Vivo and Oppo smartphones can serve as a great example here. Both are owned by the same company, but their app stores have different rules because they are managed by different teams.
Success of an app on Yingyongbao largely depends on icon quality and how it reflects the apps’ essence. The store’s algorithms are very sensitive to user experience, so promotion will inevitably get bogged down if your app icon is anything but well-designed.
We’ve already talked about how one of the largest China’s stores, Huawei App Gallery, works. To reach 90% of users, you will need to launch your app on TOP-10 Android app stores. This number seems impressive at first, but those stores actually make up about 1/40 of the total number of China’s Android stores. The store fees may vary as well. QQ charges up to 70% of an app’s revenue while China Unicom charges the ‘standard’ 30%.
Learn more about what requirements different app stores may have.
The Great Document Flow of China
There are 5 fundamental documents that developers will need to release an app on Chinese app stores.
- Patent to confirm your right for intellectual property;
- Permit to conduct online and entertainment activities;
- Online content provider’s license;
- Registration for games;
- Game license ISBN.
The last one is often the most challenging. That is because only a Chinese company with completely Chinese-owned capital may get an ISBN. With such a narrow wiggle room, even super popular apps will have to transfer their rights.
Issues may occur when purchasing contextual ads as well. Document sets that you may have successfully submitted dozens of times before may be suspended just because the regulator now needs new licenses.
We can offer two pieces of advice about this.
- While in the Chinese market, devote more time to monitoring the news around your segment. The skill to adapt quickly to changing conditions is a must.
- When having to face strict laws and restrictions, think about how many competitors this system will weed out, and what benefits you’ll have once you’ve managed to release your app on the local app stores.
How to promote an app in the Chinese market
When releasing an app resembles a quest to slay a dragon, it seems like new users and new traffic should serve as a reward by default. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like this.
Developers often use mini apps for WeChat (up to 2 MB) as an MVP version of their mobile app. The apps get integrated into the messenger, so that users can stay in a familiar environment while enjoying your unique product.
Language barriers: Localization and culturalization
Having all apps localized into Chinese is, of course, a good move, but quite an expensive one. We mean, it’s at the level of spending your entire salary on lottery tickets.
At the initial stage, localization is not a necessity. It’s not even about the complex language and a plethora of dialects. When creating app metadata, it may be more important to respect cultural tradition and refrain from things like announcing tea time to them mo fos. In other words, don’t utilize complex phrases online autotranslate features may offer to avoid possible scandal due to the inappropriate use of hieroglyphs.
Translating the app title is the first step towards localization. The character limit is usually enough to leave English characters in the title and add Chinese translation in the brackets.
Then you should ask native speakers for help and get your app metadata and UI translated step by step. English is common among Gen Z only, so it’s sadly not possible to embrace the Chinese market at its best if you don’t plan to localize your app.
Pay attention to numbers. It’s important to use the ‘right’ numbers for everything sales-related. This might be no big deal to Western users, but it’s a powerful layer of Chinese culture that cannot be ignored.
For example, 8 has a positive meaning in China, since this number is pronounced like ba (八), which sounds just like fa (发) in ‘become rich’ (发财). For the same reason, you should completely avoid 4, which is pronounced like si (四). This is similar to si (死), meaning ‘death’.
Once your semantic core is ready, you can use Text Editor by Checkaso to adjust it. Create several description versions with various popular keywords to find the best version.
Select Mandarin as the default language. Use Simplified Chinese and take your time to improve UI/UX. Users from China have developed their own unique habits and expectations regarding UI and app functionality.
In terms of graphic ASO, Chinese people strongly associate yellow and red with success and wealth.
On the contrary, calmer colors like light blue or purple are generally used in the sports segment. This is in many ways thanks to Keep, a popular fitness app in China.
The number of Keep users exceeded 1 million already on the 105th day after the release. According to recent data, over 18,000 keywords on iOS search are related to Keep, and over 7,000 of them are among the top 3. Practically any sports-related semantic core will overlap the queries that mention Keep.
It’s important to know that not all graphic ASO should adhere to stereotypes and uniform rules, but there are certain trends for certain colors in certain categories.
It’s also worth noting that users from China love all sorts of coupons and discounts, which is why they find QR codes very important as we’ve already mentioned above.
Why did tech giant Uber lose to local Chinese taxi apps? The app creators failed to take into account that direct app transfer wasn’t exactly what users had been waiting for. It turned out that Chinese users select other taxi services more eagerly because of broader opportunities to rate trips. Competitors offer to rate not only the driver, but also the car, the interior aesthetics, the music, and a range of other parameters that Uber developers failed to consider.
You can use Checkaso Keywords Intersection to stand out among your competitors or go for a better ranking in search results. This tool shows the number and percentage of keywords by which your app semantics intersects with those of other apps. With it, you’ll have a grasp of who is your direct competitor in the sea of Chinese app stores.
How to find competitors?
- Find apps from the TOP-10 for the most popular queries of your theme. For example, enter “delivery of pet supplies in London” first and then analyze apps that show up among the top 10 search results.
- Explore the Similar Apps recommended by stores. You may find some relevant apps there.
- Checkaso algorithms select competitors automatically, based on the similarity of the semantics like keywords that people use to search for your app.
Find out more about competitor analysis here.
Advertising and traffic
There are several ad networks in China that can help your app find its audience.
AppFlood serves to optimize apps and monetize traffic.
Adwo is an app promotion platform that offers various solutions for developers and advertisers alike. It works especially well with the gaming segment, where watching videos is required to get in-game resources.
The platforms will help you earn from promoting other apps or integrating ads into your app (various types of monetization such as CPI, CPC, CPM, and PPD are available.)
Apart from WeChat, there are several powerful social media that can provide a strong influx of users, such as Youku, Baidu Tieba, and Zhihu.
Getting featured in App Store works the same in China as in other countries. Getting featured for Android devices is also a great opportunity to acquire new users. Keep in mind that it takes about 4 weeks for Google Play to review your application to get featured, so plan your marketing activities and release dates carefully to avoid getting flooded with angry reviews or bad ratings.
Entering the Chinese app market is an important step for scaling any app. With Checkaso tools, you can plan the release in the most favorable way and stand out among your competitors to get more traffic. Sign up for a demo to find out more about Checkaso features.