How To Rock Mobile App Localization

Make no mistake, the mobile explosion and migration from the web to apps is not just an American or even Western phenomenon.  In fact, how fast and how broad populations across the globe are adopting mobile is a big part of the story.

Apple sold more iPhone 6 and 6+ in China than the US in Q1 2015. China actually has more active smartphones than the entire US population with reportedly more than 380m.

Japan, South Korea and of course a whole host of Spanish speaking countries represent huge user bases as well.

A study by the Harvard Business Review reported that 72% of respondents said they are more likely to buy a product in their own language.

If your app is only in English, mobile app localization may provide an avenue for 5-100% growth or more.

Revenue per user and downloads overall vary per country/language by app and app type, but the stages of localization are similar across app types.

Stages of Localization

Depending on expected return or budget, publishers may approach app localization in stages, both in languages localized for and what in the app is localized.

Publishers should start with the app store listing text and keywords, then move to the graphics (screenshots and video), then in-app text, in-app purchases and in-app controls like back buttons.

Localizing the app text, items for purchase and controls is a massive over-simplification that groups design and UI in with text and back buttons as if it were just simple translation.

Localization vs Translation

Let’s address this here:

  • Translation is essentially changing text into another language.  (defining “translation” w/o using “translate” is not easy!)
  • Localization is language translation plus locally relevant graphics, units of measurement, colors, social networks etc…

China does not use Facebook, Russia has VK instead of Facebook.  Apps that require or offer a Facebook login would be out of place in China and Russia.

Similarly, a photo-taking app that used screenshots of two Americans taking photos may not resonate as well with a Chinese consumer as screenshots showing Chinese users.

Localized App Store Listing – Text Only

Google Play and Apple both support creating multiple app store listings by language.

A quick recap of app store listing best practices reminds us that for Google Play, and app store listing consists of an app title, short and long description and graphic elements. For Apple, we have an app name, description and a hidden field for keywords.

The name/title, descriptions and keywords are extremely important for app store optimization – specifically visibility in the app stores and conversion of viewers to users – we are not going to just translate our fields into another language. The current English app listing is the result of research on user behavior and search phrases in English in the US.

The best way to create a localized and optimized app store listing is to go through the optimization process for each targeted location.

If you want to start smaller and just translate the current app store listing, avoid using Google Translate as the default translation tool.


There are many reasonable options where translating an app store listing into 10 languages would run around $1,000.

Mobile app publishers with a serious focus on entering a new market with their apps should perform a complete ASO analysis for the targeted country.

App Listing Creatives

App creatives like screenshots and a video have a huge impact on converting app store views into installs and users. If the text of an app store listing (name, description, keywords) drives visibility, the creative elements drive conversion.

Translating the text on any creatives is the place to start, but publishers should consider changing the actual images used if a more local example is available.

For example, a mapping app could show a screenshot of a user navigating a map of Paris in France, and of Shanghai for China.

Using the app store optimization research from the previous stage, you will know which features and functions are in highest demand and of most interest in your targeted country. Highlight these features in screenshots just like you would lead with you most sought after features in screenshots for your domestic audience.

Which Countries to Localize For

With an English app or game, publishers can cover some big spending countries like the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and of course the US.

If your app is already in English, you have roughly 35% of the app market covered.

Where you go from there depends largely on where current app installs are coming, the LTV of those users, and where competitive apps are having success.

If your app is getting a lot of downloads in Germany, for example, this may be a good place to start your app localization efforts.

Another approach is to see where your competition is having success. One place to start is by performing competitive ASO research.  Do any of your biggest competitors in the app store have localized app store listings?  If so, which countries and how do they rank in those locations?

With tools like this from Apptopia, publishers can see both the number of installs and the estimated revenue per user by country for competitive apps.

The top 5 recommended languages for localization not considering your app’s type, performance and competitors are English, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Korean and Spanish.  German, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian round out top 9.

Mobile Marketing Best Practices

Just when marketers caught up with websites, social media disrupted the digital marketing landscape. While providing new ways to reach customers, navigating how businesses should use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (not to mention Instagram and Pinterest and many more) continues to be a challenge.

Now mobile has arrived to the scene, faster and bigger than any technology before it.

The only reason they are called “mobile devices” or “smart phones” is because “personal computers” was already taken.

It is not just the use of mobile devices that is the story that is changing everything, but the use of mobile apps.

To add to the intrigue, mobile devices and apps are not just used while waiting in lines or “on the go”, but while sitting on the couch as the second screen.

Like social media and the rise of the web before it, the rapid transition to mobile and mobile apps provides opportunities and challenges.  Mobile moves so fast, the learning curve can be steep.

Let’s nail down some proven best practices for mobile marketing so we can take advantage of this opportunity to reach and connect with our current and target user bases.

Off-App Marketing Best Practices

Email with Mobile reading in mind

More email is opened via a mobile device than via the desktop, with 53% of all emails reportedly opened first on a mobile device.  Google reports 75% of gmail accounts are accessed via mobile.

While these numbers paint a broad picture of email opens on mobile, your specific target market will have its own characteristics.

Here is the sobering stat that really hammers home the point regardless of target market:

75% of Consumers “Highly Likely” to Delete Emails They Can’t Read on Mobile Devices

A report on mobile email usage from Constant Contact includes the following and more:

  • In consumers between the ages of 18 and 39, 85% report using mobile to open and read email, with half stating mobile is the primary device for email.
  • Even in users over 60, 65% reported using mobile devices to open and read emails.

Almost 50% of survey respondents also said they are likely to click on links in an email when read from a mobile device, which means the destination also needs to be mobile-viewing friendly.

Mobile Ready / Responsive website

You’ve seen the offenders, and they are not pretty.

With the majority of local web search now coming from mobile devices, Google recognized that if search results from their search engine included websites that were not easily viewable from the device performing the search, users would opt for a better search solution.

Enter “Mobilegeddon”, the hard date Google set for penalizing websites in search rankings that did not pass their mobile readiness test.  Websites were graded on a pass/fail basis, and those that failed were instantly penalized in search rankings.

Despite the rise of mobile web browsing, many of the largest companies have not addressed this obvious user experience issue.

Between emails being read in mobile devices, links from within emails to websites viewed in mobile devices, and the search result penalty for not being mobile ready, not having a mobile-ready website means you are just not even in the game.

In-App Marketing Best Practices

While a mobile-ready website and emails are a good place to start and a minimum for participating in the mobile-centric environment, providing a mobile app to clients, prospects or cold leads provides some benefits unmatched by social or email.

From tshirts to enterprise infrastructure, B2C or B2B, the buying process generally starts on a mobile device.

Position for Target Audience

In-app marketing actually starts before anyone uses your app. We start with creating a mobile app listing positioned for your target audience.

Relevant visitors to your app listing are more likely to install and use your app, just like relevant traffic to your website is more likely to find the features of your products and services compelling.

Because most mobile users report that app store search is the most common method for finding and installing apps, positioning your app for app store search discovery is a primary app marketing tactic.

The practice of creating and testing an app store listing for visibility in the app stores, and conversion of viewers to users is called app store optimization or ASO.

Check out our guides for Apple ASO and Google Play ASO for more on this topic.

Local and Push Notifications

Connecting with prospects and clients via in-app notifications is one of the primary benefits of investing in a mobile app.

Notifications are opened at a rate of 50% or greater, more than 5x that of email.

Notifications drive action within the hour.

Depending on your target market, notifications and mobile messaging may be the primary communication tool used by your audience, as email is increasingly becoming grandpa’s tool of choice.

Coupling notifications with user and device data, mobile marketers can create sophisticated messaging campaigns, connecting to users at just the right times.

The easy example here is Starbucks offering $1 off on the new “Pumpkin Spiced Latte” when users of their app walk by a Starbucks.

This is made possible only with mobile devices, and only with an app.  Which leads us to our next best practice.

Use Location Data

Two things make mobile devices and mobile apps one of the most exciting marketing opportunities in decades:

  • they are truly personal – email and browsing were the best means to target an audience with relevant messaging until mobile devices became ubiquitous
  • location data – marketers can build campaigns for extremely specific locations

Target recently introduced testing in their stores for iBeacons, which provides location data of users to the specific location in their store.

These tests started with “Get $3 off of soap”, but could (will) evolve to “You have this bag pinned on Pinterest, get it now for 20% off”.

The examples are as varied as businesses and their business goals, but if the partnership between Cisco and Apple is any indication, location-based mobile marketing is not just for retailers or other B2C businesses.

Starting with these mobile marketing best practices, investments in mobile will show the highest returns and provide a good base to build on.

Google Play App

Submitting an App to Google Play

Congrats – you have a mobile app ready for submitting to Google Play!

If you don’t have a Google Play Publisher account, which provides access to the developer console, you are going to want to sign up for that here.

Google Play Publisher Account

As of this writing, there is a one-time registration fee of  $25. For sake of comparison, consider Apple charges $99 annually for their iOS developer program.

If your app is a paid app, or offers in-app purchases, you will need to set up your Google payments merchant account.  This step requires information about your company, and bank account info for sending payments.

Add New App

At this point, you can start to build your Google Play app listing, including a tested icon and screenshots, and optimized app title and descriptions.

In addition to the app store listing, app publishers need to set country distribution and set up any in-app items with prices.

This is also the time to set your app’s content ratings, end user license agreement and privacy policy.

Alpha, Beta, Production

Submitting an app on Google Play once you have developer console access, payments set up and the app listing created is essentially a two-step process:

  1. submit for testing
  2. submit to store (publish)

Developer Tasks

From a developer’s perspective however, configuring the app for submission is more complicated than just uploading the latest APK. Google recommends the following process  for uploading an app build prior to releasing to testing:

Google Play Publishing Prep

The Google Play developer console provides access to features not yet supported in iTunes Connect, so those familiar with publishing iOS apps may not be aware they exist.

Additional Google Dev Console Features

First, Google Play has a simple user interface for creating builds for Alpha and Beta testing.  Distributing access to these builds does not require an approval process like Apple does with Testflight.

Second, Google provides both crash testing and device testing in their new Cloud Test Lab.  This service is performed automatically when a new APK (app build) is submitted to either the alpha or beta testing track.

Google Cloud Test Lab

Google will test the UI and functionality across devices and supporting operating systems and return a details report of finding and suggested fixes.

Third, Google offer app optimization suggestions, from supporting tablets to localization recommendations.

Once you have worked your way through the alpha and bester tester feedback, crash reports and Cloud Test reports, you can move your build to production by selecting “Ready to Publish” in the app listing’s top right corner:

publish this app


Google offers a comprehensive app submission checklist, some of which was covered above, and much should be addressed well prior to app submission.

Develop an app

How Much Does it Cost to Develop an App

The best pace to start with estimating the costs of developing a mobile app is in understanding there is a big range.

Functionality, design, service level and development language all impact the final costs of developing a mobile app, and that’s before marketing costs are included.

With cars or houses, function and design is often easier to conceptualize for the non-developer. We expect the engine, the suspension, the design, the interior and the add-ons all to impact costs and have some idea of how.

For software, specifically mobile apps, it can be hard to know if a specific feature or function is even possible, let alone how much it would cost to add.

Let’s remove some of the mystery related to the costs of developing mobile apps by looking at the variables that impact the cost of developing a mobile app the most.


An app that displays content with limited interactivity – like say the way a blog functions on a website – will serve as our baseline for a simple, basic mobile app.

But very few successful mobile apps (measured by use) are limited to displaying text.

Otreva’s Cost Calculator

Even simple additions like a “click to call” feature, or enabling in-app purchases for in-app content adds cost.

The biggest and most common functions that can impact costs are:

  • custom logins or social logins
  • social sharing
  • messaging
  • connecting and uploading to an existing database
  • ratings and reviews systems

These types of features are hard to estimate for non-devs (and even sometimes for devs) as we just don’t know what is “hard”.

For which devices?

Do you want to support just Apple devices (iOS), both Apple and Android, or all of the above plus Windows and Blackberry and web? Just phones or tablets as well? Devices Selecting a cross-platform development language based on your current environment is a popular choice for reaching multiple mobile operating systems across devices.

Building a native app for Apple and another for Android is more expensive upfront and in ongoing maintenance than using a cross-platform option, but there may be an impact to customer experience or limits to functionality depending on what your app needs to do and what the cross-platform framework supports.

As you can imagine, all of this impacts cost.


Some mobile app marketers and publishers say design has a bigger impact on engagement and retention than any other element.

Like evaluating code for the non-technical, evaluating design can be difficult for those who are not well-versed in the latest UI and UX methods.

Good design costs more, and the best place to start in evaluating what is good is by looking at competitive mobile apps, or other mobile app used by your target market.

Service level

Many organizations opt to work with agencies on projects like web and mobile apps. From marketing departments across SMB and Enterprise, to smaller divisions inside global conglomerates – working with agencies means working with subject matter experts, without the cost of hiring additional headcount.

But agencies themselves offer a large range of service levels and competencies. The agency who built and manages your website may not be the best option for building your mobile app.

The agency you use for SEO or marketing may or may not have experience marketing mobile apps – a very different challenge.

An agency with a track record of publishing successful mobile apps will likely support any mobile app project with product management, project management, and some on-going maintenance (as mobile app updates need to be resubmitted to the app store,s not just pushed like like the web).

For those looking to get started experimenting with mobile without the costs of a full service agency, working directly with devs or dev teams can provide a significant cash savings, with the tradeoff being your time.

Working directly with dev teams means you (the app owner/publisher) would take on the following roles:

  • Product Manager – define the app features and functions, app architecture including development technologies, languages and frameworks, and create and maintain product roadmap.
  • Project Manager – define and manage the project to specific milestones, coordinate communication between designer and dev team, and manage non dev projects including quality assurance (QA), alignment with marketing and (ultimately) whatever else comes up.
  • Marketing – pre-launch, launch, user acquisition, monetization, etc..

The above does not include the HR element of hiring a dev team, designer and/or supporting specialists like someone focused on user experience.

Mobile is changing rapidly – marketing, design, supporting frameworks, features, usage patterns and more. Working with an agency can be a great way to get your first mobile app built.

For a very good estimate of the cost of developing a mobile app – check out this interactive tool for a rough starting point, or this one to get an idea of a wide variety of potential features and functions.

Mobile App Development & App Store Optimization: What is App Success in 2015?

The world of apps has boomed since it began to form in 2008. App stores like Google Play or Apple’s own App Store have become saturated with apps, making competition fierce and standing out an even harder task.

As a company, we get asked questions ranging from the beginning of the app development cycle, all the way through an app’s marketing life. With all the right tools, you can get your app from concept to download.

On Thursday, September 17 at 9AM PST/12PM EST, Gummicube and Innoppl’s Los Angeles app developers will be hosting a webinar titled, “Mobile App Development & App Store Optimization: What App Success Is in 2015.” We’re bringing together experts in app development and app store optimization, giving you all the answers you need to get your app idea off the ground and on its way to becoming a success in 2015.

What You’ll Learn:

  • Why should you develop an app – A realistic look, keeping metrics and customer insights in mind
  • The perfect pre-development process on how to integrate the app with your business goals
  • Detailed analysis on app development and testing phase
  • Getting the right data and information to market your app
  • Understanding your audience and designing the right marketing strategy
  • How to optimize your app for the Apple App Store and Google Play store

Who Should Attend This Webinar:

If you’re interested in developing an app to help improve your mobile presence and help your company connect with its target audience and users, this webinar will teach you what you need to get started.

Get ready for the webinar today with a free checklist with basic app development and app store optimization facts.