Sarah Pekala

Woman Uses Phone


Introducing your mobile app to a new market is an exciting and challenging decision. Risks and rewards need to be balanced and considered as you make your decision and plan your move. If you’re thinking of expanding your mobile app to a new country, here are 10 things you should consider before marketing your app internationally, particularly in an emerging market.

1. Competitive research is key

Before considering a new market, make sure you do your competitive homework. What other competitors are in the space and how much market share do they own? How do their apps rank among the top 10 used apps in India or another country? App Annie’s country ranking list is a good resource to get an idea as to how they are doing. Is the market leader a local app, or an internationally known one? What makes them different?

2. Do you have a plan to localize your app?

According to a Common Sense Advisory study, 72% of consumers in Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Spain, and Turkey said they would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language. As you test different markets, consider a minimal viable localization plan, which allows you to localize your app for one new country and then test results before expanding. As a first step, consider localizing your Google Play Store listing to see if that gains any traction before localizing the entire app. There are many translation services available. We use OneSky for our mCent app.

3. Is your monetization plan viable in the new market?

One challenge when entering a new market is monetization strategy. In North America and Europe, using credit cards as a payment method for in-app purchases is not a barrier for users. But some emerging market countries are not as credit-card friendly. In India, 41% of people who made a purchase online did so on mobile, yet only 1.7% of Indians have a credit card. Subsequently, cash-on-delivery has become a popular payment method in many home-grown mobile apps in India. Uber took a cue from local app companies that accepted cash-on-delivery and started accepting cash as payment in India in order to grab the opportunity in the market. If your app follows a paid subscription model, consider how Spotify adjusted their pricing model for each country.

4. Find inspiration from both winners and losers

Take a cue from other apps in your vertical and how they handled expanding to a new market. What set them apart? Did they localize their entire app, or did they adopt only a few new features that would appeal to users in that country? What did other apps do that lead them to fail? Did they expand too fast? Was their app too large, or did it run too slowly on older devices?

5. How much venture capital and talent exists in-market?

Research the state of venture capital investments and technology growth in the market. The more technology companies that exist, the more likely that global brands will struggle to keep up with home-grown competitors. For example, India’s huge IT industry has created a large talent pool for engineers. Combined with record-setting investment in the country, India is experiencing a surge in homegrown mobile apps. In Brazil, the Lei do Bem law provides tax exemption for smartphone brands with homegrown apps pre-embarked on the devices, giving local apps a marketing advantage.

6. Technology research: Devices and operating systems matter

Expanding to a new market is useless if those users can’t use your app. Once you narrow down which countries you’re interested in, make sure you understand the popular technology in each country. What are some common smartphone brands? Do users update their operating systems? Do these users have enough storage space on their devices for your app? Once you know the answers to these questions, you will know what changes you need to make in order to optimize your app for the market. For instance, Android is the leading smartphone OS in emerging markets. If you are considering expanding your Apple iOS app to a market like Indonesia, you will face a huge challenge reaching new users. The cost and speed of mobile data varies by country as well, which affects download speeds and app usage.

7. Get lean

Since smartphone users in emerging markets are often using older operating systems or devices, it’s important that you make sure your app is as lean as possible. Your app should be functional and light, not buggy and big. In our mCent app, we notice that large apps miss out on many interested potential users. For one client app over 30MB, only 31% of Indian users and 44% of Brazilian users were able to successfully download the app, due to interruptions in connectivity and device capability. Think about a handful of the best features of your app. How can you get new users to experience those without unnecessary clutter?

8. You have to crawl before you can run: Should you launch a city expansion before a national campaign?

Before launching your app to an entire country, consider running some tests in specific regions or cities within a country. It can be a great testing ground to see if localization efforts resonate with users before expanding to an entire country. A/B testing content and images on a localized Google Play Store page can be a great starting point.

9. Consider local partnerships to build credibility

Partnerships and integrations with local brands that already have awareness and credibility can help you build brand trust faster in a new market. For example, Linkedin partnered with Tencent when they expanded to China in 2014. Airbnb is also following this strategy with their partnership with the Times Group in India. This partnership will help Airbnb establish awareness in the market and instill trust in the brand among Indians.

10. Understand and monitor ad and user fraud

Ad and user fraud are very real issues in many markets and each market has different types of fraud prevention challenges, like the prevalence of multi-SIM devices in Indonesia. All apps, especially those that process payments, like eCommerce apps, should be aware of potential fraud methods like chargebacks, stolen credit card information, and much more. Make sure to build guardrails and monitoring into your app expansion plans.

Above all else, be smart about which market you enter! Read more on the opportunity for app developers in India and Brazil in our white papers.


Once you consider these 10 best practices and develop your plan for market expansion, how will you reach new users? Jana has guided hundreds of app developers and marketers through their expansion plans into emerging markets. Jana can connect you with new users in 15 of the fastest growing emerging markets like India, Indonesia, and Brazil.


Contact us to today to set up a call with an emerging markets expert.