Sarah Pekala

So, you’ve made the smart decision to grow your app abroad. You’ve done the research, and you are well versed in the opportunity of emerging markets. You know that emerging markets are driving smartphone sales globally and that by 2020, 39% of app revenue will come from emerging markets. What should you do next? Consider localizing your app.

What is app localization? And why does it matter?

App localization is the practice of adapting an app to meet the language and cultural requirements of a specific market. It’s a concept that is often oversimplified to describe the translation of the language in an app. It is often an afterthought—something an app developer may do once an app is finished and polished, in a bid to expand reach and grow revenue, without putting in extra work. But in fact, it’s more complicated and much more important than that, especially if you have a new audience in a new country using your app. However, with a bit of effort, you can benefit from the borderless nature of the web and easily increase the impact of your app by releasing it in additional markets.


Localization is not just simply translating text word-for-word into a new language. App marketers and developers need to be aware of cultural nuances, user habits, and different use cases of their app in each country. Continue reading to learn how you can localize your app and see examples of how it’s been done successfully.


A Checklist for Successful App Localization

App discovery: localize your app store listing

Before pursuing a full localization, an easy way to test whether there is international interest in your app is by translating your Google Play Store page into the local language of the market you’re targeting. Users won’t be searching for your app in English; they will be doing it in their native language. Then, see if organic downloads of your app increase.  

 Screenshot of mCent's Localized Version on Brazilian Google Play

mCent’s localized Google Play Store listing in Brazil

While Google Play includes the option to translate an app’s page using Google Translate, don’t rely on it for this translation. With Google Translate, many words don’t translate well from one language to another, which can confuse or even insult potential users reading your app’s description. There are many translation services available that can help you optimize your Google Play page for the new market. Also, consider having your translation tested by a native speaker in the country. They can find small nuances in language that a digital translation service may not.

Localize the entire app

Localizing your whole app by translating it to another language will help drive user engagement, not just downloads. We’ve increased our mCent retention by offering local languages like Hindi. Besides changing the language of the copy in the app, consider changing things like the date and time format, symbols, or colors. For instance, the color purple may spark ideas of royalty in Western cultures, but in Brazil and Thailand, it’s the color of mourningMake sure to also translate your app’s metadata, push notifications, the help area, your privacy policy, and user license agreement.

Screenshot of mCent's Localized Version for Brazil

mCent’s localized version for Brazil. Note that the text has been translated to Portuguese and the currency has been changed to the Brazilian real.

Collect feedback

Before you get started with your localization efforts, identify which areas, if any, need work. Without leaving your desk, you can start to find these by using or Ask international users to test your app, and take note of which features are intuitive for them and which others will require clarification. If you do have the budget to travel abroad, follow the best practices for user testing in market.

Localize specific features

If you’re not ready for a full language translation, you can make adjustments to specific features of your app to fit the new market. By doing this, you improve the user experience and avoid alienating a large population of possible users.


For instance, 95% of all transactions in India are driven by cash. A strong credit card network that exists in markets like the UK and North America doesn’t exist in India. With this in mind, Uber decided to localize the payment methods in their app specifically for India. Users can select to either pay with cash or PayTM, a digital wallet app, when they book a ride. Based on the success of this localization, they are now incorporating Alipay into Uber in China and beyond so that Chinese users can pay for their rides digitally.


Since $1 does not always equal $1 in each country, consider converting your pricing model based on more than just local currency value. Spotify does this well with their premium subscription cost, which varies in each country based on GDP per capita, local competitor pricing, the Big Mac Index, and other factors.


Your localized feature could even be on a much smaller scale. The popular messaging app LINE often features stickers related to holidays or other events in the countries that they operate in. “What we try to do is to localize and pay attention to detail, optimizing our services for the user’s country,” said LINE Chief Operating Officer Takeshi Idezawa. During Ramadan last year, LINE featured stickers of characters celebrating the holiday for its large Muslim population in Indonesia. This sort of localization personalizes the app experience for users who may be frustrated by content that doesn’t speak to them and their culture.


In China, the complicated symbol alphabet makes typing cumbersome for users. So, many use voice recordings in lieu of texting or sending typed messages in messaging apps. If your app is reliant on users entering in a lot of text, consider changing the user flow to decrease typing for Chinese users.

The ultimate localization: Creating a brand new, lighter app

If you want to dive head first into localization, you can create an entirely new version of your app for a specific market. This strategy can be risky, so make sure to test and collect results before moving forward. One developer who did just that was Amazon when they created their Amazon India app. While the concept of the app is the same as their global Amazon app, the products are targeted to users in India and feature local sellers. The app also offers different payment methods, such as cash on delivery—the most popular payment method for Indians. They cut out any extra technology bloat and made the app 60% smaller to make it easier to use the app for users who have slower connections and older devices, an effort replicated by Facebook Lite and LINE Lite.


Amazon’s efforts are paying off. According to Jana data, Amazon India has almost 4x more usage per day as measured by average MB consumed per day per DAU than Flipkart, a local shopping app that often outranks them in terms of average daily active users.

Success comes when you understand the market

Regardless of the tactics you choose, the underlying key to localization is the importance of understanding where your users live and the context in which they live. Expanding to a new country, like emerging markets, can be a daunting challenge. Jana can guide you through the nuances of emerging markets like India, Brazil, and Indonesia.


Contact us to set up a call with one of our emerging markets mobile experts.