21Feb 2024

What is App Localization? Why it’s Essential for Mobile App Success

In today’s globalized world, accessing vast international markets presents tremendous opportunities for growth for mobile app developers. However, to truly connect with users across the world, apps must understand the unique preferences of each locale. 

With over 68% of the world’s population now using smartphones, the breadth of languages and cultures that any successful mobile product needs to support continues expanding rapidly. 

Yet localization remains a challenge that many apps overlook. As a result, they miss out on connecting with untapped user communities. In order to avoid this, app localization has become essential for long-term success in the global mobile industry. 

By adapting their apps for specific regions, developers realize the benefits of engaging international audiences on a deeper level. 

This article will discuss how proper localization of mobile apps opens new revenue streams, improves user retention, and provides apps with a competitive edge. Readers will learn how to maximize their mobile product’s global reach.

Understanding App Localization

Different Language App Screens
Different Language App Screens – Image Source: Freepik

App localization is the process of adapting a mobile app to be relevant and resonate within a specific target market. It involves making necessary changes to the user interface, functionality, and content beyond simple text translation. 

Effective localization encompasses deeper cultural and regional adaptations to create an experience for users in different locales that feels truly native. 

Research shows localization significantly improves app performance metrics. App localization can lead to a 42% increase in click-through rates and a 22% lift in conversion rates compared to English campaigns. 

Localizing the app experience tailors it to suit each audience’s unique preferences and linguistic/cultural expectations, thus ensuring higher user satisfaction and engagement over the long term. 

With the global mobile application market size valued at $206.85 billion in 2022 and projected to grow at a 13.8% CAGR from 2023 to 2030, according to Grand View Research, localization is ever more important for developers seeking to capture a share of this significant international growth. 

It is a crucial step towards making any app optimized for sustained success worldwide.

The Benefits of App Localization

The decision to localize a mobile app can have a significant impact on its success and user engagement. Let’s explore some of the key benefits of app localization:

  1. Access to Global Markets

One of the foremost benefits of app localization is accessing new global markets. With localization, developers can break down language barriers and expand their reach to include users who prefer content in their native tongue. 

This opens up enormous opportunities for growth. A study by Distomo showed that localizing apps (iPhone app text) resulted in 128% more downloads per country and a 26% increase in revenue for each country added via mobile app localization.

By catering to diverse international demographics, developers gain potential exposure to billions more users worldwide. Localizing appropriately for each market can boost an app’s search visibility and enhance listing placements to attract more downloads. 

All of this can snowball into substantial revenue impacts. A report by AppsFlyer found international users spend more on apps than the rest of the world. The report reveals that Asians account for 40% of in-app purchase spending, showcasing the financial benefits of expanding into new regions. 

Localization equips developers to tap into this vast potential and increases an app’s prospects for viral exchange and increased engagement on a global scale.

  1. Improved User Experience

Localizing the app experience has clear benefits for enhancing the user experience

When users can easily comprehend menus, tutorials, and in-app descriptions based on their preferred language and style of communication, it allows them to intuitively navigate the app’s features from the start. 

UI/UX Design for a Multilingual World
UI/UX Design for a Multilingual World – Image Source: Medium

Localization makes the entire user journey from onboarding to ongoing usage smoother and more personalized. A better user experience can translate to important metrics like higher conversion rates and longer-term loyalty among customers.

  1. Higher Conversion Rates

Localization has been shown to positively impact monetization through higher conversion rates. Users who feel an app truly understands and values their cultural context through localization measures are far more likely to upgrade from free to paid versions.

When users perceive an app offers relevant value as a result of localization efforts, they become more willing to invest further through in-app purchases or subscriptions.

With this in mind, localization can serve as a powerful driver of recurring revenue streams over one-time downloads alone. 

As Statista’s Market Insights found, the mobile eCommerce sector has experienced explosive growth in recent years, with sales increasing from $982 billion in 2018 to a projected $3.4 trillion by 2027. 

Global Mobile eCommerce Statistics
Global Mobile eCommerce Statistics – Image Source: Statista

In this rapidly expanding market, localization is key to helping developers maximize monetization from a growing global user base. By crafting an experience that resonates deeply with target users, localization equips developers to capture value from the increasing mobile commerce opportunity.

  1. Competitive Advantage

Localization allows developers to gain an important early-mover advantage in target markets. By localizing their app experience when competitors have not, developers can position themselves as the premier choice for users seeking a tailored experience.

In such scenarios where limited localized options are available, being first gives developers a chance to establish market dominance and acquire loyal, long-term users. Competitive advantages like these can be meaningful for business growth.

As reported in Q3 2022 mobile app retention data, localization enables apps to achieve comparatively higher retention rates after initial installation in key categories like news and entertainment. 

Mobile App User Retention Rate Worldwide Q3 2022, by Category
Mobile App User Retention Rate Worldwide Q3 2022, by Category – Image Source: Statista

With user retention core to success, developers who localize to satisfy new user preferences can gain competitive traction faster.

Over the long run, prioritizing unique localized strengths makes apps stickier and less susceptible to competitive threats as users bond more closely with products attuned to their needs. Localization, in effect, pays ongoing dividends by raising the barriers to competition.

  1. Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Mobile apps with localization have shown stronger word-of-mouth effects that aid total growth. Satisfied users who feel an app truly understands their local context and needs will be more inclined to recommend it to others within their cultural spheres.

When this organic advocacy spreads virally across social channels, it can snowball into huge promotion value for free. As user bases expand through the influential power of word-of-mouth, it cascade into network effects that benefit developers.

According to a McKinsey report, word-of-mouth is a primary factor in 20-50% of purchasing decisions. 

By building user satisfaction and loyalty through localization, an app can leverage the substantial marketing impact of positive recommendations spreading organically across entire regions. Over half of app downloads now result from word-of-mouth, underlining its importance.

  1. Maximized Revenue Potential

Localization opens the door for developers to maximize earning potential through expanded global reach. By catering apps to diverse regions, they can access immense new income avenues. 

According to a report by Statista, the global video games market is projected to reach $334.00 billion in 2023, with an annual growth rate of 8.74% from 2023 to 2027, highlighting the vast financial prizes available internationally. 

Targeting foreign users with localized content dramatically enhances willingness to pay, translating apps’ popularity into real purchasing power. 

As developers satisfy more international demand centers, each additional localized market multiplies possible income sources exponentially. Even incremental revenue increases across many countries can sum to huge overall gains. 

Types of Mobile App Localization

App localization can be carried out at different levels, depending on the app’s goals and resources. Two common approaches to app localization are:

  1. Full App Localization

Comprehensively, localizing every element of the app experience for each region requires the most effort but delivers optimal results. 

This full-scale approach involves accurately translating all text and adjusting date/time conventions, currency symbols, measurement units, and other locale-specific settings. 

Graphics, icons, and visual designs are also customized to resonate with cultural norms. The user interface layout is tailored to support language directions like right-to-left scripts and user preferences in different locations. 

Consider Local Culture and Customs
Consider Local Culture and Customs – Image Source: Apple Developer

When done thoroughly, full localization immersively transports users into a completely native-like environment within the app. Research demonstrates this deep approach is key to gaining traction in new regional markets. 

It also drives engagement metrics substantially higher, with fully localized apps seeing retention rates triple that of non-localized apps after three months. 

For developers prioritizing long-term mobile app success in priority markets, full localization establishes a locally optimized product that resonates strongest and builds the most loyal fanbases internationally.

  1. Minimum Viable Localization

For developers aiming to quickly yet affordably enter new regions, Minimum Viable Localization (MVL) offers a pragmatic alternative. 

This approach prioritizes translating crucial elements like the app description, onboarding steps, and core features to facilitate initial usability tests and market research. 

Localizing only key strings allows cross-cultural release fast while limiting costs. MVL is an optimal way to get early feedback from niche target segments. 

By making a partially localized app available abroad, developers gain real-world usage insights from foreign users before committing more resources. If the response is positive, follow-up investment becomes better informed. 

But even lackluster results provide strategic market intelligence. MVL proves itself a low-risk, high-reward strategy to gather qualitative data points and ensure future localization of mobile apps evidence-based rather than arbitrary guesses.

The App Localization Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

To successfully localize a mobile app, app developers need to follow a systematic process. Here is a step-by-step guide to app localization:

Step 1: Prepare Your App for Localization

The first step to effective localization is preparation. Developers must do their due diligence to strategize the best approach. Careful planning is crucial – 55% of project managers cite budget overruns as a reason for project failure.

Developers should determine priority markets based on metrics like app usage, search interest, and GDP. They need accurate cost forecasts, factoring in translation, testing, and ongoing maintenance. 

Developers also select localization service partners carefully. Proper vendor selection impacts quality delivery and costs in the long term. Translations require native-speaking subject experts to skillfully convey nuanced cultural references. 

Setting realistic deadlines according to resource availability and prioritizing the most essential markets and features first helps prevent scope creep. 

Compiling all app content, assets, and style guides into a single source of truth facilitates efficient localization. With thorough strategy and organization, development teams maximize the chances of localization success.

Step 2: Accommodate Layout and Design

Aesthetics and visuals demand careful attention, too. Some cultures prefer certain color schemes or symbolism, so design customizations are important. 

User interfaces also need flexibility – if left unchanged, the app shouldn’t face layout issues like broken text wrapping or truncated strings in right-to-left languages like Arabic. 

Kristina’s Mobile App Design Illustration for Right-to-Left Languages
Kristina’s Mobile App Design Illustration for Right-to-Left Languages – Image Source: UX Collective

Developers must test that layouts are coherent regardless of language direction or character length. This ensures approachability and readability internationally. Navigation, typography, imagery, and sizing must work ergonomically across devices, too. 

Quality design localization results in fewer technical glitches and superior usability, which is critical for building user confidence from first impressions. 

Developers can implement responsive design principles to create dynamic, adaptive interfaces optimized for any locale. Utilizing reusable modular components that resize and reposition intelligently minimizes separate layout versions and streamlines the localization process.

Step 3: App Copy Translation

Proper translation forms the foundation for a high-quality localized experience. The devil is in the details for app copy – even minor mistranslations can cause confusion or cultural faux pas. 

Using competent translation services with native-speaking linguists helps avoid these issues. When selecting vendors, it’s wise to verify their experience translating software and experience with the target languages to ensure contextual understanding. 

Translations done by linguists familiar with technical jargon achieve a higher accuracy than machine translations alone. They can also adapt to nuanced cultural nuances that algorithms miss.

Quality human translation paired with technological tools like machine translation can significantly improve translation speed without sacrificing seamless comprehension, which is critical for driving user satisfaction and engagement abroad.

Step 4: App Image Localization

Graphics comprise a vital part of the localization effort. Visual language can convey different meanings across cultures, necessitating thoughtful adaptation. 

Symbols, colors, gestures, cartoons, and other imagery that resonate in one locale may confusingly miss the mark elsewhere if left unchanged. 

Proper image localization creates understanding through familiar concepts. Research shows that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, so developers must carefully consider culture-specific semiotics. 

Iconography should cue users intuitively per regional norms. For example, representations of authority figures vary significantly between countries. 

Historical Figures Icons Vary Between Countries Illustration - Image Source: HistoryExtra
Historical Figures Icons Vary Between Countries Illustration – Image Source: HistoryExtra

Taking the time for visual nuance to match linguistic shifts helps appeal authentically across demographics. Image localization, along with localized text, is essential for communicating the app experience inclusively through multiple streams of culturally grounded information.

Step 5: Testing and Quality Assurance (QA)

Beta testing localized apps is crucial for ensuring high quality. Leveraging target users for feedback allows developers to identify and remedy any issues through their authentic lens. 

Native beta testers (people for whom the tested language is their first) catch more localization errors than non-natives (those who have studied the language) or other methods. Their contextualized perspective helps root out subtle flaws likely to cause confusion. 

Failing to optimize the onboarding experience through thorough localization testing can significantly impact user retention after a single use. 

% of Users Who Abandon Apps After One Use
% of Users Who Abandon Apps After One Use – Image Source: Upland Software

Thorough testing also involves verifying localized text displays properly, links function across browsers and devices, and cultural references are translated appropriately. User testing tools collect valuable usage analytics to further refine designs based on hard data.

After revisions, multilingual quality audits provide a final check with coverage metrics. 

When done systematically with target demographic participation, beta testing transforms localization from a technical process into a culturally optimized experience that resonates authentically with diverse global users.

Overcoming Challenges in Mobile App Localization

Any global-scale operation presents potential obstacles to anticipate and problem-solve. Developers face linguistic complexities like idioms, regional dialects, and grammatical constructs needing nuanced interpretation. 

Cultural fluency determines success amid sensitive issues, too. 

Regulatory familiarity also protects monetization, as localization opens liability for legal compliance across multiple jurisdictions. 

Technical challenges encompass adapting interfaces to myriad devices, character encoding for languages outside the Latin alphabet, and maintaining performance parity regardless of localization additions. 

Mitigation requires diligent planning. Thorough documentation supports consistent decisions regionally. Comprehensive testing discovers region-specific errors earlier to avoid expensive, brand-damaging mistakes. 

Continual improvement likewise helps address new issues quickly as apps expand. By proactively accounting for potential uncertainties, developers can leverage localization opportunities safely without disruptions or reputational damage.

Conclusion

In conclusion, mobile app localization has become essential for long-term success in today’s globalized market. As this article has outlined, localizing applications unlocks a wealth of opportunities across key metrics, from user engagement to monetization to competitive differentiation. 

Properly catering apps to specific regions through text, graphics, layout, and cultural adaptation fosters authentic connections with international user communities. While the process poses challenges, diligent planning can overcome issues to realize exponential returns through expanded international reach. 

As the worldwide app economy continues its astronomical growth trajectory in the coming years, localization will be integral for developers seeking to capture their fair share of revenues and remain relevant user favorites worldwide. 

For mobile businesses dedicated to universal connectivity, localization opens pathways to profound user understanding and appreciation on a global scale.

Acodez is a leading mobile app development company in India offering all kinds of web design and development solutions at affordable prices. We are also an SEO and digital marketing agency offering inbound marketing solutions to take your business to the next level. For further information, please contact us today.

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Rithesh Raghavan

Rithesh Raghavan

Rithesh Raghavan, Co-Founder, and Director at Acodez IT Solutions, who has a rich experience of 16+ years in IT & Digital Marketing. Between his busy schedule, whenever he finds the time he writes up his thoughts on the latest trends and developments in the world of IT and software development. All thanks to his master brain behind the gleaming success of Acodez.

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