There’s evidence accumulating that in the western world (North America, UK, western Europe etc.), the regions that have now lived with apps (and app stores) for nearly eight years, users are tiring of the novelty of loading up their smartphones with shiny new apps. A recent study from Gartner called Market Trends: Mobile App Adoption Matures as Usage Mellows provided evidence that we’re beginning to reach app saturation, even as overall usage of apps relative to the desktop and mobile web continues to increase.
Yet, in the new 'mobile-first' economies of China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and elsewhere, it’s not merely smartphones that are taking over entire industries and ecosystems; it’s the emergence of those same global and locally-created apps that are changing how consumers organise their daily lives. These markets are teeming with first-time Internet users who are coming online with app-saturated smartphones in hand, and as a result, they’re inventing entirely new, localised paradigms (and problems) for how apps are downloaded and used.
If you’re an app developer/app owner ready to move beyond your home market and into the burgeoning mobile-first, app-driven economies, here are three keys to success that will ensure you’ll garner a strong reception to your app from the get-go.
Of course you’re going to open up your distribution within Apple’s App Store and Google Play where you can. Google Play, in particular, is a major force in the Android-first countries of India, Indonesia and across Africa, places where iPhones are considered higher-end status items and aren’t as prevalent as in the West. This should not be a case of going iOS first, then starting a sprint on Android, as you might do in the US or UK; it should be the other way around, or you can run simultaneous development tracks.
That said, don’t overlook third-party app stores, especially in China and east Asia. China has censored Google Play since 2011, which means developers have had little choice but to publish through third-party Android app stores. Baidu, Qihoo 360, and Tencent are the top three stores in China, and they distribute 86 percent of mobile apps. They’re followed by Wandoujia, and then other, relatively small app distribution channels.
Moreover, app marketplaces like the global Opera Mobile Store (which offers all-you-can-eat subscription-based packages in some markets) or the South Korea-specific SK T-store have also become extremely important for monetisation in both emerging and established markets. Making third-party distribution a priority for your launch plans will help ensure you don’t rapidly fall behind your competition there.
You probably know that the best practice these days is to ensure that your app is well integrated with popular social media platform logins such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. It eases the sign-up process, helps with data collection, and gets your users on-board (and sharing elements of your app) without additional hassle.
You probably also know that these social media platforms should be localised as well, because, well - not everyone gravitates to Facebook and Twitter in all corners of the world. As with the local app stores and distribution channels, you’ll want to make sure you’ve identified the most relevant social media platforms for the markets you’re going after - like Qzone and Renren in China, MXit in South Africa, and WeChat in numerous countries around the world.
Today, many app owners are looking to incorporate SDK-driven solutions that can control the acceleration of their slow-loading apps in particular countries, as opposed to setting blanket acceleration parameters all over the world. For instance, while many apps will load and perform well in the United States and throughout the whole of Europe, they’ll struggle and time out in parts of South America or Southeast Asia.
In these regions, data travels on older 2G/3G networks in between the Internet’s outer edge and the user’s device - which is called the 'mobile mile,' where 70-90 percent of app latency occurs. Newly-built 4G networks are filling up rapidly, with the bandwidth consumed by millions upon millions of mobile app sessions. It’s therefore important to identify early on where you’ll need to improve your app’s speed and performance to ensure that newly-acquired users don’t have a poor experience through no fault of your own.
How do you, as an app owner, know where to target? Well, if you’re already live, ask yourself: where are your uninstalls the highest? In which countries is engagement the lowest? Are there countries or geographic areas where you’re finding that the number of pages viewed are lower than elsewhere?
The answers to these questions could be quite telling. These are the targeted countries in which you’ll want to turn up app acceleration — and then compare your before/after metrics for page views, engagement and user retention. You’ll likely save yourself a lot of frustration (and revenues) by getting this right early in the game in any given country.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)