Translation & Localization Blog

Tag: Market Potential

7 Facts You Should Know Before Marketing An App in Japan

7 Facts You Should Know Before Getting Into Japanese App Market

Did you know that Japan has the world’s most lucrative app markets? This isn’t exactly a surprise, since Japan is constantly one step ahead in the world of technology. Recent reports from App Annie and Distimo has shown that Japan has led the world both in app spending and in profit margins on mobile games since 2013. Naturally, many app developers are keeping an eye on the Japanese market, but Japan is not an easy place for foreign players to establish a new product.

Fortunately, we can help. Here are seven key facts you need to know if you’re wondering on how to market an app in the Japanese app market.

1. Japan tops App Spending Charts since 2013

The first lesson of bringing an app to Japan is that it can be very, very lucrative to do, especially since 2013, when smartphones in the country increased drastically from 28% to 42%. Plus, Japanese mobile users are accustomed to paying for digital content, so it was no surprise when total spending on smartphone apps skyrocketed.

Check out this chart (below) from App Annie, which shows how Japan produced almost $350 million of combined monthly app revenue across iOS and Google Play, surpassing revenue in the United States and pushing Japan to the top of the world app market.

2.  True Success = Highest Profit Margin

It’s not enough just to look at the revenue generated by a particular market. After all, for a business; what really matters is the profit margin. And in terms of profit, too, Japan seems to be topping the charts—at least according to a recent report from Distimo. With the world’s highest revenue per download and the world’s third-lowest cost per download, each app in the Japanese market will obtain on average, a profit margin of $4.48.

For foreign developers, those kinds of numbers are tempting. They’re also hard to achieve. In order to compete in the Japanese market, the main key is to analyze how domestic developers are managing costs and boosting demand for paid apps.

3. Five Key Domestic Players Sharing The Revenue Pie

With high revenue and high profit margins, Japan may seem like a developer’s dream. Still, it can be a difficult market to enter because just five major domestic players share a full two-thirds of the country’s app revenue. Equipped with strong local knowledge, extensive connections and a deep foothold in the app market, these major players make for some tough competitors. In order to thrive in Japan, it’s essential for app developers to consult with people, who know the country well. Japanese app developers, marketers, and localization experts can help you tailor your app to succeed in a competitive market.

4. Android or iOS? Neck-and-Neck Competition!

Good news for Android app developers: while iOS app revenue is still ahead of Google Play, the gap between the two platforms has closed quite a bit in Japan. However, with the largest mobile operator in Japan, DoCoMo, now offering iPhones, Apple’s smartphone market share reached 76% last year. Apple sales figures tripled Samsung in October 2013. For now, at least, iOS seems likely to have an edge on Google Play, but it’s a tough competition and maybe more so than any other markets.

5. Gaming as the Favorite App Genre

Are you trying to figure out what kind of app will be a hit in the Japanese market? One word: games. Puzzle & Dragons, a huge gaming hit in Japan, helped GungHo Online become the most profitable publisher of 2013 in Japan. Last year alone, the company reportedly earned $691 million through the iOS App Store and $820 million through the Google Play Store—altogether, more than $1 billion in revenue. GungHo’s success makes sense, because the company focuses on building games. And looking at the top 50 paid apps in Japan for both Google Play & iOS, over half of them belong to the gaming genre.

6. Japanese Language as the First Step in Localization

If you want to compete with the major domestic players in Japan, localization is essential. In particular, to develop a successful app for Japan, translation into Japanese is a must. Of the top 50 paid apps in Japan, 80% have developed a Japanese version to suit users better. Plague Inc. and Infinity Blade III are two examples of gaming apps that originated in the West and eventually came to top the charts—but only after finding localization experts to help translate and customize their app for the Japanese market.

7. Visual Items as another Key Concern

For western developers, localizing an app for East Asia involves far more than overcoming the language barrier. After all, the cultural gap isn’t just about words. Visual items in particular can work well in one market but fall flat, or even cause offense, somewhere else. David Ng, Chief Executive of the Singapore-based gaming company Gumi Asia Pte Ltd, shared his experiences in an interview with Global Post:

“In Puzzle Trooper, a game originally intended for western players, a character resembling the wrestler Hulk Hogan got some manga makeovers. When we started doing testing in Asia, we realized that they don’t really like the western art that much, then we tested with some more Japanese-looking art and the response was really good.”

Before settling on the details of your localization effort, it’s helpful to conduct focus-group research with Japanese app users, or to partner with a local design house. That way, you can figure out what parts of your app may or may not appeal to customers in this lucrative—and growing—market.

Learn More

Learn more about which app genres worldwide are localizing—and how your competitors are localizing—in our free data report:


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Testing Mobile Apps in New Markets



Test the Waters without Spending a Dollar (Almost)

Why do startups hesitate to go global? Two reasons come to mind. One: budgets are tight, and there’s a perception that building a multinational brand will require some serious cash. Reason number two: failure seems all too likely. Startups are risky, and it can be daunting to venture into a new market, especially one with a different culture and a different language.

We don’t think these reasons are especially convincing. Stepping into a global market can offer huge dividends. And it doesn’t have to be expensive, or require reckless risk-taking. With crowdsourcing technology and localized app descriptions, you can test new markets cheaply, and then figure out the best way to turn your app into a worldwide competitor. In this post, we’ll show you two simple, flexible ways to test out new markets for your mobile apps.


Take My Money: Crowdfunding

A good crowdfunding platform, such as Kickstarter, can help you gauge demand in a new market. It can also help you build a loyal customer base overseas—a customer base that feels invested in your app, and that’s ready to help spread the word to other potential users.

One startup that has used Kickstarter’s model to expand its market is Everlane, an online retail brand that sells designer goods such as cashmere sweaters.

In an interview with Makeway magazine, Everlane CEO Michael Preysman explained that his company was looking for an affordable, effective way to expand to a new market—in this case, Canada. They decided to use Kickstarter’s crowdfunding model in order to search out potential customers and get customer input on their products and ideas.

So Everlane launched the #CrowdFundCanada initiative. They built a custom crowdfunding page, set a $100,000 goal, and offered rewards for contributors at different tiers.

(The crowdfunding website of Everlane)

After three days, Everlane had raised $50,000. At the end of the 17-day campaign, that number had swelled to $117,720, sourced from 1,400 different contributors. Crowdfunding didn’t just give Everlane the capital it needed to expand into a new market. It also helped them build a core group of customers in Canada who were both early adopters and committed investors.

Testing the Waters: Localized Product Pages

In a previous post, we talked about the importance of global app store optimization, which provides a quick and cheap way to market your app to customers overseas. You can also use this strategy to test the reception of your mobile apps in a new market. Before you spend time and money on translating the content of your app into a particular language, a localized product page can help you gauge how users in new markets will respond to your app.

App descriptions are short, so localization is cheap. Using OneSky’s translation service, you can localize your app description for the Japanese, German, Korean, French, Spanish, Italian, and Russian markets for just $350, total. It’s an affordable, effective way to test your mobile apps in a new market. For more tips on using Global ASO, including choosing which markets to enter first, and how best to localize your keywords, check out this blog post.

For a great case study of a company that has used Global ASO to test its mobile app in a new market, take a look at AutoCAD 360, a free app for drawing and drafting. For each new market, the AutoCAD 360 team has localized their product page as thoroughly as possible. Every unit of measurement, username, currency, and text label on screenshots has been customized on each of AutoCAD’s product pages.

The result is a product page that will seem natural and appealing—downright local—to users around the world.

When you’re using a localized product description to test your mobile app in a new market, you’ll need some metrics in order to get a sense of how well your app is doing. Otherwise, your campaign won’t be a SMART one. When it comes to metrics, here are your two best options:

  1. Number of downloads. This is the clearest signal of how potential customers are responding to your app in a new market. Once you’ve localized the product’s page, keep a close eye on how many people are actually downloading the app.

  1. When possible, try to see how many people have viewed your app’s product description within the app store. Google offers measurement tools that let you gauge how your localized product description is attracting views. You can learn more about Google’s campaign measurement tools here, and check out the parameters here.

If your metrics indicate strong interest from a particular market, you may have to step-up your in-app translation efforts.

Two final tips: make sure to note in your app description that the app is still in English. Otherwise, non-English speakers are likely to delete your app and post a negative review. You’ll also benefit from keeping a close eye on customer reviews in order to understand the market potential, and to see if there are particular areas in which you might want to improve your localization efforts.


Some Added Benefits

The beauty of crowdfunding and localized app descriptions is that they let you reach early adopters. The people who are likeliest to join your crowdfunding campaign, or check out your localized app description, are likely to be well connected and tech-savvy. They’ll be inclined to give you feedback about your app, and, if they like it, to tell other people about your product. Crowdfunding campaigns in particular can turn customers into collaborators: people who feel invested in your app, and want to help you spread it to a new corner of the world. Ideally, these early adopters will become vocal evangelists, ready to spread the word about the quality of your app.


Your Turn!

How have you tested apps in new markets? What strategies have you found effective to help your product reach customers overseas? Let us know in the comment section. We love to hear from you! And, if you want to keep up to date on the most effective tools for bringing your app into a multilingual marketplace, please subscribe to our blog.

Reference: Make Way, TheNextWeb

Feature photo credit: Nat Finn