The China mobile app market varies significantly from the rest of the world. Most of the popular Western websites like Google – and consequently the Google Play Store – are blocked in China. This leads to a unique mobile app market in the Middle Kingdom, which we will explore in this post.
China Mobile App Market At A Glance
Did you know that out of the approximately 8.9 million apps available worldwide, Chinese users account for around 40% of the global app spendings? The total number of mobile app users in China surpassed 1.1 billion in December 2021, making China a true digital trendsetter. For app developers, this presents a huge opportunity to tap into a lucrative market.
It’s interesting to note that on an average Chinese mobile phone users have 63 apps installed on their devices. But even with the huge number of free apps available in the country, Chinese consumers don’t shy away from spending on in-app purchases. In fact, about 50% of global paid app revenue comes from China.
Where Do Chinese Mobile Users Download Their Apps From?
Since Google Play Store App is not available in China, there are different Android App Stores that cater to the 80% percent market share of Android phone users. Some of the App Stores are –
- Huawei App Market Store (华为应用市场): 530 million MAU
- Oppo Software Store (OPPO软件商店): 300 million MAU
- Tencent My App Store (应用宝): 260 million MAU
- VIVO App Store (vivo应用商店): 125 million MAU
- 360 Mobile Assistant (360手机助手): 105 million MAU
- Xiaomi (MIUI) App Store (小米应用商店): 87 million MAU
- Baidu Mobile Assistant (百度手机助手): 81 million MAU
- Samsung App Store (三星应用商店): 48 million MAU
- Wandoujia (豌豆荚) by Alibaba: 30 million MAU
- PP Assistant (PP助手) by Alibaba: 25 million MAU
For international businesses, launching apps on Chinese Android App Stores can be more challenging as there are over 500 stores to choose from. Each Android App Store has its own guidelines and procedures as well as its own government tax and banking rates. The government tax and the regulation fees can easily reach up to 30% on top of the app store cut.
So, even though the market share of iOS phone users is only about 20 percent, it presents an even bigger opportunity.
Apple’s iOS system that is available in China is a different version from the rest of the world as it needs to conform with Chinese licensing laws. International mobile app publishers need to launch their apps on both versions of the Apple App Store to reach Chinese users and users around the world.
However, it’s still more straightforward than launching on Android App Stores.
Moreover, the share of Apple smartphone users in China is on an increasing trend and reached an all-time high of 23% by surpassing Vivo in the fourth quarter of 2021.
What You Should Know Before Launching an App In China Market?
China is an almost entirely different world for mobile developers. The market is both a massive opportunity as well as a significant challenge. Anyone looking to enter this market needs to carefully understand: What works in the China App Market? How can you succeed as a foreign business?
1. Chinese Traditions and Customs
Chinese people pay attention to details so it’s important to design the app in a way that aligns with their custom. For example, in Chinese, an “auspicious” number is 8 (八), pronounced ba, which is similar to the Chinese word for “to become rich”. On the other hand, the number 4 (四), pronounced si, sounds like the Chinese word for death (死), and should be avoided.
Similarly, your app design for Chinese users should imitate the busier look, anime-like characters, and a toylike cute design – that is common for even professional business apps in China.
2. Chinese Users Don’t Prefer Paid Apps
Most people in China are not very willing to pay for mobile applications. They look at apps as a method to make their everyday life easier at no initial cost. But, they actively make in-app purchases for additional features or functions. Therefore, most of the application revenue in China is made inside the application.
3. Adapt and Localize To The Habits Of Chinese Users
Chinese users don’t prefer having to look at multiple apps or websites for information. Therefore, it’s important that your app provides a good user experience (UX) with all the relevant content and functionalities explained to them in Simplified Chinese. A simple Google translation of existing international content, often in English, won’t suffice. Even in terms of design, different colors and graphics may appeal to Chinese users.
Using QR codes, a method that Chinese mobile users are accustomed to, and adopting WeChat functionalities in your app will also make the Chinese smartphone owners feel at home in your app.
4. You Need The Competitive Advantage
Due to immense opportunity, the app market of China is also highly competitive. It’s important to move fast and keep adapting to the market demands in order to out-perform competitors. Choosing a good advertising partner like AdChina.io can help you rise quickly on the charts, drive downloads and generate in-app purchases.
5. Integrate Chinese Payment Methods and QR Codes
In-app payments in China are typically done via WeChat Pay and AliPay, not Credit Card or PayPal. Your app would need to integrate WeChat and AliPay accounts to start accepting payments. QR codes can also be integrated into the app as a way to accept payments, show information or offer promotions.
6. Understand App Store Optimization
Apart from choosing the right keywords, you should also update your app frequently (at least once in every 2-3 weeks) to stay at the top. A good way to understand what works well for ASO (App Store Optimization) is to analyze your competitors in China that are already ranking well.
7. Ensure That You Have Necessary Licenses
For your app to be functioning in China without a VPN and for it to be allowed on Chinese app stores, you require a Chinese business license.
Apart from that, you also require The Software Copyright Certificate, which is a legal document that proves ownership and copyright for any mobile app published in China. This certificate helps you launch your app on the Chinese app stores and have its rights protected in China. Overall, you could require up-to six licenses to get your app running. AdChina.io can help you set up these basics in a hassle-free manner.
You will also be required to manage user data in accordance with Chinese law and work with the right Chinese partners. Apart from this, it’s also important to note the industries for which apps are not allowed in China market.
Also, we recommend you to focus your efforts on growing your app through Apple App Stores as it’s less challenging as compared to multiple Android stores.
How To Optimize Your App’s User Acquisition In China?
App Store ranking is a headache for most developers internationally. If your goal is to be on the top of the Chinese Apple app store, the task seems to be almost impossible to solve, as China has its own unique media system. Thus, no matter how great your app is and how popular it is internationally, in China you have to adapt to the local system.
We have created this checklist that will allow you to optimize your user acquisition in China:
1. Check localisation is done right
Even if your app is already operating in China, it’s important that your app is not simply translated into Chinese but deeply “culturalized”. For example, as the culture and historical events differ a lot between China and other western countries, it’s important to understand them well.
Consider special Chinese holidays as occasions to offer special features and offers. Chinese New Year and Singles Day are the most popular celebrations in the Middle Kingdom with massive consumer spendings.
2. Make sure that your monetization model is correct for China
Apps that are free to download, but allow users to upgrade the application (freemium apps) work generally well in China. If you monetise through in-app advertisements, you should be careful as advertising might not be visible to users in China or it might be not relevant for them.
3. Don’t rely on advertising inside Apple App Store
Unfortunately, as for now, advertising inside the Apple App Store doesn’t operate in China for foreign companies. Therefore, in order to create awareness about your app and drive downloads, you need to establish a presence on Chinese social media and messaging apps.
4. Monitor competitors
Analyzing your competitors in China is very useful in order to understand what you can apply as well or even do better. Of course, there are many local apps which might be similar to yours but as a foreign app you bring another value and experience.
5. Run ads on Chinese social media channels
If you want to increase product coverage and download installation rate in China, you can’t rely on Google, Meta, YouTube and other western channels, as they are blocked in China. You have to start working on Chinese media platforms. For example, Bytedance’s Douyin (analogue of TikTok) is the most effective channel for promoting apps in China.
6. Work With Chinese Influencers
Chinese users thrive on word-of-mouth marketing and recommendations from people they trust. Chinese influencers engage with their followers by cultivating a relationship. Chinese users rely on these influencers for recommendations and decision-making.
7. Start Search Engine Advertising on Baidu
It is well known that Baidu is “Chinese Google”, for the record, around 70% of the search market share in mainland China is owned by Baidu. Driving traffic to the Apple Store With Baidu is easy and affordable.
8. Create a Community Around Your App
As the Word of Mouth model is very important in China, it’s important to focus on creating trustworthy and reliable relationships with your users. Creating WeChat Official Account is a great way to build trust and increase customer retention. You can also motivate users to write comments and reviews under your app on the App Store.
The chat rooms and forums, like Baidu Tieba and Zhihu, are also mainstream venues in China for people to share experiences and opinions. They also offer an opportunity to build a community around your app. You may also consider entering into collaborations with other brands or physical stores to leverage online to offline marketing trends.
9. Find A Local Partner
Lastly, if the different tasks associated with growing your app in China seem challenging, you can consider partnering with a company with a good understanding of the China market.
For instance, AdChina.io can help you with everything from App launch to running ads to drive downloads to overcoming language barriers and localizing your app for Chinese consumers.
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