Technology makes international expansion simpler, and “global” is no longer reserved for large corporations.
For the app industry, that means publishers of all sizes can grow international audiences. No one is limited by their country “walls.” Although driving revenue via international expansion sounds alluring, it is by no means simple. Targeting international audiences requires expertise and careful planning. Let’s take a look at best practice.
Choose where you launch carefully
Rather than launching in a large market like the U.S. first, app developers often opt to soft launch their app in a smaller English-speaking or English-savvy market. Sweden is a popular choice because of its high mobile penetration. Likewise, Denmark, Ireland, Singapore or New Zealand can be good markets to start with. For example, Pokémon GO’s developers soft launched in New Zealand and then expanded organically, as users changed their app store country in order to download.
Get as much “free” marketing as you can
The next step is to work your relationships. Consider cross-promotion with other developers whom you will repay down the line with the same favor. Make friends with developer relationship managers at app stores. If you can get your app featured on any of the app stores, it should generate free organic downloads. Also, try to raise awareness amongst relevant journalists, bloggers and communities, in hopes they will write about it.
Take a strategic approach to paid marketing
Now, think like a marathoner: Start as fast you can, then speed up. Maximize free marketing initiatives like the ones discussed above, then, when they have been completely exhausted, start your paid marketing efforts. Paid marketing is not cheap, but if you do it correctly, you can generate results with some predictability. Be sure to identify key performance indicators (KPI) from the outset, and optimize tirelessly from the first dollar you spend. Otherwise, you will wake up in a few months and realize you spent all of your budget to drive the wrong action. No one wants to have the “Doh--I got users to complete my tutorial but no one bought any products” moment.
Update your app tirelessly, based on feedback
In these early stages, ask for user feedback constantly. Remember that the reviews users proactively give to your app on the app store could be biased and polarizing. Integrate a survey mechanism to ask all of your users for feedback. React to their comments, and take action as needed. Even apps with tremendous hype out of the gate have seen their Daily Active Users go spiraling down when they did not listen to user feedback.
Take advantage of hype
If you are promoting an app by a recognizable brand, do not wait until the launch date to promote it. Start teasing the new app well in advance to create excitement, collect user emails from those interested, and then send an email when the app is available for download. Emphasize that they will be the first to try it. Who doesn’t want to be an early adopter? If you can get more users to download your app on the first days of its launch, your app ranking will grow, giving you additional vitality -- the "x-factor."
Use an attribution and analytics solution from day one
Be sure to choose and integrate an attribution and analytics solution in advance of your launch, even if you do not plan on marketing your app. These third-party solutions are cheap and will prove extremely valuable, as they can share data on what users are doing within your app. That information isn’t easily obtained from app stores. This will allow you to optimize your app just as you would a website, noting how much time users spend on each page and working to understand the path to purchase. Map and deep-link your app from day one. Refactoring the app later, when you already have a user base, is a developer’s nightmare.
Sure, technology makes international expansion simpler, but it still requires strategy and finesse. With these proven tips, app developers can build—and better yet, monetize—an international audience.
About the Author: Maor Sadra is CRO & Managing Director of AppLift, bringing more than 10 years of experience with display, video and mobile media across both the programmatic and traditional sides, as well as both from the demand and supply sides.
Edited by Maurice Nagle