Opinion: How can overseas developers capitalise on the world’s largest app market?

Opinion: How can overseas developers capitalise on the world’s largest app market?
Ilya is the head of global partnerships and eco-development communication at Huawei Consumer Business Group. Prior to Huawei, Ilya held roles at Google and Samsung.

It’s a question many in the mobile application sector ask regularly – how do you get an app to take off in the lucrative and ever-growing Chinese app market?

The statistics about the smartphone industry and mobile usage in the world’s largest country are emphatic – 1.3 billion mobile internet users, almost 100 billion app downloads in 2019, half of the global consumer spending on mobile apps, and a mobile gaming industry that accounted for US$15B in the first six months of 2020. 

These numbers are huge and smartphone penetration in China is forecast to continue its steady growth into the foreseeable future, yet developers from around the world often miss the mark when trying to cash in on the world’s largest app market. 

The failure of most apps to truly penetrate this market can paint a rather discouraging and frustrating picture for overseas developers. Navigating the unfamiliar and at times complicated legal and regulatory requirements is perhaps the most poignant of the challenges they face.

The litany of entry requirements such as privacy regulations, content compliance rules, consumer protection laws, and qualification requirements creates a compliance-induced headache at best, and at worst can act as an impassable roadblock to launching an app in China at all. 

Another hurdle is creating an app that actually resonates with Chinese users. What might be an essential digital product to western customers could very well fall flat in Asia, and developers are often left scratching their heads to understand exactly why their app misfires. 

While some simply consider it impossible to get a foot in the door in the face of thousands of locally created apps, developers often fail to truly localise their apps and ensure it is relevant to the Chinese user. 

For example, there are a range of cultural differences that need to be considered when making an app for China, from proper translation of the language to more subtle factors such as the meaning of colours and appropriate imagery. Furthermore, developers need to understand how unique Chinese smartphone user habits and behaviours might affect how they use an app. 

Overseas developers often struggle with regulatory and compliance requirements when launching in China 

The reality is that there’s more to succeeding in China than simply listing an app and waiting for the downloads to start streaming in, and it’s often important details and crucial nuances that can be the difference between an app that flops and one that flourishes. Partnering with a Chinese company that knows the market inside out can help in this regard, but having a local presence on the ground is out of reach for most developers. 

That’s where Huawei is looking to step in. The technology giant is synonymous with China’s booming smartphone market. It had a 46% market share of smartphone sales in the country in the second quarter of 2020, while its app distribution platform, AppGallery, continues to go from strength to strength in China and throughout the world, having amassed 490 million active users globally. Not only does the company play a key role in China’s mobile world – its technology, products, and services have helped shape the world’s largest smartphone market and the modern Chinese smartphone user. 

Huawei is increasingly looking to utilise this dominance and its familiarity with China’s mobile market to help facilitate global developers into the country’s app market. The goal is simple: help developers from overseas succeed in China, and the company is designating more resources and leveraging its market expertise to help achieve this. Next month, the company will launch a range of new initiatives that are aimed to bridge the gap between global developers and Chinese users. 

These measures will include resources to help developers overcome legal and compliance barriers and tools that enable apps to be truly localised for the Chinese market, amongst a raft of market insights, support services, and other resources.

An upcoming webinar will invite top game publishers in China to share exclusive insights on some of the key concerns for overseas game developers. The full suite of new measures will be unveiled in the webinar which will be livestreamed at 13:00 CET (12 GMT) on Monday 9th November.

You can find out more and register for the webinar here.

(Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash)

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