What is app localization, and why should you care?

24 June 2021

What is app localization, and why should you care?

Localizing your app means taking a look at your entire user experience. From translating it into the local language to making sure your cultural references make sense and the text is word-perfect to aligning and formatting the text according to the language in question, localization ensures your app is optimized for the global market. 

The average e-commerce app costs between $30,000 - $170,000 to develop. With a price tag like that attached to your business investment, it makes sense to assume you want your app installed on every phone in the land. And the quickest path to your global market? Localizing your app, so it greets your customers in their language.

But most people with smartphones speak English, right? 

Short answer? No.

In today’s world, 3.8 billion people own a smartphone, a vast potential audience for your app. But not all of those people speak English as a first language. China and India top the list, accounting for over a billion smartphone users between them. With more than half of the world’s mobile users based in Asia/Pacific, if your app isn’t talking to those local markets, you’re missing out on the astronomical financial potential for your company. 

Some customers who come to us for translation services reason that many people talk English, but the problem here is the assumption we make about the English level that people can read as a second language. Just because your customers speak English as a second language, it doesn’t mean they can read a book or scroll your app in English too. 

Language Roulette 

For your language-gamble to pay off, you have to assume that your customer knows enough English to facilitate a successful download of your app, a smooth user experience that they understand, and the ability to process a transaction and make a purchase in English too. Unless you know your audience inside-out, this is an expensive risk to take. Expensive because once a customer downloads your app and struggles to use it once, you don’t have a second shot at getting that first impression right. 

Attention spans are short. If your customers feel alienated or confused by your app, they’ll head elsewhere. And that ‘elsewhere’ is likely to be your competitors. Adjust found that, on average, users kept an app for just 6 days before deleting it. Granted, some of that bounce will be app-specific; for example, you might delete the booking.com app once you’ve used it to book a holiday. But many users will have been turned off by apps not having the option to explore in a language they understand or just being difficult to read and navigate. 

But we’ve already translated our app!

“But we’ve translated our app into the local language!”, we hear you cry. Well done. You’ve completed stage one. Unfortunately for you, that’s just the beginning. Your customers might be able to read your app. But will it ‘speak’ to them? Will they engage with your content and take action? Will the text you’ve written compel them to click the ‘buy now’ button?  

If you open an app and you’re stuck reading text that feels clumsy and awkward, or the text doesn’t fit neatly on the page or it reads like an amateur has written it, then you immediately switch off, close the page, and delete the app, right? Respecting the customer by delivering a professional, trustworthy brand experience also means creating content and copy that convey your app’s purpose. 

It’s not just a ‘language thing’

App localization is so much more than a simple language translation task. It addresses the cultural expectations, the terminology, and even the colors used across the app experience. From currencies to calendars, localization takes in every aspect of your app that may differ in your target market’s locale.

Arabic and Urdu read from right to left. While translating your app into these two languages will dismantle your language barrier for Arabic and Urdu speaking users, have you considered how this will affect the layout of your app? 

English is an easy language to manipulate into short sentences, but when you localize a sentence into Arabic, the content can expand by up to 25%! This is when language adaptation becomes essential, so localization is vital to a global app experience.

Even in countries that share a common language, subtle differences we pick up on during the localization process make for costly errors and issues if they aren’t addressed for end-users in every location. For example, in the US, the standard date format is month/day/year, but dates are expressed as day/month/year in the UK. 

If your app includes a booking feature and dates haven’t been localized to consider this tiny number switch, your users could end up late for events, flights, and even hotel stays. Minor considerations in localization that we aim to fix can result in costly logistical nightmares if you don’t have an expert team of linguists (hey, e-arabization!) on hand to support you through the app localization process.

The Customer Will Thank You

Localizing your app is a win for your customer and a win for you. 

90% of activity on mobile devices takes place in apps, and, as we’ve discussed, a huge number of users will delete an app soon after downloading it. But if they feel engaged, if you’re speaking to them in their language, chances are they’ll stick around. According to a study by Distomo, “The Impact of App Translations,” companies who localized their app saw a massive 128% more downloads and an increase in revenue of 26% for that country within one week. 

Here’s how to start 

While we’d all like instant results, the work involved in any localization project means prioritizing countries and regions that represent the highest demand for your product. Break the world into smaller, bitesize pieces and localize for those markets in priority order to get the fastest ROI. 

Investing in a full localization strategy may seem daunting, but it’s worth remembering that the results will pay off. After all, Nintendo brought in $35million within two weeks of launching its Pokémon Go App after an extensive localization exercise which even included adapting or renaming almost all 150 species of Pokémon for each app language! You may not be Nintendo, but there’s no denying that localizing your app will tempt users to download it and keep your audience engaged for longer.  

So if you have your sights set on world domination, talk to e-Arabization about our localization services and let’s get you and your app speaking to the right people.