How to launch and market a Mobile APP in China

If you’re a mobile app developer with your sights set on the Chinese market, you’ll need to take a different approach when it comes to marketing and launching your app. Here are some tips to help you get started.

China’s Mobile APP market

China is the world’s largest and most lucrative mobile app market. China’s mobile app market is full of potential, which encourages foreign companies to explore the market, but there are also a lot of barriers and security/license concerns, which can be an obstacle to your entrance into the Chinese mobile app market.

The number of mobile phone subscribers in China has been skyrocketing since 2011, reaching a record-high number of more than 1.25 billion users in April 2014. By the end of 2012, China had already become the country with the most mobile phone users worldwide.

According to Statista, as of April 2020, more than 1.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions have been registered in China. Since the Chinese are highly connected by smartphones, the market for apps is burgeoning.

Operating System (OS) market share

From an operating system perspective, the Chinese market is dominated by Android with a 78.31% market share. Although IOS has only 20.68% of the total market share, leveraging Apple IOS might be a good tactic for your APP launch for the first time because there is only 1 store to deal with while you can find more than 500 application stores for Android.

Mobile operating system market share in China – June 2020

Most important Android APP portals in China

China’s mobile operating system is dominated by Android. As the Google Play Store is blocked in China, numerous Android stores have been developed in China. As a result, the market is fragmented. By the time of writing, there are more than 400 Android app stores in the country.

As of May 2020, Tencent My App is the biggest Android app store in China among its various counterparts, accounting for a market share of 26 percent. Chinese social media giant (WeChat developer) has its own APP store with a host of resources. It’s now the largest in the country.

mobile app store in china market share

The company uses WeChat to give a boost to its App. As the number 1 phone manufacturer in China, Huawei App Store occupies second place in China’s mobile app market, and it is growing in prominence and continues to gain traction in its home market.

The competitive advantage you need to have

As the market is very competitive we strongly recommend :

  • Not spending too much time planning and getting stuck in a long business development cycle. Your competitors will move fast and you need to execute quickly even if it means taking some risks and altering your product after.
  • Keep in mind some competitors could be well funded and willing to invest a lot of money to incentivize downloads in order to rise to the top of the charts. It is not the biggest fish that often succeeds in China but the fastest and most adaptable.

Paid apps are not popular in China

Chinese are not very willing to pay for mobile applications, Chinese people are considering the new wave of technology as a way to make their everyday life easier at no initial cost. However, most of the application revenue in China is made inside the application, all the purchases are done inside the app, for example, additional features for a game, additional functions for a dating app, inbuilt micro-stores, etc.

APP adaption to Chinese habits

The localization of apps is essential to fit the Chinese market. This involves not only the translation of the app name, description, and in-app content into Simplified Chinese but also the UI (user interface) design. A good user experience (UX) and having relevant content and functionalities for your Chinese users will help you to have more hold and re-attract your audience.

For example, the Chinese are fond of educational games. It’s critical to listen to local users. This is a key factor explaining why Uber’s competitors were able to gain so much ground so fast because they launched features that made their apps better for the local market, such as the ability to book a specific driver and evaluate the quality of the car, the aesthetic, the driver, etc.

You have to keep updating new features and feature special items when it’s the Chinese new year, the information that you will display on your app has to be really clear and easily accessible, and don’t create too many subdivisions, you will easily lose your Chinese target. It’s critical to create unique content, depending on which kind of strategy you have decided to choose or rely on.

Most companies are using mobile applications as adding value or an extension to their websites, but they don’t optimize this tool effectively because they want to be present on already established channels, a well-designed app can bring your audience to you.

Obtain a business license & trademark to launch your app in China

  • How to apply for a business license for my app in China?

To put it simply, the Chinese app market is a delicate market in which the government puts a lot of effort. Meaning that for your app to be functioning in China without a VPN and to be allowed on Chinese app stores, you will have to get a Chinese business license.

Luckily, obtaining a Chinese business license is not as complicated as it seems to be, but we would recommend that you hire an agency to take care of it as administration can be quite the headache in the middle kingdoms.

Read more about obtaining a Chinese business license here.

  • How can you apply for an App Copyright Qualification?

The Software Copyright Certificate is a legal document that proves ownership and copyright for any mobile app published in China. This certificate is necessary to launch your app on the Chinese app stores and have its rights protected in China.

protect you brand in china - Trademark-Office-National-Property-China

To apply for this copyright certificate you’ll need to provide the required documents and information to the China Trademark office. The list of required documents includes basic information about the app and company as well as a user’s manual and a source code sample. It should take between 2 to 4 weeks for your Chiese Software Copyright Certificate to be delivered.

Learn more about trademarks in China

Integrate critical tools into your Mobile APP

There are some tools that you really need to integrate into your application.

Bilibili QR Code made out of a drone in the Shanghai night sky to download a game

In China QR codes are everywhere, you can actually scan them to get the information that you need by linking users directly to your application. It creates a quick connection between the user and the organization or APP, there is no address to type, and instead one can quickly scan.

QR codes can be used in different ways: 

  • They can be integrated into your app in order to let your audience enjoy promotions or coupon deals, or you can also lead your customers to your other Social Media Pages.
  • Secondly, you can include relevant tools in order to help you promote your application for example the localization tool, demographic specifications of your audience, and user’s interests. The idea is to make your customers loyal to your APP. Catch your users’ attention and encourage repeated usage to get higher returns on investment.

APP Marketing Campaign in China

Mobile Network Ads

You actually have access to numerous mobile ad networks which will help you to generate more downloads and-or make more money. We can give you some popular ad networks and add promotions apps:

  • AppFlood is helping developers to optimize their applications and monetize their traffic.
  • Adwo is a Chinese ad promotion platform offering different kinds of solutions to developers and advertisers.

They enable you to get revenues by promoting other APPs or by placing advertisements in your APPs (with different types of monetization such as CPI, CPC, CPM, and PPD). If your APP user downloads or clicks on the advertising you get a percentage.

At the beginning of your launch, you can leverage these platforms in order to increase the number of downloads and then appear at the top of the popular APPs results page quickly. Keep in mind this lifting effect won’t last because some of those users will move on and delete you, this type of ‘fad’ marketing is good for a launch but over time you need to develop your e-reputation and word of mouth online and offline.

ASO (App Store Optimization) helps your app to be ranked before your competitors

ASO stands for app store optimization. Besides choosing the right keywords, you have to update your application at least once every 2 or 3 weeks. Making your application continually fresh is the best way to stay relevant in this fast-paced market. Some of your competitors will copy you and build on what you did right and more importantly, learn from what you’ve done wrong or neglected.

To have a fighting chance, you need to stay ahead of them by frequently updating them. As an example, Uber, the dominant player in the U.S., has struggled to gain a solid foothold in China where Alibaba-backed Kuaidi Dache and Tencent-backed Didi Dache announced a merger that has led to them controlling 99.8% of the on-demand ride market in the middle kingdom.

PR and KOL create app reliability

Another way to promote your App is to implement a PR strategy:

  • Contact specialized websites that can really influence their users to download your APP.
  • Make an interactive and entertaining video that demonstrates what your APP does and how users will benefit from it.
  • Identify key opinion leaders for mobile APPs and contact them, giving them the chance to review and use your mobile APP.
  • Be open to their comments and be willing to act on them.

By applying PR & KOL, you will not only get more visibility online but also this cooperation can help build your app reliability because KOLs already have followers and those fans trust their KOL.

Social Media raise your app’s awareness

  • In order to create a BUZZ around your APP, you need to establish a presence on Chinese social media and messaging apps: WeChat (+1.2 billion users), and Weibo (+570 million monthly active users in China). A presence on these sites and apps will help you to engage with your audience and reinforce word-of-mouth.
  • Also, keep in mind that chat rooms and forums, like Baidu Tieba and Zhihu, are still mainstream venues in China for people to share experiences and opinions. The Chinese are strongly influenced in this way.

O2O (Online to Offline) app promotion works well in China

O2O marketing is the term used for businesses that seek to bridge the gap between online and offline transactions.

Typically, this is done by providing customers with incentives to purchase items or services online, and then pick them up in person. This can take the form of free shipping or discounts for in-store purchases.

O2O marketing has become increasingly popular in recent years as businesses have sought to find new ways to encourage customers to buy their products and services online. By bridging the gap between online and offline transactions, businesses can enjoy increased sales and a more streamlined customer experience.

Some tips on how to promote a mobile app in China using O2O marketing include:

  1. Ensuring that your app is available in Chinese and providing localized content for users in China.
  2. Use WeChat and other social media platforms to advertise your app.
  3. Host offline events and activities (such as meetups or hackathons) to promote your app to potential users face-to-face.
  4. Partner with a brand/company

Want to launch your mobile app in China?

gma - DIgital Marketing Agency China

Contact us! we help you from getting every needed license and authorization, to launch and promote!

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  • How to promote a mini app without spending that much. We are a startup

    • Dolores Admin

      Hi Elom,

      Drop us a message here and we will connect you with our expert on the matter 🙂

      Looking forward to hearing from you!

  • gulshan

    I really like your blog it is very interesting and helpful for me!! Thanks for sharing!!

  • Previously business owners cared for SEO and SMO/SMM only. Now, there is a new trend of ASP which all business owners has to consider if they have any online app for their business.

  • Great Post! Thank you for explaining everything in detail and efficiently. I am glad to read it. Thank You For Sharing.

  • Great post. You have explained everything very effectively. I am glad to read it. Thank You For Sharing.

  • Do you know if an app can be blocked in China ? Like what China does with VPN app on the Apple store ?

    • Olivier

      Hello, Yes an App can be blocked in China. Usually if you respect the law and do not play dirty, it will not happend… but sometimes yes it happends, specially when you become a giant and fight against a Chinese Competitors. 😉
      Uber was blocked somedays… create Buzz , the reappear and get Public attraction.

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