How to launch an App in China ?

China has reigned as the world’s top mobile market for years with its large number of active online users. Actually Chinese are one of the most connected people in the world, spending an average of 3 hours per day on their smartphone whereas in France or in America, the time spent online via a mobile device is about 1,5 – 2 hours. In the past couple years, numbers of factors which represented difficulties for app makers such as regulatory barriers, fraud or low-spending customers have improved significantly. However, challenges remain and cracking the code to the top of the app charts is not easy.

This article is here to provide you the main points to know before launching your project in China. Also, we provide some solutions to reach your Chinese users.

Your challenges: Understand the Chinese App market

Choose the platform for your app

The Android market in China is huge, having more than 2/3 of the market share. The point is in China, there are a lot of Android app stores (over 100) and making your app visible is extremely difficult. The iOS market is more interesting in that way because it is less crowded and the number of Chinese Apple users is still tremendous. While Apple operates a global model working with developers, the Android ecosystem varies from country to country. In addition, users on IOS have the tendency to spend more than Android users (generally speaking).

However, instead of launching on both platforms, decide which one fits better with your business goals and focus on it.

Know your competitors

App markers must know about their competitors’ pricing strategies and business models. As they could be well funded and willing to invest tens of thousands of USD to push downloads in order to rise to the top of the charts. In fact Chinese market is dominated by some technology giants : B.A.T (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) and T.M.D (Toutiao, Meituan, Didi). They have a huge influence in China and often back great potential apps to strengthen their competitiveness. Apps backed by these company have important resources to develop and may not pressured to monetize or to provide their services free of charge.

You have to think twice about your strategy to develop in China.

Restriction of Google in China

It is well-known that in China, a lot of websites or services are not available. Google play is restricted in China, which means you have to deal with different Android app Stores to distribute your app. Facebook, twitter are also restricted so you have to use other ways to market your app in China, be more creative when trying to get app installs.

How to grab chinese consumers eyeballs ?

Adapt to the Chinese users

It is an added value if your system is in Chinese language because even China is developing and opening to the world, local users still prefer to deal with their language.

Taking the example of Uber in China, while it is the dominant player in the U.S, the company has struggled to gain a solid foothold in China. Uber was confronted to Kuaidi Dazche (backed by Alibaba) and Didi Dache (backed by Tencent), and this fierce competition obviously showed the important to listen to local users. Kuaidi dache and Didi Dache were able to gain so much ground so fast because they launched features that made their apps more suitable to local users, such as the ability to book a driver and evaluate the quality of the car, the smell, the driver, etc.

Understand the concern of Chineses’ concerns is important. To have a local partner will be helpful to help you in this area.

Advertising and Good SEO

In China, no more “google is your friend”. It should be replaced by Baidu, the first search engine in China. Baidu is the mainstream venue in China for people to do researches. To be well referenced on it, you have to increase your reputation and be searched online. Also, to create a Chinese-language name is a smart idea, as it will enable easier searching and remembering.

Presence on Social networks

Marketing should also entail establishing a presence on Chinese social networks and messaging apps. The digitalization in China has changed the way to market but it has also provided a lot of new tools for that. The more you are present online, the more your audience will be engaged.

WeChat and Weibo, platforms which are dominating the social networks, take the time of most Chinese online users. To market on these platforms will help you to boost your reputation in an effective way, as the word-of-mouth goes rapidely among Chinese people. You can take a look on our articles about Wechat or Weibo.

Our last two advices :

  • Stay ahead of your competitors by frequently updating : in China, the most important thing is to be up-to-date with the trend and the evolution. We already said that Chinese people are very connected and to catch them, you have to show your pioneering spirit or your leadership potential.
  • Think about local ad networks : what works best are Apps which drive revenue through In-App-Purchases or Advertising. Even the most popular apps in China such as Douyin or Xiaohongshu are integrating ads in their application. Users surely noticed that but if it is well introduced, it is ok.

We can give you some popular ad networks and add promotions apps. At the beginning, you can leverage these platforms in order to increase the number of downloads.

China can be a huge market for you, but it maybe not an easy market. GMA is specialized on digital marketing in China. We have a team of 42 Chinese and foreign experts who can provide you solution to your business’ need, including SEO and online marketing. Find out how our we can help you to promote your app in China Do not hesitate to leave a comment below or contact us for more information.

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  • I have heard that there is a very high risk in China of your App being copied and that there is little control over IP.
    Is that the case and how best to you manage this scenario?

  • We are interested in building an app in China. I see that you are a digital marketing agency. Do you build apps also? If not, do you partner with experts who do and work with them to promote the app?

  • Aleksandra Bessalitskykh

    Thank you for sharing. This article provides fundamental information about what is needed to do for launching projects in China successfully.

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