Mobile App Localization in Asia: A Guide to Success

When Western organizations seek to enter the Asian market through e-commerce stores or useful applications, one of the most important things that they will need to do is mobile app localization. Localization goes beyond the mere translation of words from a source language to a target language. Instead, it takes into account legal, cultural, linguistic, and other factors that influence a buyer’s purchasing journey and the decision to buy from you. 

As such, effective mobile app localization must be an essential part of your business development because it can either expose you to a brand new market full of opportunities or, when done incorrectly, it can result in alienating yourself from your target audience. With this in mind, this blog post explores some of the crucial mobile app localization practices you need to know and implement for a successful business outcome. Let’s take a closer look.

Legal and technical considerations

One of the very first things you need to be aware of when doing an app localization is the legal considerations behind your project. It must be borne in mind that for countries such as China, which use Baidu as their primary search engine, Western search engine optimization (SEO) tactics are highly unlikely to work. As such, you need to ensure that your very first step is the optimization of your mobile app for Baidu. But with this comes the next challenge – optimizing for mobile. Because most Chinese consumers access the Internet with their smartphones, your website must be optimized for mobile usage in order to ensure that you capture and retain their attention and interest. 

Further to this, China implements the “Great Firewall” which blocks many APIs. As such, you will need to use local options that may include Youku, Baidu Maps, WeChat, and others. But there’s more. For Internet hosting, you need to host your site locally in order to have greater site load speed but for this, you will need an Internet Content Provider (ICP) license. 

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As for e-commerce websites, your mobile app localization process should implement payment integrations and logistics integration with local service providers. For payment integrations, you need to go local and use options such as Alipay, WeChat Pay, UnionPay, and others. 

And to further streamline your offering, there are third-party platforms that can help you deliver the right customer experience. Here, we are talking about choosing the right warehouse management systems, customer relationship management systems, enterprise resource planning, and operating measurement systems.

Culturally sensitive design and content

Once the legalities and the technical aspects have been taken care of, it’s time to carry out your mobile application localization. However, this can be challenging not least because of the user interfaces, user experience, images, icons, fonts, emojis, and colors that are specific to the Asian market. We have broken up some of the most important considerations you need to implement when you localize for mobile apps or when you do app localization below.

Images and symbolism

For effective mobile app localization, you need to be aware that images play a crucial role in the customer experience. These images need to be culturally sensitive. For example, in many Asian cultures, a lot of text is the preferred choice over the minimal amount of text used in Western sites. Also, gestures and images are not universal. A clear example of this is a Western image of a parent patting their child on the head. 

In many Asian cultures, touching someone’s head or shoulders are considered a big no-no and should be avoided. This is why being aware of cultural symbolism is so crucial. Also related to images and symbolism when it comes to the pictures you use is the importance of showing lifestyle photos where people are seen enjoying your products as opposed to using text to demonstrate the product’s main features or benefits. 

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Unlocking the Asian Market: A Comprehensive Guide to Successful Mobile App LocalizationMany Asian people place great importance on the colors used, especially in China and in the East Asia region. For example, red is associated with happiness and prosperity. Purple is an imperial color. White is considered the color of mourning in China, as opposed to black in the West. Yellow can have many connotations. For example, it can be linked to adult content, the color of different Chinese emperor dynasties, or even nourishment. As such, it needs to be used carefully. 

Icons and emoticons

Many Asian brands use mascots or characters that are of a cartoon-like nature and are quite comical and cute. These should be considered a part of your mobile app localization process, too. In addition, whereas the gear symbol in the West is usually used to signify settings, in many Asian locations, the wrench is used instead. Also worth noting is the difference in the meaning of the use of arrows on a website. In the West, it is frequently used to indicate a map direction or link. In many East Asian countries, it is used to indicate “explore” or “discover” more. 

A single page for all your content

Further important aspects in the mobile application localization process are the need for your organization to place virtually all of your website’s text on one page. This is irrespective of whether the site may look cluttered or not. Why? Because there’s a preference for everything to be on a single page. Although it differs from the Western design approach, it is a meaningful way of connecting with your audiences. 

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Fonts also need to be considered when doing your mobile app localization. It’s already clear that many Asian languages have thousands of distinct characters. This may make it difficult to embed fonts and consequently, there are no options to use bold or italics to create an emphasis on certain words. In addition, the compact nature of the characters means that there is likely to be a lot of densely-packed writing. 


And last but not least, we also look at the importance of honorifics in Asian cultures. Respect for elders and seniors is a major cultural element and there is also the moral perspective to be considered. Furthermore, decisions are often made collectively as opposed to individually. This means that your content should take these cultural nuances into account, where relevant.

In summary: the importance of effective translation

Effective translation techniques will necessarily include mobile app localization. The reason behind this is that failing to localize mobile apps could be detrimental to your business. The Chinese consumer market, as an example, is set to continue growing at a rate of about 12% per year, reaching billions of dollars in sales annually. 

If you want to cater to this important market, using a mobile app localization service that is trustworthy, professional, reliable, and of high quality, is an absolute must. Choosing to ignore these aspects could be the end of your business’ Eastern expansion efforts. However, when done right, mobile app localization can endear your business to your customers and you can quickly gain a loyal following by catering to their unique needs.