How to launch an app in China – Conquer the Chinese app market

An intro marketing guide on how to launch an app in China and conquer the Chinese app market with your digital product.

China is becoming the next target for businesses and startup founders. The challenge is how to enter the market and stay there. The mobile app and web app market is no different when it comes to breaking the invisible “Great Wall” of strong culture and Chinese perception of Western products.

Therefore, here’s a guest post from one of the top app development companies in Europe – Wolfpack Digital. Take it as a starting point of your digital product’s journey towards the Chinese market and discover how to launch an app in China.

How to break the Chinese Firewall with your app

China is known for not playing by the world’s rules. The basic concept of freedom of choice and limitless access to the online world is something controlled by the government.

The Chinese Firewall – a wordplay with the Great Wall of China – is the way the People’s Republic of China aims at boosting the local economy while “protecting” its citizens from the Western tech titans and “harmful” information. Some of the world’s highest-ranked brands, such as Google, Youtube, Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, Instagram, The New York Times, Vimeo, and the list goes on, are simply banned from general use.

To put it simply, the Chinese government controls the internet. It’s the “Big Brother” who is all eyes and years on who enters the “playground”. Therefore, foreign companies have to adapt to domestic regulations and build a product that is entirely in tune with specific trends that dominate Chinese businesses. Have a look at how the internet is censored in China and what entrepreneurs need to know about it.

This being said, when building a mobile or web app, try to do well-documented research about what components, third parties elements should be excluded, and try to integrate their Chinese equivalent. One good example of how a company has adapted to the authoritative Chinese government is the case of Apple that decided to delete their VPN apps and build a data center in China with its regulations in mind.

How to build an app that will make Chinese users happy

There’s no secret recipe for building the next WeChat app that will be as indispensable for anyone living in China. But there are some proven tricks and successful components you can add to improve the chances of succeeding. Try as much as possible to use QR codes, WeChat functionalities, add rich content and read some tips on how to optimize your mobile app to increase revenue.

In QR codes they trust

It’s no secret that Chinese people have a soft spot for QR codes, their likeliness to use the quick response codes is close to obsession. This is why many Western brands have incorporated QR codes into their apps once they decided to conquer the Chinese market. Tech specialists like to claim that if it wasn’t for this Chinese addiction, QR codes would have disappeared from the app market a long time ago.

Integrate WeChat functionalities in your app

Having talked about the Chinese Firewall, the fact that tech titans haven’t been allowed in China, there were some gaps to fill in the market. This resulted in the growth of the WeChat app – the almighty dragon, the app for every need a user might have.

In China, WeChat functions as a messaging and calling app, localization app, search engine app, news feed app, e-wallet app, public services app, mobile top-up, and booking app. To prepare yourself, read the article on How WeChat changes the world’s app market – key trends and proven strategies.

Content for Chinese apps

This is really not rocket science! Just take a quick look at some Chinese apps and websites. The most common things you will find are rich content, bright colors and lots of gamification actions. The minimalist and reduced approach doesn’t work well in the case of Chinese apps. Chinese users generally prefer a more elaborate UI/UX design. Make sure to add plenty of copy, mascots, and characters that will keep your users engaged.

In the case of numerology, the trick is to use “good” numbers for everything related to values, for example, prices. This may sound trivial to Western consumers but is of the highest importance to Chinese users.

For example, eight is very good, as in Chinese it is pronounced ba (八), which sounds like the fa (发) in “to become rich” ( 发财). On the other hand, you should avoid four, which is si (四). This sounds similar to si ( 死), meaning death. This is why in Chinese buildings, there is often no 4th floor.

Talking about numbers, consider using the in-app payment facilities from WeChat – the super Chinese app. Paying with WeChat is a hard-to-break habit that you should take into consideration if you want your users to use it.

How to localize your app for the Chinese market

Choose a Chinese name for your app

Most brands present on the Chinese market flatter themselves with an authentic “Made in China” tag. Therefore, Chinese users are more keen to use a product with a Chinese name rather than an English one. Giving your mobile or web app an English name is like feeding a shark from your hand. The chances of surviving are close to zero. However, if you are the lucky owner of a large brand, then being foreign is to your advantage – the Chinese love famous and luxurious foreign brands!

Make sure your app name has no double meaning

Try to give your app a Chinese name and make sure it doesn’t have a double meaning in their culture. You can surf the internet for examples of how some companies tried to rebrand to Chinese but failed.

Airbnb is a good example of how brand localization may go the wrong way. Long story short, Chinese people started to make fun since the Chinese name for Airbnb was very hard to pronounce and it was associated with a “cheap mattress”, a “woman’s body part”, or a “fake clothes brand”.

Ask a local to help

Finding a good name for your app can be a difficult job. But you can always ask a local for help to find a name, which reflects your business identity and goals. This way you will save yourself from unpleasant misunderstandings.

Where to launch an app in China

WeChat is truly phenomenal. Today, it has over 1 billion monthly active users and over 1 million mini-apps in its Chinese app store. So-called “mini-programs” are small apps inside of WeChat. For example, if you need a cab, you don’t have to download the separate app Didi Chuxing from your app store. Instead, you can simply open the respective mini-program directly in WeChat.

Mini-apps load faster, because they are only up to 2MB large. For your business, these mini-apps provide an attractive alternative, because they are cheaper and easier to build compared to “full” apps.

You will be part of a trend: Alibaba (the world’s largest online commerce business) and Baidu (China’s most popular search engine) also plan to launch mini-apps in China. These are the reasons why WeChat Mini-programs are the perfect place to launch your app!

When programming your app, keep in mind that the programming languages to use for creating a WeChat mini-program are wxml and wxss. Additionally, Tencent – the tech giant behind WeChat – developed view languages for JavaScript and CSS. You need these languages to create a WeChat app.

Now you have learned many useful techniques on how to launch an app in China and conquer the Chinese app market!

How to conquer the Chinese app market

Now you know how to launch an app in China. At the end of the day, as different as it is, the Chinese app market is accessible for foreign entrepreneurs. The challenging app launch in the Chinese app market will be rewarding and fruitful in the end if it’s done properly.

Before you launch an app in China – whether it’s a mobile or web app – try to find a trustful partner for both app development and launch strategy. Good for you that there are specialists out there who have done that and can share their expertise with you.

About the Author

Valentina Biciuc is a Marketing Specialist at Wolfpack Digital

Valentina Biciuc is a Marketing Specialist at Wolfpack Digital – a mobile and web app development company with over five years of experience in building powerful digital products for brands from all over the world.

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Juergen Gessler

Dear Valentina. We are interested to launch our APP in China. Could we talk regarding this topic. Thx Juergen

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