In our Market Spotlight series, we cover emerging markets and markets with untapped potential. The China app market is one of the most promising in the world. In 2021-2022, China was the top country by app downloads - 111 billion, which, just imagine, is 43.7% of the total amount worldwide.
Crash course on China's app market
The Chinese mobile app market is ripe with potential. As most apps in China are grown locally due to a tricky localization process, there is a need for fresh content. Here's why the localization is worth the trouble. Firstly, Chinese has over a billion native speakers, while only 1.7% of web content is available in Chinese. Secondly, 1.7% of the world's smartphone users are in China. And the third point - after the Covid pandemic, the time spent on applications increased, and Chinese mobile users spent an average of 5.4 hours per day on apps.
Let's take a closer look at the financial part of this question. According to recent data, the typical Chinese user has roughly 63 apps installed on their devices, both free and paid. As a result, approximately half of the world's revenue from paid apps can be attributed to China.
The challenges of the expanding Chinese application market
The China internet ecosystem is separated from the West and has peculiarities. One example is the famous Google Play Market, which is not accessible. In the case of international businesses, releasing apps on Chinese Android App Stores can be difficult because there are more than 500 stores to choose from. Every Android App Store has its own set of rules and procedures and separate government tax and banking rates. The most popular stores with the highest number of monthly active users (MAU) are:
- Huawei App Market Store: 530 million MAU
- Oppo Software Store: 300 million MAU
- Tencent My App Store: 260 million MAU
- VIVO App Store: 125 million MAU
- 360 Mobile Assistant: 105 million MAU
In the case of iOS - they are less popular (only 20% of users are using this OS), but to reach Chinese Apple users, you can use the Apple App Store.
Apps winning big in China
The first thing you should know, Chinese users love versatile apps. Each app has at least several functions and features. For example, most apps offer in-app games, a great way to advertise your brand and product for the local market. On the other hand, if you are creating an app specifically for the Chinese market, communication, e-commerce, and video editing might be the right way. Here are the leading apps in China.
Social and communication Apps
WeChat - over 1.3 billion monthly active users.
WeChat was launched in 2011 by Tencent, and it is currently the most popular app in China, with over a billion MAU. 90% of users are using the app every day. Considering what this app can do, it's no wonder. It combines the features of WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Paypal, Shazam, and Uber. You can add "moments," which are Instagram and Facebook's "stories."
WeChat offers a different option for business accounts in addition to personal accounts. By creating a subscription account, businesses can connect with their audience and stay in close contact with their customers. This allows users to keep in touch with their favorite brands easily.
Weibo - 573 million monthly active users
Weibo is a social media platform similar to Facebook and Twitter, popular for keeping up with current events and trends among online communities. On Weibo, you can share content, follow celebrities and connect with friends. Although mainly used by native Chinese speakers, international celebrities and foreign brands also use Weibo to engage with their Chinese fan base. The Chinese app offers a feature for non-Chinese users. However, the English translations may not be the most accurate.
QQ messenger - 597 million monthly active users
Users of Microsoft's MSN will find a sudden ping of nostalgia when checking out QQ messenger. It's an instant messaging service developed by Tencent, with almost half a billion monthly active users. Like WeChat, in QQ, you can play various games, read the news, and much more. Also, you can create group chats and invite all your friends to them; there is no limit on the number of participants! The additional services, like games and shopping, make it great for pushing ads.
Alipay - 680.6 million monthly active users
Alipay was founded in 2004 by Alibaba as a 3rd party payment platform. In 2013, Alipay became the world's largest mobile payment platform, beating Paypal for the title. It's no wonder that Alipay today is China's leading payment platform, with almost 900 million users.
Alipay allows users to transfer money, pay bills, and buy a bus ticket. Because of that, most apps with in-app purchase options better have an Alipay integration plan ready. Alipay and WeChat Pay cover 90% of all Chinese mobile payments.
Taobao - 521 million monthly active users
Taobao is a huge marketplace offering everything you can imagine - from clothes to medicine. Alibaba owns it and is currently one of the largest e-commerce websites in the world. It works on a consumer-to-consumer basis, with fixed pricing or auctioning options.
Taobao (or Alibaba) is also the magic behind China's Singles' Day (November 11th) shopping festival. Singles' Day is celebrated by those who are not romantically involved. In the past five years, the transactions for Singles' Day reached billions. This is why brands rush to be a part of it every year.
Pinduoduo - 751.3 million monthly active users
Pinduoduo is a Chinese e-commerce company (one of the world's largest marketplaces and online discounters). Founded in 2015, headquartered in Shanghai. It is one of the largest public companies in the country. Pinduoduo's e-commerce platform is one of China's top five marketplaces (along with Alibaba Group, JD.com, Vipshop, and Meituan). While Alibaba and JD.com dominate big cities, Pinduoduo dominates in smaller towns and rural areas.
KuGou Music - 347 million monthly active users
The largest music streaming platform and download service in China and the world is KuGou. It was launched in 2004 by Tencent Holdings Limited and has affordable features besides a music catalog: streaming abilities, social things (sharing music and playlists, leaving comments), karaoke functionality, and solid algorithms for personalized recommendations.
Douyin (Tik Tok) - 759 monthly active users
Douyin is the mainland China version of TikTok. Apps can be downloaded from various app stores. TikTok is banned in China and requires VPN services to work. Meanwhile, Douyin can be challenging to install outside China without a Chinese phone number. Despite their similar appearance, the apps have unique interface elements and features. For instance, Douyin has a Nearby tab that displays videos uploaded in your area and other tabs with widgets and charity services.
Tencent Video - 454 million monthly active users
Tencent Video is a Chinese video streaming platform with almost half a billion users per month. It mainly offers original content, like TV dramas, movies, news, and sports. It's HBO's exclusive partner in China. The international version of Tencent Video is WeTv, launched in 2018.
IQIYI - 530 million monthly active users
IQIYI is a Chinese online video platform launched on April 22, 2010, based in Beijing and Shanghai. Over 500 million monthly active users spend almost 6 billion hours on its service. Unlike Netflix, IQIYI gets revenue from advertising and content purchases. The number of subscribers is growing. It also offers online gaming services and live streaming. Promoting your brand through IQIYI's ads is a sure way to expose it to millions of mobile users.
Baidu - 657 million monthly active users
Baidu is the Google of China - the most prominent Chinese search engine and the second largest globally. In addition, it offers a vast list of services. Among them, the most notable are Baidu Maps, a cloud service, news, multimedia search, and social networking services. And this is just scraping off the top. If you are considering localizing in China, you must consider SEO-optimizing for Baidu. Usually, the first two pages of Baidu search results are paid ads, so you can't afford to miss the opportunity.
How to localize your application for the Chinese market?
If you want your app to succeed in China, you must make changes to cater to the local culture, comply with local laws, translate your content into Chinese, and promote your app through various marketing channels. The localization process may differ depending on whether your app is for Android or iOS. You will need to negotiate with different app stores in China for Android apps since Google Play is not available there.
Each of the 200 other Android app stores has its own rules and regulations, which can be time-consuming and costly. Conversely, entering the Chinese market with an iOS app is easier as there is only one official Apple App Store in China, and the guidelines are the same as those for the international store.
One of the successful conditions for localizing your application to the Chinese market is finding a translation management system that will support your business. At Lingohub, we provide a list of valuable features that can simplify localization for such a no-easy language:
- Style guide - to keep your tone of voice consistent
- Term base - for precise usage of terminology
- Professional translators - for perfect content adaptation
- Smooth integrations with your favorite tools to combine the localization with your CI/CD processes easily and many more
Localizing apps for the Chinese market might not be a small step, but it will get you far. With a trusted translation service, your product will be ready to dominate the market. We at Lingohub are constantly targeted on providing the best service for our customers to meet their expectations - "You create, Lingohub translates" is our slogan. Schedule a quick demo call with our team to get more information.