MAU 2018: Taking your business to the next level via international expansion

by Lewis Leong on May 2, 2018

In a mature mobile market, one of the toughest things to do is to grow. The established app economies of the United States, Canada, and Europe make it hard for developers to expand their businesses. As mentioned in our previous blog post, the US has hit a saturation point with download growth. While mobile users in the US still use an average of 36 apps per month, they’re consistently sticking with a core group of apps. In today’s mobile landscape, developers have to look beyond their core markets in order to grow.

Last week, conference-goers gathered at the Mobile Apps Unlocked conference in Las Vegas to get expert insights about how to take their businesses global. One panel tackling global expansion featured our very own Johannes Heinze, Managing Director, EMEA. Joining him on stage were Fabien-Pierre Nicolas, Head of Growth at SmartNews, and Eric Seufert, founder of Mobile Dev Memo and Platform Lead at N3TWORK. Moderating the panel was Josh Burns, founder of DigitalDevConnect.

MAU Las Vegas 2018

Looking beyond North America and Europe

One common question we get from developers is where to look beyond the established markets of North America and Europe. The obvious winners are China and India, according to Heinze. “For our game partners, they consider China the biggest or second biggest market. Another locale is India, where we see usage growing, but unfortunately, it’s a difficult market to monetize.”

Seufert agrees. “In India, the biggest telecoms started giving data away and the entire country is connected to mobile internet now,” he says. “It’ll be a market to watch, but the challenge is that there are hundreds of languages spoken.” Localization for markets like India will require more than just simple translations. Consumer tastes are very specific and mobile game developers should be prepared to tweak their difficulty curves, as Indian consumers have leapfrogged the PC and console platforms, jumping straight to mobile. Without any experience with other gaming platforms, mobile developers will have to lay the foundation of game mechanics for first-time players.

Nicolas says there’s something to be learned from the example Chinese developers are setting for going global. “Chinese developers are not afraid to market at scale, going after TV ads too,” says Nicolas. “They look beyond their local market and reinvest their money into expansion at scale.”

MAU 2018 - Going Truly Global panel

Identifying which markets to test

The question, then, is which markets should developers expand into? This answer largely depends on the type of app you’re developing as well as which stage your business is in. “If you haven’t developed your app yet, look at the trends in the genres and other apps in the markets you’re thinking of targeting,” says Nicolas. By doing competitor analysis, you’ll see if your app has a good market fit.

“More and more devs are realizing that using video is a good test of the market,” says Heinze.  “If you have [an app] that is pretty universal in its appeal, you can easily test with UA.” By buying ads, you can gauge interest quickly to see if there’s a fair amount of interest in your app in a specific market. This is a low-cost method of testing your hypothesis about whether a market has potential.

“It’s pretty painless to run an ad on Facebook to see how it resonates,” says Seufert. “A lot of companies hit saturation, and the easiest way to unlock more revenue is to expand to other geos.” According to Seufert, mobile games are easy to test in different geos because they don’t naturally have a lot of text, unless you’re developing a story-driven game. By testing via ads, you can see if there’s a similar conversion rate to your core market before deciding to expand.

Japanese developer Select Button shows why going global is more important than ever in our Ask the Developer series. Select Button saw huge success by translating their game, Survive! Mola Mola!, and bringing it to Korea, Taiwan, the US, and other geos. They were surprised that it resonated with an international audience. Translations were done using a crowd-sourced service called Gengo, which made localization simple.

For more on going global, read about our Casual Connect panel on how to do global UA and maximizing your global reach via smart UA.

UPDATE: You can watch the entire MAU 2018 panel below.

Lewis Leong is AppLovin's Content Marketing Manager.