Escape from Zombieland by localizing your app

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A recent report said that 83% of apps cannot be found in the Apple store. This figure is even higher when an app is not translated into a local market. Localising your app will increase its visibility in local app stores.

The app economy has a bright future following Apple’s announcement that users are spending nearly half a billion dollars on in-app purchases throughout the world, which last year generated over $10 million in revenue for developers. By 2016 the number of smartphone users worldwide will reach a billion and is expected to drive further growth in this industry.

1Source: Flickr

However, if you are thinking of tapping into this booming market, another recent report released by, stated that 83% of apps in the app stores are zombies. These are the ‘living dead’ of the app stores as they never achieve any consistent level of ranking. This means that an app would not be discovered through generic organic search unless the user types for a specific sort of app or the app’s name.

Instead of having an English app to target a global market, you must choose a local category/subcategory and local app store in order to minimize the chance of your app becoming a zombie. How competitive a category is may vary from country to county, as well as the language. Apple showed that zombie rates decreased when it comes to non-English app stores. See table below:


In fact, the report shows that the zombie rate is reduced when a local/translated version of an app is provided locally. The actual zombie rate for English app versions within the four non-English Apple stores are significantly above the average. For example, the zombie rate in the German Apple store reaches 91%.

Translating your app appears to be the quickest route out of Zombieland. This is partly true, but also an app needs to be localised, which goes beyond a simple translation.

First of all, do you really know the difference between Internationalisation and localisation?

Internationalising is the capacity of an application to be adapted to different languages, regions and cultures. This is an important effort to reach a global market and is usually done before localising any application.  The first step is to identify the culture-specific information and internationalise time, dates, region format, and so forth.

Localisation comes after translation and it is how to translate the app resources into different languages. People tend to think of localisation as the same process as translation, which is not completely true. App localisation involves a proper translation in terms of images, video, keywords, description, icons, and the app’s name. This guide further explains both Internationalisation and localization for Apple Store. Also, take a look at the Android localisation checklist.

3Source: Internationalization and Localization Guide

In this case study, Abe the Dragon, a game app, has increased its download rate by 700% after doing keyword localisation.

 Here are 4 key tips that will help you to localize an app

1) Choose the right language:  The largest app stores, the iTunes app store and Google play, are present in over 130 countries. Only the Apple store itself covers more than 100 languages/dialects. Yet, bear in mind that an English app designed to target the American market may not fit Australian local expressions and way of speaking. Take into account cultural differences. Additionally, for countries such as Belgium you might consider having both a French and Dutch version of the same app, as well as different dialects in India. Remember that users are keener to connect to what it’s familiar to them.


2) Localize into your overall strategy: Localizing your app will enable users to find your application by country/region. Keywords, the app’s name, video, description, icon and images must be localised and at the same time should reflect your overall marketing strategy. This is likely to require a native speaker to carry out the task. You may find online tools to do this job, but it doesn’t guarantee that the localisation will tailor the overall brand strategy along with reflecting the local content. Yet, the process of adapting language and app elements must suit your target audience in a certain region.  Achieve consistency by having the same language partner translate all the content.

3) Localize to the local regulations: Uber and Lyft are facing regulatory battles in the US and worldwide. Lyft is pausing its operations in a few cities after being accused of creating a category for transportation network companies. The Reserve bank of India asked Uber to adapt its payment model, which could have become a pricey move for the start-up. Localising your app to local regulations and payment methods should be seriously taken into account by avoiding the risk of turning customers and the regulator against the company. Besides, m-commerce apps must adapt payment models to every region otherwise it may result in sales losses.

4) Testing: Always! Always! When building your app strategy ensure you reserve a portion of your budget for testing. The way that users react to a marketing strategy could be very tricky and vary from one marketplace to another, however, by the end of the day it’s up to them to decide on which app they are going to download. This article, for instance, has shown, that A/B testing can boost in-App purchase conversation.

Yet, it doesn’t matter how well your app is localised, if customers cannot find it. Localisation should be part of a sustainable mobile strategy, which goes along with overall optimisation and a strong PR campaign driving positive reviews and downloads.

Branded vs. descriptive – how a simple classification will help you create the perfect icon for your app

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Companies love to visually associate products with their brands in the hope of increasing awareness and trust among consumers. In a traditional “real-life” economy, it’s hard to imagine someone selling their product with no logo on it. But in the app store, where functionality matters most, not all rules of traditional marketing apply and the customer decision-making process looks slightly different.

For the sake of this blog post we’ve distinguished three types of app icons – branded, descriptive and combined. We’ll try to explain why each of these approaches works for some apps and doesn’t for others.

Branded approach

First of all, your app icon may differ from your company logo, as you are limited by the small square-shape area available for your design. There are several options for publishers that want to adopt the branded approach and include the following: using their logo (if it fits), using a slightly changed version of their logo, featuring only the first letter(s) of their brand name and even including their whole brand name (even though using words in icons is generally discouraged).

The branded approach generally works best for publishers who fit into one of the following groups:

- Huge brands with instantly recognisable logos:

Capture- Publishers who want to link their app with an established and recognized product or service, for example a website. The visual link between the two services is a good way to keep your customers loyal to your brand. This applies to hotel booking apps for instance.

Capture2- Brands which are positioned on reliability and trust, e.g. banks, news publishers. Customers will be looking for the brand’s distinct logo which reassures them that the app is safe and published by the company they trust.

Capture3- If a brand, even the unrecognisable ones, has an amazing logo it will make the app stand out in its category. If you feel your logo will do the job of catching the users’ attention then you might want to consider using it for your icon. You can use an internet survey tool to ask users which of your designs appeals to them more.

Descriptive approach

A descriptive icon uses a visual element that serves as a metaphor and instantly tells a potential user what the app is for. It usually shows the main feature or functionality of the app. So you’ll see a lot of envelopes when searching for a mail app and a lot of check marks when looking for a to-do list app.

The descriptive approach works for:

- All apps unless they have what it takes to use the branded approach.

- Apps that focus on functionality, for example Productivity apps (calendar, mail, task apps and the like).


Combining the two approaches

In the combined approach you mix a descriptive and brand element within the icon. It also applies to logos that already convey some kind of meaning and are used as the app icon (examples of Expedia and National Rail Enquiries are shown below)

The combined approach is a good choice for:

- An established brand (see above)

- A series of apps. This ensures continuity (Nike and EA Sports examples below).


 The trick here is to keep it simple. If the icon is too cluttered, it may become illegible and be disregarded by the user who is skimming the charts or search results.


Keep this simple classification in mind at the very beginning of the design process and you will surely get the perfect solution for your app. Your icon design is one of the most important elements of ASO and will have a direct impact on your download and retention rates.

Can you think of any examples of apps that capitalise on their brand in an appealing way? Or maybe you use other icon categorisations for ASO purposes? Post your thoughts in the comments below!


App ranking deviation: iTunes app store, IOS app store: mind the gap!

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Did you know that the results you see on the iTunes App Store are completely different from the ones you see on IOS devices (Iphone and Ipad devices)? Well, that’s because Apple have not synchronized the two rankings.

In fact, the algorithm for iTunes on desktop looks different to the algorithm for the App store on IOS devices such as iPhone and iPad; even though the mobile operating system and media player platform are both managed by Apple. Ranking data provided by the ASO tool: Sensortower refers only to the IOS ranking and doesn’t take into account the Itunes ranking; this could be explained by the fact that most users’ download apps via IOS devices.

An analysis of the difference in rankings


In order to illustrate the issue of ranking differences, we can for example, have a closer look at the ranking position (for specific keywords) of Trivago’s UK app. It should be noted that this gap is not specific only to Trivago but can also be spotted with other apps.

The graph below illustrates the significant deviation between the IOS app store (provided by SensorTower) and ITunes ranking. The ranking positions have been taken from27th January 2015.

graphIt is even more surprising that a keyword can be really efficient (in terms of app visibility) on ITunes and not at all, on IOS. Thus, Trivago’s app can rank in the top 10 in ITunes for a keyword, while the app isn’t even in the top 50 for the same keyword, in the IOS app store!

Let’s take the keyword “vacation” as an example. On 27th January 2015, According to Sensortower, Trivago would rank 60th in the IOS App store for this keyword and 58th for Appannie. When checking manually on an Iphone, we found that it ranks 60th. However, it ranks 9th in the ITunes app store, at this particular date and also, in the UK market.

SensorTower 27/01/2015 (60th position):


Appannie 27/01/2015 (58th):


Itunes App store 27/01/2015 (9th):


Until now Apple has not given any explanation for the ranking gap. According to Alex Malafeev, Founder at SensorTower:

It is not a case that iTunes searches are behind the iPhone searches or that they are cached, as we’ve looked at historical data and there really isn’t any correlation.  Sometimes completely different apps appear in the iTunes search results.

Therefore, depending on your ranking objectives on the iTunes app store, if you notice for example that your app’s download opportunity on this platform is higher; you should also consider checking how selected keywords rank on iTunes as well.

However, apps are generally downloaded on smartphone or Ipad devices, thus, the IOS search result remains the most significant one.

Have a look at this blog post by SensorTower  for more information about this ranking gap.

One final question, how would you explain this ranking difference?