5 tips to acquire app users in China

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By Matt Tubergen, EVP for Global Strategy and Business Development at Digital Turbine.

China has seen a huge increase in its mobile phone manufacturing, part of a nationwide push to raise research and development spending on major technological breakthroughs by 7% annually from 2021 to 2025. It is part of the country’s “turn of the century”, which aims to advance in economic growth.

The average smartphone in China has more than 60 apps. Users who spend 5.1 hours a day consuming and creating content. There are many options for app developers and advertisers with regard to Chinese smartphones.

Here are five tips for acquiring smartphone users in China:

1. Understand privacy laws

One of the challenges that marketers face when it comes to acquiring users in the Chinese market has to do with privacy laws, which may soon be even stronger than in the United States when it comes to data collection. . The country’s new Privacy Act (PIPL), similar to the EU General Data Protection Regulation, entered into force on 1 November 2021 and amended how data can be used.

It not only dictates how data is collected, stored and used in China, but also places demands on companies based outside China. It includes passing a security assessment carried out by state authorities.

It also requires foreign companies that process personal data to provide products and services to Chinese consumers, and analyze the behavior of Chinese consumers, to have designated agencies or representatives in China to administer the personal data protection.

2. Find, find, find

There are some unique barriers for app developers and advertisers who want to enter the Chinese market. It is important to carefully examine an app’s user interface and experience to locate it appropriately for China.

Developers should note that apps in China have a very different look than we are used to in the US. Even professional apps designed for business have a busier look and use toy-like designs and anime-like characters. Apps designed for a Western audience “do not look right” for a Chinese audience and are not as well used.

In addition to various app standards, apps require at least six licenses and permissions. Because almost everything in China, for example, goes through WeChat, an app must have a WeChat login, which requires a permission. Apps must also be in Mandarin, although they may also have an English interface.

3. Navigation in different app stores in China

Because China-based OEMs are banned from Google Play along with many core Google Play services, they are developing their own ecosystems. They create their own app stores, ad networks, payment platforms and distribution services.

Android has more than 70% of the market share in China and there are many different app stores to download Android apps from. However, none is Google Play, which is not even pre-installed on Android phones sold in China. It’s a challenge for developers to support dozens of distribution models instead of relying primarily on the Apple Store and Google Play.

There are services and providers that can help developers port games and apps across a variety of app stores, such as Flexion. They handle a lot of the complexity and challenges.

Other challenges:

  • Having to release multiple Android Package Kits (APKs) per app store will make their administration more complex.
  • The support of different app stores can mean different billing platforms that are separate and distinct from each other.
  • Each app store may have different merchandise prices.
  • It is possible that additional embargoes could mean more blockades.

4. Payment methods in China

It is important to realize how payments are made in China. Chinese nationals rarely use debit cards, credit cards or cash. They pay almost exclusively using a QR code on their phone, whether it’s for a big ticket item, a consumption bill or a snack on the street.

A PWC survey showed that in 2019, 86% of China’s population used mobile payment apps. It is by far the highest rate in the world.

More than 90% of mobile payments go through “superapps” Alipay and WeChat Pay, and they are cheap and easy to use. Super-apps are well-used platforms that provide access to a wide range of services – from ordering groceries to making an appointment with the doctor, calling a taxi, refunding a friend and managing your finances. They eliminate the need to have multiple apps for different services.

5. Capture the China app user experience

In addition to “all in one” apps, which combine a range of services into one app, the user experience in China differs in other ways. E.g:

  • Chinese apps tend to use lighter colors than we are used to in the US
  • QR codes are everywhere – to add someone to your contacts, pay, log in to sites and ads. Even street vendors accept payment by QR code.
  • Chinese apps accept Latin characters as search terms and return Chinese-language results.
  • You can use both voice and messaging with chatbots.

Taking advantage of the above strategies – by locating content, designing an app specific to China’s standards, researching necessary licenses and permissions, and understanding Chinese payment methods, just to name a few – can help app developers and advertisers acquire users in the vast Chinese market .

Matt Tubergen is it EVP for global strategy and business development Digital turbine.

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