Smartphone App Success: Your 8 Keys into Asia


With a market of 600 million people in ASEAN, promotion is without a doubt a major concern among smartphone application companies. It makes sense. Be it day or night, smartphone apps have permeated the lives of these 600 million people.

In Thailand, the popular use of Instagram. In Malaysia, the use of Facebook on the Samsung Galaxy Note. In Singapore, commuters play puzzle games on the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). In Indonesia, people gathering at convenience stores to use chat applications. In Vietnam, unlimited internet access for only VND 112,000 (Vietnamese Dong, equivalent to about USD 6). In Philippines, the Facebook is used for selfie uploads.

In ASEAN, it is the Android phones, not the iPhone, that has the majority of the mobile market share, which stands at 60%. The main reason being the price, as a local price tags of USD 800 for iPhone or iPad is not affordable by everyone. However, other up-market Android phones such as Samsung, OPPO, Sony Experia is still used in any city and any market demographics. Therefore, promotion for mobile apps remains important regardless of target market.

A comparison of popular smartphones in ASEAN 10. iPhone and Samsung are marketed towards the wealthy. Local brands, features and pricing also influence popularity.

To market to the ASEAN market, the following considerations are a minimum.

1) The app title and description should be in both local and English languages to improve searchability.
Basically, it is alright to have only English. However, localised language is important for certain target audiences. They include Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and regions that are still using Traditional Chinese characters.

2) Race and Income must be in your considerations while targeting the market. City infrastructure is crucial too.
While there are 10 countries in ASEANm there are hundreds of races living in it. Many of the wealthy are Chinese (in race), while about 90% are non-Chinese locals. Furthermore, cities like Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore have WiFi and 3G infrastructures, while others are still building up in that aspect. Websites should be light to load to remain accessible to all. Especially in Indonesia, where the population is high, you should not choose areas with a relatively low cost of living, but have a proper strategy through understanding the special characteristics of the capital Jarkata, and cities with many students living in them.

Different promotion for different ASEAN people. Target audience is not categorised into countries, but the different groups of people.

3) Promote through media such as affiliate services and blogs.
For ASEAN, other than Google Play (Android market), efficient promotion can be made through the various publishers’ affiliate services, local media and blogs.

4) Popular apps are “easy” and “feel good”
Even though marketing strategies differs from app to app, games, photos and chat applications are popular in ASEAN, especially apps that are easily understood by the locals. These include puzzle games such as Candy Crush Saga, photo-sharing and selfie apps such as Instagram, and chat application such as WeChat and KakakoTalk. Always keep abreast of the varying motivations and behaviors of ASEAN citizens, while providing a good user experience. This will set your app up for popularity.

Candy Crush Saga was designed to be addictive, a basic design element to market in ASEAN.

5) Be aware of religious issues.
Half of the population of 600 million in ASEAN is Muslim. Racial issues exist, thus you should be sensitive to local issues, and pay special attention to expressions used in the apps. To quote an example of the sensitivity issue, there was a children’s book that wrote that Ultraman’s father was “as great as Allah”, and this received a lot of backlash. Be sure to check in all aspects of religion, politics and race.

6) Go for basic or freemium app strategy, but allow for non-credit card payments.
Most iPhone users in Cambodia are jailbreakers, or people who download illegal copies of official apps, or users get illegal imitations from the China market. Apps should take an example from Japan, where they offer basic and freemium versions of apps, allowing users to experience the apps, including showing screenshots in the digital stores. In addition, youths who do not own a credit card often buy the Google Play cards from stores to make related purchases.

A screenshot of an Indonesian’s mobile phone. The apps are not familiar to, say a Japanese.

7) Surveys of competitive apps reveal that English is the international standard for apps.
Apps in ASEAN are normally displayed in English. Examples include Any do, MyTeksi and LinkedIn, to which are not known in Japan. A grasp of the distribution of apps though language is important for marketing efforts.

8) It is dangerous to depend on WiFi.
ASEAN is still developing. Free WiFi without registration is lacking, and connection speeds can be low. This affects apps such as YouTube, which is often used through WiFi, not 3G. What method your app should use to connect should be decided through where where your target market is staying. The international hit Candy Crush Saga (Soda) should be used as a benchmark.

These are the eight keys to localising your Android app in the ASEAN region. Applications for the iOS can be considered in a similar fashion. Localise your app for the 600 million ASEAN citizens, and share your success.

Takahashi Manabu
AsiaClick Founder


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