What is App Localization?

App localization is the process of adapting your app and its app store listing to appeal to different geographic target markets. It’s absolutely necessary if you want to take your mobile app or game global.   

app localization

In this lesson, we’re going to discuss exactly why app localization is pertinent to growth and how to localize not only your app but also its app store listing.


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What is a Locale?

In the mobile app industry, locales are basically the available storefronts that Apple App Store and Google Play Store support. They are a combination of territory and language. To better visualize this, I’ve attached the App Store locales supported by App Radar. 

Localize apps by choosing from available locales
Localize apps by choosing from available locales
Source: App Radar App Store Optimization tool

Notice how the locales include both territory and language. English is supported across many regions and this is reflected in the locale choices. One country can also have two different locales because they have more than one main language. Spain has Spanish and Catalan. Canada has English and French. 

Why App Localization is Important

App localization is an extremely important factor in app growth. When you want your app to be downloadable worldwide, you’ll need to consider localization. Of course, people around the world do not speak the same languages. That’s obvious. But did you take a moment to consider that people from different countries and cultures also have different preferences when it comes to tone of voice or imagery? 

VSCO goes beyond translating when they localize for new markets. They also change the imagery in their screenshots to appeal to different geo-markets
VSCO goes beyond translating when they localize for new markets. They also change the imagery in their screenshots to appeal to different geo-markets.
Source: App Radar App Store Optimization tool

Localization enables you to not only make your app available in different languages. It also allows you to transform your app into a product that will be especially appealing to varying regional or cultural preferences. 

When Should You Localize Your App?

App localization is not a simple process and needs to be done correctly in order to truly be a successful venture. When you’re first launching your app, don’t think too much about localization. That’s because you want to test your app in a small market first. This market should always be the country that speaks your native language. For example, an app in French could launch in France, parts of Canada, Switzerland, etc. Once your app gains traction in your initial countries, then you can start planning your global expansion. 

The countries you expand to, in the first round could be the ones that share the most similarities with your primary locale. If I had a German app that is available in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, I may consider adding Italian for Italy, Spanish for Spain, and French for France next. These countries are geographically close to my primary locales. As a result, cultural norms and preferences may not differ too greatly and I won’t have to change so much in my app. 

The next step would be to really take your app global. Now you can think of adding countries and languages that aren’t so similar to your primary locale. Using my example above, these could be Japanese, Mandarin, Arabic, etc.

App Localization is vital for App Growth 

Localization goes hand in hand with growth. It allows you to increase your reach by not only making your app available but also more appealing to people in different countries. 

It may be easier to grasp when you think about it in terms of the internalization of books and movies. Many books and movies change their titles and even cover art to appeal to different geo-markets. 

For example, the Netflix sensation, La Casa de Papel, is called Money Heist for the English speaking markets and Haus des Geldes for the German-speaking markets. All three titles name the exact same show but directly translated they would all mean something a bit different. Money Heist is Money Heist. La Casa de Papel would be The House of Paper. Haus des Geldes means House of Money.

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Netflix’s La Casa de Papel (original) is called Money Heist for English-speaking countries and Haus des Geldes for German-speaking countries

Another example would be the Harry Potter books. The first book was named Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. In the UK, the book was distributed with this title. But, publishers thought Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone would appeal better to American children. So they ran the first book with this adapted title in the US. Note how the artwork is also quite different between the 2 versions. 

harry potter book cover 1
The first Harry Potter book was named differently for the UK and the US markets

As you can see, localizations go beyond mere translation. In order to truly localize your mobile app or game, you have to understand not only lingual differences but cultural ones as well. 

Adding App Localizations or Locales

When you’re ready for international expansion, you can add locales in App Store Connect and Google Play Console. 

Adding App Locales for App Store

The App Store is available in 175 countries and 40 languages, giving you the power to reach a global audience. 

Internationalization with Xcode

Developer tools such as Xcode, Apple APIs, Auto Layout, and Unicode support allow app developers to easily internationalize their UX/UI. They can change the UI text language while keeping functionalities the same. 

With iOS 13, users can even choose their preferred language within your app. This is such an important feature to have in today’s world. People now travel and live in places where they may not speak the country’s native language. Giving ex-pats, digital nomads, and international travelers, the option to change your app’s language is key to winning them over.

You can learn more about internationalization with Apple. We’re going to move on to the localization of your app store listing. 

Localizing App Store Listings

Keep in mind that you are always going to be localizing for the 40 different languages the App Store is available in. You’re now probably wondering about the 175 countries I mentioned earlier. Let me clear this up. 

Countries or territories are not the same as locales for the App Store. That’s because some countries share a locale, meaning they use the same language settings. 

To add a locale in App Store Connect go to My App and click the dropdown languages menu. Here you can add new locales. 

Whenever you add a new locale, you should completely localize it. That means adapting your App Name, Subtitle, Description, Screenshots, and Preview Video to match the locale’s lingual and cultural preferences. 

In addition, total localization will help your App Store Optimization and app store ranking immensely. Why? Well, people will search using their native language. If your app store listing does not have keywords in their native language, your app will not rank and will not be found. Also, people are much more likely to download an app that’s presented in their native language. Not localizing your app store listing would be detrimental to your global expansion. 

Adding App Locales for Google Play

Google Play is available in 50 different languages. Luckily if you have your app on iOS and Android, localization works similarly for Google Play as it does for App Store. 

To add a new locale in Google Play Console: 

  1. On the left menu, click Store presence > Store listing.
  2. Under “Product Details,” click Manage translations > Add your own translation text.
  3. Choose a language.
  4. Add your translations

Make sure you’re adapting every single part of your Google Play listing. That includes App Title, Short Description, Long Description, Screenshots, and Promo Video. Your keywords are especially important. Once you’ve found keywords in the target geo-market’s native language, repeat them among the text fields at least 3-5 times. 

Again, like iOS users, Android users will also search using their native language and be more likely to download apps presented in their native language.  

How to Localize Your App

Ready to get started with app localization? Let’s go through the steps that you need to take to get your app to go global. 

Adding Locales for Apple App Store and Google Play Store

First, you need to add the locales you want to expand to. Go to the Store Listing Editor in App Radar. You’ll see the locales where your app is already live. To add a new locale, select the country drop-down and scroll to your target market. Click on the “+” button to add the locale to your app. 

Easily add a new locale in App Radar’s App Store Optimization tool
Easily add a new locale in App Radar’s App Store Optimization tool

And that’s it! Yes, it’s really that easy when you do it in App Radar. Try it today, and create a free account. 

Localizing App Information for Different Territories and Languages

Now we’re at the hard part. You need to localize your app and app store listing. There are many third-party translators that you can partner with to get your app translated. For the app store listing, you can do the localization right in App Radar

After you’ve added the new locale, you’ll see that aside from your app name or title, the other metadata fields are empty.  

Edit your app store listing in App Radar and publish changes to App Store Connect and Google Play Console

Here is where translations and identifying with regional preferences matter a lot. You’ll want to completely translate your app name, subtitle, description, and keywords. Also, don’t forget your screenshots! The text in your screenshots has to be changed too.

If you don’t localize your app information or app screenshots, Apple and Google will use the text and images you have in your primary locale. But, you want to avoid this default setting. That’s because people are much more likely to download apps that are presented in their native language. 

Finding App Keywords in Multiple Languages

One of the most essential parts of your global app success at this point is keywords. People who speak different languages and are from different countries will not have the same search behavior. They’ll use colloquial language when searching in the app store. Make sure you consider regional preferences in language. For example, in the US pants are trousers. While in the UK pants are underwear. These small discrepancies can make a huge impact on your success in the global app stores. 

To start, use the app Keyword Tracker and Keyword Finder to find new keywords for your added locales. With App Radar Keyword Auto-Translation button, you don’t need to jump to third-party tools to translate keywords from unknown languages. That means translating every single word can be done just in one click. Remember that including relevant keywords in a local language increases not only your presence but also your conversion rates in each country. 

chinese translation of keywords in app radar tool 1
Keywords Auto-Translation from any language to English with App Radar’s App Store Optimization tool.
Source: App Radar App Store Optimization tool

Learn more how to do mobile app localization faster with the Keywords Auto-Translation magic button ✨.

You’re Done!

 Congratulations! You have now successfully added a new locale, localized the app information, and optimized it for local keywords. The next and final step is to publish the changes to App Store Connect and Google Play Console.

Make change to your localized app store listing in App Radar and publish updates to App Store Connect and Google Play Console

Make change to your localized app store listing in App Radar and publish updates to App Store Connect and Google Play Console.
Source: App Radar App Store Optimization tool

All you have to do in App Radar is press Export to App Store Connect or Export to Google Play Console. Then you can double-check all the changes one mo

Managing App Locales in App Radar

Managing your app locales in App Store Connect and Google Play Console actually takes up a lot of time. And I don’t mean minutes, I’m referring to hours. It can take 10+ hours to manually update 10 locales in App Store Connect or Google Play Console. Good thing there’s an easier and more efficient solution. 

App Radar’s Store Listing Editor and Bulk Editor features are going to save you a lot of time and frustration. In the Store Listing Editor, you can quickly add new locales and edit each store listing field. You’ll also get optimization suggestions, so you can increase your app store ranking with better keywords. Any changes you make can be published directly to App Store and Google Play. 

app radar store listing editor 1024x632 1
Easily add and edit locales with the Store Listing Editor
Source: App Radar App Store Optimization tool

The Bulk Editor is unique to App Radar. It allows you to edit all of your locales on a single page. Yes, that’s right. You can edit every language in one place. All you have to do is select the store listing field you want to edit and then make your changes. You’ll also get the character count for each field.

app radar bulk editor 1 1024x578 1
Edit every app locale’s metadata in one page
Source: App Radar App Store Optimization tool

Furthermore, App Radar lets you reply to user reviews for every locale. You can filter by country and translate any review into English before answering.

app radar user reviews 1 1024x379 1
Reply to user reviews in App Radar
Source: App Radar App Store Optimization tool

App Localization Goes Beyond Translation

We already discussed a little bit about how localization goes beyond translation. For it to be successful, it has to be done in a cultural context. What does this mean? 

As an app developer, marketer, or publisher, you have to consider not only the text elements of your app and store listing but also the visual elements. Different countries have different preferences when it comes to imagery. In a worst-case scenario, you could be using a color or graphic that is offensive to a population without knowing it. So it’s vital that you do your research before entering the new geo-markets. Let’s look at an example of how this can apply. 

Facetune 2 as an Example of App Localization

Facetune 2 is a photo editing and face retouching app. It’s gained popularity over the years and grown side-by-side with the Instagram culture. The appeal of the app lies in beauty. The goal of the app is to provide people with an easy way to enhance their photos, specifically ones of their faces. Have you caught the snag? 

Beauty standards vary among countries and vary even more on an individual level. The challenge Facetune has to hurdle over is how to make an app that’s about making yourself “more beautiful” appealing to people all over the world. Well, they decided to let their own branding take a backseat and cater 100% to their target geo-markets. 

facetune china screenshots 1024x423 1
Facetune 2 app screenshots for the China-Chinese Locale
Source: Facetune 2 on App Radar
facetune russia screenshots 1024x429 1
Facetune 2 app screenshots for the Russia-Russian Locale
Source: Facetune 2 on App Radar
facetune us screenshots 1024x423 1
Facetune 2’s app screenshots for the US-English Locale
Source: Facetune 2 on App Radar
facetune japan screenshots 1024x432 1
Facetune 2 app screenshots for the Japan-Japanese Locale
Source: Facetune 2 on App Radar

Notice how they emphasize not only different models in their screenshots but also different features. The screenshots for Russia don’t show the feature navigation bar at all. 

Bumble is an Example of App Localization

Not every mobile app can pull off as much variation among locales as Facetune 2 does. Other apps, such as Bumble, a dating app, rely heavily on maintaining and strengthening their brand image. So the colors and even the overall feel of the app screenshots cannot be changed too wildly. 

Bumble keeps their app screenshots the same for English-speaking countries. Then in other locales, they shift to a more dynamic color theme but are still consistent with the overall feel. 

bumble us screenshots 1024x428 1
Bumble app screenshots for US-English locale 
Source: Bumble on App Radar
bumble france screenshots 1024x422 1
Bumble app screenshots for France-French locale 
Source: Bumble on App Radar
bumble germany screenshots 1024x424 1
Bumble app screenshots for Germany-German locale 
Source: Bumble on App Radar

You’ll have to decide, depending on the type of mobile app and the game you’re publishing, how far you want to take localization. But there is one rule you can follow.

One Rule to Follow for App Localization

I said it before and I’ll repeat it here again. Completely localize your app store listing. Your App Name/Title, Subtitle for iOS apps, Short Description for Android apps, and Long Description have to be completely translated and include good keywords in the respective language. Don’t forget about cultural differences and colloquialisms in language. And remember to also localize the text that is in your app screenshots and preview or promo video.

Publish Updates to App Store and Google Play

Make changes to your app store listing in App Radar and publish changes directly to App Store and Google Play

Make changes to your app store listing and localizations. Publish the changes from App Radar directly to App Store Connect and Google Play Console.

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