China, with more than 1 billion smartphones in service, has now become the world’s largest smart phone market. As of Q4 2016, there are 1.37 billion smartphones in the country, one for each person.
The following chart shows the steady growth of mobile devices in China during 2015 and 2016.
More than 60% of people’s daily needs, both professional and personal, can be met by using smartphones. People use mobile applications to do all kinds of work. Mobile applications in the areas of instant communication, mobile payment, mobile office application, mobile reading application, and mobile games are widely used every day.
The following chart shows the top 20 applications used by Chinese consumers in December 2016:
Today, many western companies launch or plan to launch their mobile applications in the Chinese market. As the Chinese smartphone users become more and more demanding in choosing mobile applications, what are the main factors to consider when releasing a mobile application in the Chinese market?
1. Targeted User
This can be a big challenge. Most global applications are widely accepted by employees of multinational companies. Therefore, support for standard Android phones like Google Nexus is a must. But this is far from enough. In order to succeed in the Chinese market, you must understand your target users: are they born in the 1980s or are they the millennial generation? Is your application targeting consumers or business users? If you are targeting the business users, then you will still face a complex make-up: state-owned enterprises, private enterprises, as well as large number of small and medium-sized enterprises. You need to understand the nature of the business and adjust your application accordingly.
2. User Experience
WeChat from Tencent is a good example. WeChat’s simple and beautifully designed user interface attracts more than 500 million users and become the most successful mobile application in China within 5 years. It is worth noting that WeChat released very limited new features and any task requires less than three steps. WeChat’s founder Mr. Zhang Xiaolong said, “It should take less than 1 minute for the user to fall in love with your application.”
3. Product Quality
Product quality is an important factor for any mobile application to win loyal users. In the Chinese market, there are more than 500 types of Android-based mobile phones, often with their own customized versions. Android mobile phone market is highly fragmented. In such a complex market, stability, compatibility and performance of mobile applications are very important. Using cloud platform like Baidu MTC (mtc.baidu.com) to test compatibility is a good choice.
Recently, as an effort to standardize the quality standards of mobile applications and enhance user experience, Huawei sets up the Android Green Alliance of China. The alliance, which also includes members such as Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent and NetEase, has developed quality standards and specifications for Android application. It is expected to help mobile applications vendors to deliver high-quality mobile products for the Chinese market.
4. Chinese Customization
While many western companies adopt a single version of application for the global markets, there are more and more companies introduce customized version for the Chinese market. The advantage of the latter approach is that it can better adapt to the habits of Chinese users. A typical example is that LinkedIn China launched a Chinese version of its LinkedIn mobile application. In this local version, instant message replaces ‘internal mail’ as the default communication tool among users. The local version also introduces a “nearby” function. Using the “nearby” button, users can find friends within 5 KM radius. For many Chinese users, it is nice to be able to find friends of similar background in the neighborhood and to quickly establish connection.
5. Distribution Channels
In China, there is no unified Android app store like Google Play in other countries. It is important to choose the right Android application market(s) to release your App.
The following chart shows the top 10 application stores in China as of December 2016.
Today China is becoming a major player in the mobile innovation. More and more high-quality mobile applications are widely used by millions of users. Through these applications, efficiency is greatly improved, customer satisfaction is improved and product marketing becomes more accurate.
Over the past few years, Dilato has helped some of the world’s top 100 software companies to successfully launch their applications in the China market. We look forward to more global companies to release high quality products that meet the needs of Chinese users. This cannot be done with strong supports and cooperation from a technology savvy local partner. While major initial investment may be required, considering the size and growth potential of the China market, it is an investment opportunity any global company can hardly resist.