Translation is not yet localization: make your mobile app #1 on the Russian market

Elena Tereshchenkova, an expert in translation of marketing materials and app localization, shares her opinion on why Russian market is an attractive target for apps developers from around the world.

It’s still pretty early in the year and some of you might be in the process of planning your expansion into new markets. Today I want to share with you some reasons to provide high quality app localization for users in Russia.

Localization is one of the best ways to increase the visibility of your app and the number of downloads. It turns out that by localizing just the app description and the keywords you can increase the number of downloads by up to 700%.

This is especially true in the case of Russian market. Russia is sadly one of those countries, where the majority of the population doesn’t speak English. According to a survey conducted by Public Opinion Foundation in 2011 only 11% of respondents claimed to speak English (compare it with 64% in Germany or 39% in France). Although the poll was conducted 5 years ago, I doubt that the situation has dramatically changed.

At the same time, 40% of Russians use smartphones and their number will probably increase over the next few years. All these people type in Russian keywords when they search for the apps they need. This means that if you don’t localize your app or at least its description, your chances of reaching them are rather slim.

Being the 5th largest market in the world Russian app market is an attractive target. Strange as it may seem, the poor state of the Russian economy might actually stimulate its further growth.

What does your app and a piece of candy have in common? They both provide a quick pick-me-up, don’t cost a fortune and are just that tiny bit addictive.

It might seem counterintuitive, but in times of financial crisis people tend to indulge in such things more. They can’t afford to spend money on expensive things or entertainment, but they still work hard (if not harder) and deserve a reward!

During the Great Recession candy sales figures went through the roof. Shops selling wine and liquor, as well as highly specialized grocery stores did well in 2009. The same applies to apps — in 2009 mobile applications market did exceptionally well in spite of the downturn in the world economy.

So how do you stand out from the competition if you decide to take advantage of the favorable situation on the Russian app market?

Firstly, don’t forget about app store optimization. It includes much more than just localization of your app’s description and keywords (that’s the part I can help you with) and you can learn more by watching this video series on the App Tweak website.

Secondly, think quality instead of quantity. And at this point I’ve got another question for you: what does the majority of the app descriptions in the App Store and on Google Play have in common? Their descriptions are pathetic. I often compare the Russian descriptions with the English ones and it’s amazing how much they differ.

At the very least the English descriptions don’t have any strange grammatical structures, omitted words, typos or spelling mistakes. They are clear and to the point, some of them are well-written and engaging and, well, they sell.

This is not surprising, if you think of it. Anyone who’s serious about making money from app development understands that app description is their main marketing and sales asset. Developers spend time on reading articles with tips and tricks that can help make their app descriptions better.

So what happens when it comes to translating the app descriptions and app localization for other markets? Why would anyone who cares about their product do something that might scare away the existing users, who can’t continue using the English version anymore, but don’t want to use the one with the crappy translation, while failing miserably to attract the new ones, because of the poorly translated description and interface localization blunders? Well, several factors come into play here.

The first is the inability to check the quality of the translation. Few developers speak or read all of the languages they translate their apps into or have someone who speaks the language and can help them with the checking.

The second reason is misunderstanding of what being a translator requires. I blame it on the hype about new technologies that are supposed to replace human translators and companies who are trying to make a fortune on crowdsourced translations.

I have gone into some detail about the myths about translation and translators in this article, but to sum it up being bilingual is not enough to be a translator. Speaking of translators specializing in marketing materials localization (app description is a marketing material, remember?) they’ve got to have good understanding of cultural differences, excellent writing skills and a clear understanding of who the target audience is.

So, here are the main take-aways of this article:

  • Russia is a rapidly growing and attractive market for mobile app developers. The current difficult economic situation in Russia stimulates its further growth.
  • Unfortunately, the majority of the population doesn’t speak English, so localization becomes a crucial factor for success.
  • High quality app localization provides a number of advantages, the main of them being the ability to stand out from the competitors.

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