Mobile App Promotion in Asia

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China Android App Market Comparison

There are more than 400 Android app markets in China, and a majority of them are directly connected to a cell phone manufacturer and therefore targeted at customers of that cell phone company. Without the support of a powerful tech company, few Android apps have been able to thrive without filling a niche in a specialty market. This research indicates that an app launched in China is not likely to be able to serve multiple markets (and therefore provide access to a larger population) without being customized to each of those markets.

Why so many markets?

No single company in China has been able to build a monopoly for app stores in part because each cell phone manufacturer has its own store or makes agreements with an app store to preload certain app services on the smartphone. For the user to download apps from other stores takes more time and effort. Stores like Google Play and Amazon are severely restricted, require more steps to use, and are less popular.

key differences

Of the nine major app stores in China, most are connected to a tech company that is already powerful due to its other services. Xioami, Huawei, and HiMarket sell cell phones. Baidu (which has also acquired 91 Mobile Assistant and HiMarket) and Qihoo are also search engines. is a gaming web portal.

Other app stores focus on unique services to encourage interest in other apps. Tencent depends on the popular social media app WeChat to drive traffic to its other applications. WeChat's 700 million users can take advantage of updates launched early if they download the app from Tencent's store, App Gem. Wandoujia, a top independent app store, is known for entertainment services in part because it indexes more games and apps (about 1.6 million) than it hosts (about 10,000). The store also offers wallpapers, videos, ebooks, and more.

pros and cons for single and multiple markets

Launching an app with an individual store (such as Baidu, MyApp, or 360 Mobile Assistant) enables the developer to create an app designed for a specific audience. This gives the developer confidence that that audience will support the app. If the developer partners with a store with a national audience (such as Wandoujia or Tencent), the app is likely to reach a wide audience, as well. An exclusive launch of a localized app with an Android application package may be the most effective method for breaking into the Chinese market.

Launching an app in multiple markets enables the developer to reach an even wider audience than that of a single store. However, working with each store requires different negotiation processes and expectations regarding revenue. Furthermore, each store requires different infrastructures and Android application packages, making attribution and data comparison more difficult.
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Successful Mobile App Promotion in China

Successful mobile app promotion in China has been done in many ways. Popular strategies include social media marketing, digital advertising, and QR code utilization, yet the top apps, according to a Chinese mobile entrepreneur, simply followed five strategic rules: simplified language, sharing ability, discounts, fresh content, and localization.

Popular promotion strategies

Social media marketing has long been a way to successfully promote apps, with China gaining 130 million new social media users in 2016. The market is vast, opening limitless possibilities for app promotion. Social media marketing is also an effective strategy since more than half of Chinese users participate in online brand discussions that "directly affect businesses". Screw Bar, a Korean startup, for example, wanted to promote their smartphone photography app called Gudak Cam. Even without having a social media account for their company or app, Screw Bar reached out to Chinese fashion and photography bloggers. Through these influencers, the startup saw more than seven million #gudak# impressions and around eight thousand discussions about their app on Weibo.

Digital ads in China were projected to take up as much as 59 percent of the country's total ad sales by 2021. This growth would stem from mobile-based impressions and sales, specifically in the social media network, WeChat. WeChat is China's "most popular mobile social network application" with more than 900 million users. Beyond being a social media network, however, WeChat had also evolved into a digital ad medium where brands could promote their applications. With WeChat's massive ecosystem, mobile app promotion through digital advertising on the platform can then easily succeed.

Chinese consumers love QR codes because of their convenience. Consumers need only to scan these codes to pay for products or services or, in the case of this request, to download applications. In turn, companies use QR codes prolifically. In fact, even street markets, small vendors, and government authorities use QR codes. With this, QR code utilization has become a valid way to promote mobile apps by increasing engagement and easing payment processes.

How to Succeed in Mobile App promotion in China

The first step towards successful mobile app promotion lies in negotiation. Mobile app creators first need to negotiate with Chinese app stores to have their app featured in these spaces. Myapp (Tencent), 360 Mobile Assistant, Xiaomi App Store, Xiaomi Game Center, and Huawei App Market are the top five app stores in China as of the latest information in November 2017.

Next, creators need to take advantage of ecosystems, such as Tencent's WeChat and its other ecosystems, in order to widen the reach of app promotion. The Chinese NBA app, for example, partnered with Tencent to stream game recaps and behind-the-scenes footage to China's 11 million NBA fans. With such an offering, the NBA app was downloaded 105,000 times during the first few hours after its launch in January 2016. Aside from Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu also have ecosystems that can drive app awareness.

The third step to successful app promotion lies in adherence to five strategic rules that will make promotions more appealing to Chinese consumers.


1. The top apps in app stores use language that is helpful and simple in tone. Usage of Chinese slang and Internet lingo can speak to consumers on a personal level, increasing engagement.

2. Top Chinese apps also have some form of social or sharing capabilities, which are then clearly displayed on screenshots about their app on app stores. These capabilities will boost engagement too, owing to the vast social demand in China.

3. Chinese smartphone users have essential goals that include making and saving money. With this, savings and discounts are all the rage. Apps that feature such promotions can quickly draw attention from users.

4. Like the rest of the world, Chinese consumers want content. Apps that can deliver fresh content at regular intervals will receive more brand awareness.

5. The Chinese have their own set of cultural norms based on gender, age, income, occupation, and other factors. By knowing these cultural norms, and creating strategies based on specific norms, app promotion can succeed all the more. Momo, for example, was promoted as a platform for socialization, although its true purpose was to function as a dating app much like Tinder. Unlike Tinder, however, Momo did not feature "racy photos of attractive males and females" and their app store page showed screenshots of equal numbers of male and female users. In a different example, due to the communist foundation of China, Uber used red cars to represent Uber drivers, and the app offered city-specific services such as Shanghai's UberEnglish for English-speaking drivers.


In conclusion, successful mobile app promotion in China is composed of five strategic rules that app creators need to adhere to. These rules are: 1) simplified language, 2) sharing ability, 3) discounts, 4) fresh content, 5) and localization. App promotion can also be done through popular strategies such as social media marketing, digital advertising, and QR code utilization.
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Successful Mobile App Promotion in Singapore

In Singapore, successful app marketing relies on applying inbound and content marketing strategies, and is curated toward mobile phone usage, especially on platforms like Facebook, Google, and Instagram. As of 2016, Singapore was the leading app-based economy in Asia, with fast internet speeds across the region. Devising a digital marketing strategy should be the number one element when considering mobile app marking in Singapore, as it is widely considered to have the most advanced digital marketing techniques in the world.


A successful marketing strategy anywhere will involve a cohesive understanding of target audience, goals, content creation, social media plan, and budgeting. Inbound marketing strategies focus on creating helpful content that solves a target audience’s needs while demonstrating a company’s value. As an example, the Singapore-based marketing firm Crown Mercado relies on video content, search engine optimization, automated content, and analytic software. Similarly, it uses a content marketing strategy, creating viral materials that turns Singaporean consumers into advocates for an application. For instance, Instagram has 1.9 million users and almost 85% of the users are younger than 45 in Singapore. Ensuring that an app delivers eye-catching content that shares information with consumers about your wellness app is vital to success, especially in Singapore, where consumers are inundated with digital advertising.


Location-based marketing is on the rise, offering a cost-effective and unique tool in Singapore. Key mobile app marketing trends for 2018 Q1 include Playable Ads, Live Streaming, Value-Added Content Marketing and Re-marketing. Singtel, a Singaporean company, has found success through strong social media presence and consumer interaction, especially with rapid content production and live streaming. QR codes are popular in Singapore, with large organizations like Coca-Cola, Marine Parade Polyclinic (a pharmacy firm), Liquid Pay, and the National University of Singapore all using them to great effect. The most popular mobile platform is Android. Influencers are popular in Singapore as well, and collaborations between live streamers and companies have worked out well through building communities and special connections between consumers and app builders, resulting in hundreds of thousands of app downloads.

Points to remember

With Singapore’s reliance on digital mediums that have only recently been developed, however, it’s important to keep a few points in mind. Understanding that Singaporeans often have access to the most up-to-date technology is key for successful marketing campaigns. The smartphone mobile penetration rate is among the world’s highest, and streaming speeds are high. As such, the best advertising techniques in Singapore capitalize on unprecedented outreach to consumers by creating interactive content and forming relationships in local communities. Of course, be careful concerning content creation, as in 2017 the government started targeting false and exaggerated advertising. A few key platforms to be aware of to advertise on are Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Make sure to keep in mind app localization as well if you are starting an international marketing plan.


To conclude, a successful app marketing strategy in Singapore will focus on advanced digital marketing technologies using Inbound and Content marketing techniques. Creating informative and engaging content that will attract users and go viral is key to remaining relevant in Singapore’s advertising market. Take advantage of the numerous digital tools like location-based marketing, QR codes, social media, live streaming, and video content to best reach Singapore residents. Lastly, make sure that your app’s digital design is effective and streamlined to convert consumer interest into app downloads and users. Thank you for your question!

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Demographics of Mobile App Users in China

Mobile Apps form an important and growing part of the economy across the world, and this is certainly true of mainland China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. On the whole, mobile app use in mainland China tends to be disproportionately by men compared with Hong Kong or Singapore, and disproportionately by the young. In Hong Kong, and particularly Singapore, mobile app use is extremely popular across a range of ages. In mainland China and to a much lesser extent Hong Kong, the most popular apps are Chinese, whereas in Singapore many of the most popular apps are western. Across all the regions, the most frequent use of mobile apps was for communication of various kinds, along with social media. Moreover, in all three places Android is the predominant mobile operating system, with a clear lead over iOS.

In the brief below I have summarized the most relevant data about the demographics of mobile users in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Unfortunately, there was some data about app usage rates that was only available on a country by country level, and as Hong Kong is not an independent country, there was slightly less data available about Hong Kong than about China and Singapore. Further, in some places, I have taken demographics of mobile web users, as there is far more detailed information available about mobile web users than simply mobile app users. Since the web is generally accessed from a phone via an app, the two groups almost completely overlap, and therefore it made sense to include data from this group so as to provide the most comprehensive picture possible. Please note that although Wonder generally doesn't use sources older than two years, we have used 2 older sources (this and this) in this report because they are the most recent and specified information publicly available.

Mainland China

Gender: 57.4% of Chinese mobile web users are male and 42.6% are female.

Age: 28% of mobile web users in China are under 25, 31.8% are 25-35, 19.3% are 35-40, 12.4% are 40-45, and 8.6% are older than 45.

Top Apps: The ten most popular apps in China, by number of users, are: WeChat, QQ, Mobile Baidu, Taobao, UC Browser, QQ Browser, Tencent Video, Sogou Mobile Input, 360 Mobile Security, and YouKu. It is worth noting that all of these apps are Chinese, and in fact even the top fifty list is dominated by Chinese apps - the only even somewhat popular foreign app in China is Google's Chrome browser. Indeed, even among Chinese apps, Tencent emerges clearly dominant, as its various apps which include WeChat and QQ encompass a huge portion of the time spent on mobile apps in China. Tencent alone accounts for a whopping 29% of the time spent on apps in China last year.

App Categories: The most popular categories of app in China, by the amount of time spent using them are: Communication, which accounts for 36% of the time Chinese users spend on apps, 'Other' which accounts for 32%, Video Players/Editors which accounts for 18%, Games which account for 9%, and Social which account for 8%.

OS: 78.69% of smartphones in China run on Android, compared to 19.64% on iOS, and 1.67% on other operating systems.

7 Day Retention Rate: Only 5.9% of users in China are using an app more than a week after it has been downloaded.

Frequency of Use: Chinese app users typically open an app 1.4 times per day, and will stay in the app an average of 619.18 seconds.

hong kong

Gender: 48.4% of smartphone users in Hong Kong are male, compared to 51.6% who are female. This is the opposite of the gender skew in mainland China, where mobile users are mostly male.

Age: 3.6% of smartphone users in Hong Kong are aged 10-14, 13.9% are aged 15-24, 17.5% are aged 25-34, 18.3% are aged 35-44, 20.5% are aged 45-54, 17.6% are aged 55-64, and 8.7% are aged over 65. This is a much more balanced distribution of usage by age than is seen in mainland China, perhaps because a whopping 85.8% of people in Hong Kong use a smartphone.

Top Apps: The ten most popular apps in Hong Kong on Android are: We Chat, WhatsApp Messenger, AliPay HK, Facebook Messenger, Space Cleaner, Triton Technology, App 1933, Knives Out, Game Beans, and Tik Tok. The ten most popular apps in Hong Kong on iOS are: Whatsapp Messenger, WeChat, AliPay HK, YouTube, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Speak & Translate Translator, SkyScanner, PayMe from HSBC, and TaoBao. Note the relevant prevalence of non-Chinese apps among users in Hong Kong relative to users in mainland China, particularly those who use iOS.

OS: 65.2% of smartphones in Hong Kong run on Android, compared to 34.8% that run on iOS. iOS is most popular among the youngest surveyed group of Hong Kong residents, with 37% those age 18-25 saying they used iOS, compared to just 24% of those aged 36-45.


Demographics: Singapore has an incredibly high smartphone penetration rate of 95%, and this means that there is fairly consistent adoption across gender and age. If we look, for instance, at usage by age we find that 99% of Singaporeans under 25 years old use a smartphone, about 100% of those aged 25-34 do, 97% of those 35-44, 93% of those 45-54, and 69% of those 55 and older use smartphones.

Top Apps: The ten most popular apps for Android in Singapore are: Ofo, Mobike, WhatsApp Messenger, Facebook Messenger, Rules of Survival, Grab, Uber, WeChat, Facebook, and Instagram. For iOS, the ten most popular apps in Singapore are: WhatsApp, YouTube, Ofo, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Rules of Survival, Instagram, Mobike, Google Maps, and Grab.

App Usage: The top activities Singaporeans spend their time on smartphones doing are messaging (21% of time), social media (16%), web surfing (16%), calls (11%), and games (11%).

OS: 62% of smartphones in Singapore operate on Android, compared with 37% on Apple, and 1% on other operating systems.

7-Day Retention: In Singapore 14% of customers are still using an app a week after it has been downloaded, on average. Note that this is almost triple the retention rate in China.

Frequency of Use: Singaporean app users will have 2.01 sessions with an app per day, and will stay in the app an average of 597.63 seconds.


As is clear from this data, mobile app users in mainland China are more likely to be men than those in Hong Kong or Singapore, and more likely to be young. Moreover, users in China and to a lesser extent Hong Kong, tend to favor Chinese apps, whereas in Singapore western apps are extremely popular. However, across the regions communication is the most common use of mobile apps, and the Android mobile operating system is much more common than iOS.

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Nutrition and Meal Planning in Chinese Cultural

As the country has shifted to a more Western-style diet heavy on carbs and sugars, the Chinese population has experienced a surge in obesity and weight-related conditions. As a result, Chinese people (especially Chinese millennials) are becoming more interested in nutrition, healthy eating and general wellness. This growth has caused a boom in fitness apps and healthy foods, but meal planning in the traditional American sense hasn't caught on yet. Read on for my full rundown of the trends and perceptions of nutrition and meal planning in Chinese culture.


Rising levels of obesity (30% of Chinese adults are overweight and 6% are obese) and other diet-related conditions have led the Chinese government to announce a "national fitness program," hoping to "improve the physical fitness and health level of the whole nation." This idea has caught on culturally in China, as attitudes among the country's "middle class in particular seem to be shifting toward diets that focus more on quality, style and health" and away from the Western-style diet favoring "fizzy drinks, burgers and pizza" that they have favored in recent years.

Pork consumption is trending downward in China, while fruit and vegetable consumption is on the rise. The country has seen increased interest in plant-based diets as well; as Sara Dominguez of the Shanghai Vegan Society explains, "There has been a lack of understanding in China about the health issues involved with eating meat, the animal rights issues, and what we can do about it, and this is starting to change." Forrest Song of Shanghai's Veggie Dorm adds, "In big cities like Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou, and especially for young people, veganism and vegetarianism are no longer strange. It’s becoming more popular as people realise it’s a nutritious, eco-friendly and animal-friendly way to live a happy and responsible life."

The Chinese wellness market overall is expected to reach $70 billion US by 2020. In one survey, 72% of respondents said exercise was important to them; in another survey, 68% reported exercising more than they had in the past. Maintaining a healthy weight was a priority for 74% of Chinese consumers, and 86% said they wanted to eat better. However, some Chinese consumers might struggle with nutrition: 70% said eating healthy "can be a challenge," and nearly half said that "healthy food is too expensive to eat regularly." A McKinsey survey found that culturally, "China is still in the nascent stages of its health journey," with only 65% of consumers prioritizing their health through dieting or other wellness approaches.


I searched through several sources, including news outlets, scholarly databases, and industry publications to find information on meal planning trends in China. I wasn't able to find much information suggesting that meal planning (at least in the American/Western sense) has caught on in China, even with the country's renewed interest in healthy eating.

This seems to be influenced by a few factors. First, China's millennials especially tend to eat out; while they're interested in healthy food, "an inability to cook may be pushing the trend for eating out and ordering food more." Almost half of China's millennials eat at home two or fewer days each week. Food delivery is also a huge factor in the Chinese landscape; it's currently a $32 billion industry (projected to grow to $35 billion by next year), and that popularity may keep some Chinese consumers from feeling like they need to meal plan.


Like meal planning, I wasn't able to find much information on dieting or nutrition apps in the Chinese market. However, general fitness apps have become hugely popular as the country's culture has shifted to focus more on wellness in general. MyFitnessPal expanded into China in 2014, but Chinese-focused apps seem more popular. Keep, a social fitness and activity-tracking app, currently has 100 million active users (up from 60 million in 2016). Other popular apps include Yodo Run, a gameified fitness app that rewards participants with money, coupons, and other prizes, also has 100 million users; Codoon includes calorie tracking and pairs with a wearable device. Other apps, like Hotbody, offer livestreamed fitness classes and training.


People in China have expressed growing interest in healthy foods, dieting, and fitness as a result of the country's rising obesity levels. This has led to increased levels of vegetarianism and a boom in fitness apps, but meal planning doesn't seem to have caught on yet. That might be due to larger trends among Chinese millennials, who don't tend to cook for themselves and most often order delivery or eat outside the home.
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Overview of U.S. Mobile Apps Expanding to China

China is one of the four markets where the U.S. isn't a dominant producer of apps, with a limited number of companies managing to overcome regulatory issues and customize their products and strategies to meet the unique demands of the decentralized Chinese market. Two most frequently mentioned examples are the Chinese Uber app and LinkedIn (with 2-3 apps that accompany the site). Both companies customized their offering to adhere to local regulations and cultural norms, with Uber mimicking apps like WeChat and providing an all-in-one solution, with unique features that can be explored during the ride. However, apps like Uber, Flipboard, and Evernote have or had to compete with local players, while LinkedIn continues to face censorship problems.

I was only able to cover five apps in the scope of one research, due to the fact that there aren't many well-covered examples of companies that either succeeded or failed in this space, and they are difficult to identify. You can find more insights into what strategies work and what are the main challenges, according to experts, in the attached overview articles.


Uber is frequently mentioned as the company who's particularly successful in China, in big part thanks to its customized app. According to Smashing Magazine, it's one of the very few non-Chinese apps that top the charts. Uber started by addressing the Chinese culture, with changing the colors of cars on the map from black to red and adding a new car category, "People's Uber." They also added a category for those seeking English-speaking drivers.

Later, in 2016, Uber recognized that Chinese consumers want all-in-one solutions, such as WeChat. At the same time, they discovered that their users spend some time on the app after starting the ride. Those factors made them roll out two new features - Uber Life, a digital magazine that can be read during the ride, and Uber+ Travel, which helps people plan their international travel.

Uber's success can be attributed to all of the features described above. The main challenge was local competition from Didi Chuxing, who owns both the major Chinese ride-hailing service DiDi and WeChat. As a consequence, Uber was blocked from WeChat. However, eventually, DiDi and Uber China merged, with the latter bought by Chuxing.


LinkedIn is another platform that is considered successful in China. Its Chinese offering includes a website and several apps. Its success is particularly interesting because many foreign social media platforms are blocked in China. LinkedIn managed to succeed despite regulatory issues because they agreed to adhere to local restrictions on content and partnered with two local companies to better understand the context and customize their products. They also hired local leadership. Thanks to this, their user base grew to 20mln in two years (please note that not all of them use the apps).

As for specific features, they added the integration with WeChat. Despite their successful launch in the Chinese market, their reach was smaller than they expected, especially among professionals. According to experts from the Smashing Magazine, the best way to reach Chinese consumers is by targeting a specific group. LinkedIn used this strategy and developed an additional business networking app for young professionals, Chitu (eng. "Red Rabbit"). However, the app hasn't solved the problem with reaching this demographic yet.

However, regulatory issues remain the main challenge for them. In 2017, they were forced to remove individual job-posting tool due to new government regulations.


Evernote launched in the Chinese market in 2012, as Yinxiang Biji. They had over 4mln users after the first year and by 2015, their user base reached 17mln. To give you more information about how the app was customized, I found a 2012 blog post by Evernote. While this example is also covered in more recent articles, they only provide vague information that the company customized their app. Also, a current page for developers suggests that the information is still relevant.

Compared to the regular version of Evernote, Yinxiang Biji offers different integrations, mainly with Chinese social media and payment platforms. Additionally, the company updated its data policy, so consumers' privacy concerns could be addressed and their data could be stored in China. They also launched a Yinxiang Biji API, which was much easier to use for Chinese developers.

According to TechCrunch, the main reasons behind Evernote's success in China include local, Chinese-speaking customer service, hiring locally, and partnering with local social media platforms, such as Weibo and WeChat. They also addressed major consumer concerns, after conducting a market research to identify them. As for challenges, the company struggles to grow its paid user base and faces increasing competition from local startups. A 2014 article, where most detailed information about the issue comes from, notes that competitors offer most of its paid features for free, which may still be the reason for its problems.


As NBA has a large fan base in China, they decided to launch their app in China in 2016. The release was extremely successful, with 105k downloads in the first few hours and 11mln users after eight months. While there's no information about specific features, the app was customized to show different player and historical stats, as different players are popular in China compared to the U.S.

According to analysts, NBA overcame the challenge of reaching its target group by partnering with Tencent, leading Internet services provider in China. Please note that one of the main obstacles from successfully launching in the Chinese app market is the lack of centralized process for publishing Android apps. The partnership allowed NBA to reach its potential customer base despite it, and ultimately became the reason for its success.

Additionally, NBA hired China-based editors, which may be another reason why they were successful. While it isn't explicitly stated, according to TechCrunch, hiring local experts can make a difference between success and failure.


Flipboard, which develops the magazine reader app, released a Chinese version of its app in 2012. The international version got blocked in China in 2011. They managed to avoid censorship with the new local app, which was their key goal. Please note that some information on Flipboard comes from a cached version of the 2014 article by Tech in Asia (I can't access it any other way from my location). It was the most recent overview of their beginnings in China. However, I confirmed that they're still working on expanding their presence there, which I will explain below.

It seems that initially, the product wasn't as customized as other examples I provided. While it faced competition from Zaker and Netease Cloud Reader, it's early popularity and success can be attributed to partnerships with two third-party Android shops — Wandoujia and AppChina. In 2017, the company announced that it formed a joint venture with BlueFocus, a Chinese marketing company. They said that they will focus on customizing their product and delivering new advertising solutions. However, the results of this partnership haven't been made public yet.


In conclusion, Uber, LinkedIn, Flipboard, NBA, and Evernote are some of the U.S. companies that launched their apps in the Chinese market. The main challenges that they faced include regulatory and censorship issues, fierce competition from local startups, and reaching their target groups despite the lack of centralized process for publishing Android apps. Comprehensive market research, customizing the features of their apps to address the culture gap, and partnerships with local companies are some of the key factors behind their success.