Android App Marketing Strategies in China

  • Aug 29, 2021
  • Comments 111

People using smartphones

With the rapid development of mobile data in China, smart phones have been highly popularized, creating a enormous market for android apps.


According to the statistics published by “App Annie”, there were a total of 1750 billion downloads worldwide with a total of 860 billion USD in purchases, with China being the largest App market worldwide.


*download ranking for mobile apps

China have over 10 billion mobile devices with one quarter of the revenue generated, based on app store downloads, in-app advertisements and mobile commerce. Mobile commerce is a term pioneered by Kevin Duffey to define the act of conducting commercial transactions online using a mobile device. In the last quarter of 2017, the total amount of time spent on apps in China have surpassed 2000 billion hours, which is 4.5 times the total of the second largest mobile market, India. In the general ranking for both iOS and android apps in 2017, WeChat have been listed as the top five app with the most active users (MAU) as third rank. In the MAU game listing for August, King of Glory and Anipop as the first and second ranking, Happy Landlord Battle (Dou Dizhu) and CrossFire as rank eighth and ninth.


Regardless of all other factors, the mobile app industry in China has great potential.


Main Sales Channel for Android Apps

Market Distribution

The first step to a successful mobile app is the development, but marketing and management is definitely the most accountable and difficult factor for its success. China’s app industry is where the competition for marketing is at.

app marketing channels 2018 chart

*Android marketing channels in 2018 which will be explained in details below


In comparison to the App store and Google play in other regions, the app industry in China for android have countless competitors, and majority of the apps being free download to attract users.


Although there are over hundreds of companies in the mobile software industry, 95% of the market share is occupied by 360, Baidu (Baidu phone assistant, 91 Assistant), Ying Yong Bao, Xiaomi as the leading companies. With the differences between industry to industry, strategic planning for product launching, marketing regulations, picture sizes, logo standards to meet the demands and target audiences are all uniquely different.


Essentially, the paid marketing on app store platforms to promote app have caused severe commercialization and fierce competition for newly launched apps and apps in its early stages. Additionally, the long-term expense for paid marketing continues to grow by a large margin. The most common paid marketing model is to compete for CPD (Cost-per-download) and CPT (Cost-per-time).


feed ad platform analysis chart


CPD is the fee for per download, most commonly used in app industry for the recommendation list. This model is one of the most cost-effective marketing, ranging between 0.6 to 5 RMB, financial, e-commerce and games related app will average to 20 RMB. The conversion is easily traceable, budget friendly to suit smaller brands with smaller group of audiences. The difficulty is rooted at the bidding model, which means same type app marketing is highly competitive, and low bidders will not have any advantage.


CPT is paid based on time, most commonly used for recommendation listing and banner for per day. This model is simply a product placement with a hefty pricing in comparison to CPD, suitable to mainstream apps with high volume such as celebrity apps or super apps, which is multi-purposed apps such as WeChat. The viral Douyin app in 2018 is also a good example for CPT, reaching to 28 million RMB per day, outcompeting all other apps.


There is also App Store Optimization (ASO) model, referring to the optimization in the searches and ranking in listings and app store, the App version of SEO. The main goal is to allow users to be able to search for the app to organic traffic in the long-term. In comparison to the Apple app store, the Android app stores tend to be more commercialized as a great share of success to apps are based off paid marketing and more suitable for those with larger budget.


Regardless of the type of marketing strategy, effective marketing strategies can vary on different pricing based on the product, expectations and budget to adapt to the most suitable one.


Feeds Ads

Feeds Ads is a type of marketing that is based on social medias and the preferences of users to systematically advertise, basically implementing advertisements within information.


The current largest feeds ads platforms are Tui from Tencent, Tencent Social Ads, Toutiao, Sina Ad Exchange, Fensi Tong from Weibo and more. Companies with a higher budget can utilize the officials of these platforms to start, whereas companies with a smaller budget can find third party agencies, which typically will assist in optimization.


app market store


With the direct regulations and restrictions on mobile advertisements, feed ads have become the most popular ad format at this point, the classic example would be the ads in Moments on WeChat.


Moments feed ads is charged based on CPM (Cost-per-impression). Using the first-tier city, Guangzhou, as an example, the competing average for CPM is 100 – 300 RMB per 1000 impression, which is lower than the traditional marketing strategies in expenses.


Moments feed ads is based on region, age, gender, marital status, internet environment, mobile devices and such for precise screening. 24 first-tier industry labels, 183 second-tier industry labels, the specific targeting of users can bring clients the most effective and explosive brand exposure. For instance, “Respect for music” from Vivo on moments have reached nearly 1.55 billion impressions, over 7.2 million views, likes, and comments from users, gaining over 2 million fans instantly.


vivo campaign music china


As the first social platform to launch feed ads, Weibo in the feeds ad sector also had countless successful cases. In 2004, Weibo and Jaguar have partnered for a 5-day feeds ads project, receiving over 40 million impression, 30 million views, 7 million interactions and 5 million views on their video(s).


Social Marketing

Android apps can utilize contents to direct rewarding activities to progress further, because high-quality content such as pictures and videos can allow users to understand the unique aspects of the app to bring in high-quality users to register. Rewards can assist in attracting the first batch of users to actively vocalize and promote in social platforms to increase exposure and increase app downloads.


This requires the app itself to have an “it” factor to create topics, and professional content creators or KOL with a strong marketing team.


Under the dome released in 2015 have surpassed 1.3 clicks after two days since release, the topical interest has caused an uproar in the internet, while also leading an environmentally friendly apps  “Contamination Map” to explode in the app store, quickly rising to the first rank in the free download listing (Click here to see a similar app). The immense number of download and visits have caused the data crashing on the app. According to 360 mobile assistant, Contamination map have been downloaded for 80,000 times in a week, making it the most popular app in its category.


contaminiation map app china


Also, the fitness app called “Keep” have partnered with the hottest reality show called “Takes A Real Man” to start topics and challenges on Weibo to encourage users to download Keep and complete their daily fitness training. And according to the days of training completed, users can participate in different giveaways. This type of cross regional collaboration and promotion have allowed related topics on Weibo to reach 1.5 million views, while bringing in a surge of downloads.


For android app marketing in social platforms, marketers must find the most suitable KOL for the specific category with content implemented from third-parties to be presented in a less commercialized format to increase trustworthiness and relevance. Aside from WeChat and Weibo, super platforms with large volume such as Toutiao can be utilized to engage in marketing for multiple platforms to increase the number of channels, such as short video platforms, Q&A websites, encyclopedia websites as well.


Offline Marketing

There are various offline marketing strategies for android apps, including street marketing and mobile pre-load.


Street marketing is one of the most direct form to come in contact with users, majority of the promotion is based on scanning QR codes to receive rewards, such as red pockets. This strategy is able to allow your potential users to gain trust in your products, and the early stages of promotion is crucial to build up reputation for the brand. Street marketing is able to achieve this goal while receiving feedback from users to continuously improve.


Didi, a peer-to-peer ride sharing app completely utilized street marketing team in its early stages to progress in the business, their team have handed out fliers, introduced the product, app installation and rewarding with gas cards and calling cards. The business also regularly collaborates with other transportation network companies to host seminars and promotions to attract their first batch of users through the word-of-mouth.


didi taxi app china


However, the primary issue of street marketing is the matching of users. Every potential user encountered from street marketing and converted clients with the product fit will directly affect the user base.


Pre-loaded mobile devices refer to the fees paid to mobile manufacturers before setup to have the android app installed onto the mobile device. Typically involves outdoor and commuting apps as the main category, such as keyboards, weather, Wi-Fi, news, camera, music and such.


Based on the size and model, pre-load fees range from 0.5 – 1 RMB or 1.5 – 4 RMB CPA. However, this strategy is more suitable for larger companies such as Lakala to be pre-loaded on Lenovo mobile devices by Legend Holdings as internal resource change.


Mobile pre-load is one of the most effective strategy to gain a large number of users for android app. One of the advantages to this method is the easy process, but the variety of users and the period before seeing gains are some of the disadvantages. Especially with the changes and regulations revised by mobile brands for pre-load, causing and increase for marketing expenses and difficulties to attain. Thus, this channel is not the most suitable for those with lower budgets.


Challenges Faced By Android Apps

Short Life Span

China is the country with most smartphone users, and there are countless entrepreneurs surging into the app market. However, the life span of majority of the apps are short.


According to the “Mobile app market in China analysis” statistics have shown that the average life span of apps in China is approximately 10 months. The duration between installation and uninstallation is averaged 1 month for 85% of the users, and 5% remaining users after 5 months. Apps previously launched such as FaceU, Fotoplace, Moment cam, and Crazy Picture Guessing are the best examples.


android phone apps


The contributing factor for the overly short life span of app is due to the amount of competitors for the same content. Camera apps such as Beauty cam, 360 Cam, Tiantian P Tu, beauty camera app have numerous varieties with the same functions but unique names.


With the ever-changing and development to technology, a world-changing app may appear any time. Aside from the usage and marketing needed for apps, any creative, innovative and unique product will grasp users, despite the high standards for quality products increasing, including products like apps where it is currently being affected by the mini-programs on WeChat.


analysis computer charts


Increasing Difficulties in App Marketing

To achieve the expectations and goals from marketing, an overall skillful and cooperative team is also a necessity, because based on the skill level, experience and resources, there will be a difference for efficiency and results.


Also, the increasing difficulties to app marketing, for android, should also be recognized. And marketing strategies needs to be continuously created and improved. For example, the previous 9 block marketing strategy on Weibo have increased from 0.5 RMB per user in 2015 to 2 RMB per user in February of 2016, up until the ineffectiveness two months later. Aside from blindly hoping onto the bandwagon and those utilizing channels in ways that are causing negative impact to the strategy, have also proved the potential risks in all marketing strategies.


Under the circumstances with an overwhelming amount of data, android app marketing has been redirecting its focus to refined management. While undergoing with any marketing plans, marketers for android apps have redefine the standards and concerns based on the product characteristics, budget, suitable strategy, cost-effectiveness and experiences to comprehensively arrange project for success. This process also requires thorough analysis from data and continuous optimization to achieve its goals.

About the Author

Betty Yang

Betty Yang

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