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How to Launch and Grow in China’s Android Ecosystem

China’s Android ecosystem is completely different from anything else out there. China is the largest mobile market in the world, with Android being the dominating force there. This makes Android the perfect avenue for launching and growing in China. So how can you enter China’s Android market, and once there, how can you achieve sustainable growth? We spoke with our Android expert Stephanie Wang and we put together 5 tips to help you find success in this incredible ecosystem.

1. Learn about China’s fragmented Android ecosystem

Even without Google Play, there are over 400 Android app stores to choose from in China’s Android ecosystem. The major smartphone manufacturers like Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, etc. have their own app stores, on top of the 3rd party app stores that are available from tech giants like Tencent, Baidu, Sogou, etc.

A quick look at China’s Android ecosystem. Source: XploreChina Android Solution

With about 80% of China’s massive mobile ecosystem belonging to Android, it’s easy to see why it’s such an important avenue for your success in this market. 

Android’s market share in China over the last year. Source: Statcounter

2. Find the right app store(s) for your goals

Understanding which Android app stores are available in China is your first step towards a successful launch. Next, you’ll need to understand which of these app stores are right for you. It will be quite difficult to launch on all possible Android stores in China since there are over 400 of them available, so it’s best to look at the biggest ones first. For example, K-pop idol app CHOEAEDOL launched on several Android app stores in China (OPPO App Market, VIVO App Store, Xiaomi Store, and 360 Mobile Assistant), reaching over 40% of the market this way.

The top 5 Android app stores in China account for over 70% of the market share, making them ideal starting points for your launch. According to data from Q1 2021, these are the 5 biggest Android app stores in China:

There’s a lot more to talk about China’s top Android stores but we’ll do a deep-dive in a future article, so stay tuned!

Another interesting thing to note is that some app stores are geared towards gaming apps, while others aren’t. If you have a gaming app, for example, there are app stores dedicated to gaming – here are some of the biggest ones:

In order to reach your ideal Android audience, you must have a good understanding of what each of the main app stores has to offer. Some of them will be geared towards certain types of apps or games, or they will cater towards certain user demographics, so make sure you target only the ones that are relevant to your app and your goals.

There are over 710 million users in China’s Android ecosystem. Combined with China’s growing spending power and its surging middle class, Android offers incredibly strong monetization opportunities, and we’ve seen that being the case in the gaming sector.

Android is the dominating force in China’s mobile ecosystem. Source: Reyun

3. Understand the regulatory system and its processes

China’s Android ecosystem is also different in terms of rules and regulations. Launching your app on any of China’s Android app stores comes with a set of required documents and processes, which can depend on things like your app category, the app stores you are targeting, and more.

The regulatory system includes 6 main obligations for app and game developers:

  1. Real name verification: users can create their own username but their real name and identity must be registered in the system
  2. Effective provisions for user information protection: industry-standard safeguards are required in order to protect users’ personally identifiable information
  3. System for auditing and managing user generated content: content that is prohibited by law (e.g. violent, pornographic, libelous, fraudulent, etc.) cannot be created, copied, or published on the app or game. Also, all games must go through a content review before receiving a game license (GRN/ISBN) from China’s National Press and Publication Administration
  4. Protecting users’ rights to control their information: the app or game must explicitly ask and receive confirmation from users for requests such as location, contact lists, camera, microphone, or any other phone features.
  5. Protecting intellectual property rights: the app or game must respect and protect the intellectual property of other parties at all times
  6. Recording and saving user information: app or game developers must store and save user login information for at least 60 days

You might need additional licenses from Chinese authorities, depending on the type of your app or game. Some examples include a Comercial ICP License for e-commerce apps, or a B22 Domestic Multi-Party Communications Services License for apps with video chat or video conferencing features. Also, if you’re looking to launch on multiple Android app stores at the same time, you should know that each app store has its own review policies and requirements.

4. Focus your efforts on localization

Just because an app is popular outside of China doesn’t mean that it will be a hit in this market as well. This is why localization is extremely important: to help you reach your audience with the right visuals, cultural elements, and tone of voice.

There’s more to localization than just great copy and designs, however. You will need to make sure that your apps have support for social logins. Just like many apps and services in the West have “log in with Google” or “log in with Facebook”, you’ll need to have something similar in China, but tailored to the market itself – for example, a “log in with WeChat” functionality will be extremely important in getting users to sign up and use your app.

WeChat’s incredible growth shows why it must be part of your social logins. Source: Newzoo

5. Work on your payment integrations and cashout processes

Just like with localization, you will need a similar approach for monetization. If your app will be monetized via subscriptions, in-app purchases (IAP), or in-app advertising (IAA), you’ll need to integrate with China’s popular payment platforms like WeChat Pay or Alipay. WeChat has over 1.2 billion users, with over 900 million of them using WeChat Pay. Alipay is in a similar position, with over 1 billion users. If you’re looking to monetize via IAA, you’ll need to use local monetization partners to make this possible.

The types of app monetization options available in China. Source: XploreChina Android Solution

In order to collect payments, you will need to set up a business bank account in China. To do this, you can expect to need the following:

  1. Proof your business is properly registered, such as a valid Business License, Tax Registration Certificates, and Articles of Association
  2. List of directors’ names, along with a company stamp
  3. Proof of identification for legal representatives of the company, including responsible officers, directors, and principal shareholders
  4. Details of the company structure and ownership

A quick look at the timeline for opening a business bank account. Source: Hawksford

When it comes to collecting payment, whether it’s from IAPs, subscriptions, or pay-to-download, you will need to follow specific cashout procedures in order to process your funds and be able to cash them out from your Chinese business bank account to your other accounts.

Introducing: the XploreChina Android solution

While all of the above might sound complex or even intimidating, you can make your way into China’s massive Android ecosystem by working with the right partner. This is why we’ve launched the XploreChina Android Solution, to help you find success in this market with minimal effort.

From required documentation to launching, app management, and monetization our end-to-end implementation process ensures you get all the support you need, every step of the way. Our team will help you stay up to date with the latest regulations & app store insights, as well as the latest user trends & behaviors.

Our Android solution is part of the XploreChina initiative which also includes:

  1. China Top Media Solution: your gateway to China’s incredible mobile media landscape. As a certified ad service provider, we provide unparalleled reach across major media platforms including ByteDance, Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba, and Kuaishou. Our media buying solution is backed by our transparent, real-time dashboard via the multi-channel media buying tool XMP and complemented by our premium creative studio TopWorks, for a comprehensive media buying experience.
  2. KOL Marketing Solution: the answer to running successful influencer campaigns in China. Working with over 40,000 Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and more than 20 Multi-Channel Networks, including ByteDance’s KOL agency XingTu, means we have the scale and range to provide the influencer mix that is right for you.

As the only China-based agency equipped to offer acquisition, monetization, and creative services at scale and across multiple verticals, we believe that our revamped XploreChina initiative will help you thanks to our wide range of customized solutions. If you’re looking to make your way into China’s Android ecosystem, a massive mobile market. Get in touch with the Nativex team today.