American apps are struggling to go global as copycat versions crop up across Asia.
There is no denying that the mobile app market in the U.S. is on the rise. After all, as PwC points out, the tech sector is disrupting the American economy as we know it, and thousands of developers are doing their best to come up with the next big disruption.
But of course, that’s not to say that U.S. markets are the only ones succeeding. The mobile app market in the Asia-Pacific region is growing rapidly, according to the International Business Times. With mobile technology becoming increasingly prevalent, there are projections that Southeast Asia alone could go from 200 million smartphones to 400 million by 2021.
While both economies have strong technological sectors, there’s less cross-over in consumer trends than you might think. While consumers in the U.S. and Asia seem to enjoy similar apps, Asian consumers often opt for copycats which become much more popular than the original American version.
The Snapchat Story
To find an example of a quintessential American app that has yet to succeed in Asian markets, we need look no farther than Snapchat. A social media app that took American markets by storm circa 2013. Although in previous years success in the U.S. was ubiquitous with success overseas, the New York Times has identified a new trend. Because of the burgeoning mobile app industry in Asia, companies in Japan, South Korea or China can swoop in and win niche markets before American apps make it overseas.
What does this mean for apps like Snapchat? Cue Snow, the mobile photo app dominating Korean markets. With its filters and other add-ons, this social media app is startlingly similar to Snapchat, only much more popular. With culturally-specific features, the app is effectively tailored towards an Asian audience. More importantly, CNN reports that Snapchat (among other social media apps) is banned in China. Apps like Snow, therefore, have an automatic head start on a huge section of the Asian market.
A Widespread Phenomenon
Of course, Snapchat isn’t the only app to receive the copycat treatment. The recently released Pokémon Go, for instance, is already being mimicked in markets it hasn’t even reached yet. In China, Pokémon lovers are desperate to get their hands on the game, even going so far as changing the VPNs on their phones in order to access it.
For those willing to settle for other kinds of pocket monsters, there’s City Spirit Go, which allows users to catch Pokémon-esque creatures using a virtual map, rather than their camera. According to NextShark, this app hasn’t just been a moderate success — it’s actually been topping the Chinese charts.
What Does This Mean for Global App Markets?
Although it is difficult to predict precisely what this means for the U.S. app market, since these copycats are a relatively recent trend, it certainly indicates a promising spike in interest for developers in Asian countries. With a consumer base that often prefers apps tailored to their cultural specifications, U.S. app makers might have to get creative when it comes to marketing their products overseas.
(Image credit: AdamPrzesdziek/Flickr)
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