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The RetouchMe Case Study: What We Learned from Localizing an App into 35 Languages

Блог компании Alconost Разработка мобильных приложений *Локализация продуктов *Монетизация мобильных приложений *Развитие стартапа

RetouchMe is a popular app in which professional designers can edit your photos in 10-15 minutes.
In the US it ranks between 100th and 150th on the top chart for App Store applications (in the «Photo and Video» category).

  • 17 million installs in 150 countries
  • Localization into 35 languages
  • 10-15 minutes average photo editing time
  • An army of designers and moderators in various countries
  • Available in the App Store and Google Play, as well as the Amazon AppStore and the Samsung Galaxy Store

RetouchMe turns to Alconost for their localization needs, and translates updates using our Nitro online service.

The RetouchMe team shared with Nitro how localization helped them reach top rankings in many countries, whether localization into 35 languages paid off, and how to add new features in just 24-48 hours without the need for a new release.

Where did the idea for RetouchMe come from?

Ukrainian businessman Alexander Lozitsky, CEO and co-founder of RetouchMe:
My team and I love photography, but we couldn't find a single app that offered professional retouching. So we made one ourselves.

The app debuted in 2014. In 2013-2014, nothing like RetouchMe existed. The market only offered apps for automatic photo processing. Today, many «copycat» apps also offer retouching by professional designers, but all lag behind RetouchMe: their feature sets are more limited, and they also have weaker localization, being translated into the bare minimum of popular languages.

Initially RetouchMe had 30 options, offering only face and body processing. Today there are over 100 options, including makeup, photo processing, pet editing, and accessorizing.

Who uses RetouchMe?

Although the target audience is primarily female, in 2018 we launched RetouchMen, a separate app for men. It is also being translated using Nitro.

English-speaking users comprise 50% of the target audience for both RetouchMe and RetouchMen. The most common orders are for photo processing for posting to social networks. Sometimes people come to us with their wedding photographs, wanting us to make them look nicer. Our customers include anyone who isn't happy with the photos on their smartphone or tablet and wants to change them.

We have a ton of options for changing your photographs — from the obvious, such as «make my stomach flat» or «eliminate my wrinkles,» to photo restoration, adding makeup, and editing your pet.

At what point did you begin localizing RetouchMe into other languages? What languages were first, and why?

The first release of the app in 2014 included localization into English and Russian.

Later, in 2016, we localized the app into Spanish and simplified Chinese. This was natural, as these two languages are the most widespread in the world.

Only in 2017 did we decide to localize the app into all the languages then supported by the App Store (another 19+ languages).

These charts show the fluctuation of our ranking on countries' top charts on the App Store after localization of the app and its metadata (for Germany, France, Brazil, Italy, and Turkey):

Data for Germany, January 1, 2017—August 31, 2017.

Data for France, January 1, 2017—August 31, 2017.

Fluctuation of ranking on the top charts for Brazil, Italy, and Turkey in the «Photo and Video» category, January 1, 2017—August 31, 2017.

What was the turning point in your app's rise to popularity?

It was in October of 2015, when we began giving particular attention to ASO (App Store Optimization). We translated the app name, keywords, description, and screenshots into other languages.

After we saw the success ASO was having in English-speaking countries, we decided to begin localization of the app and its metadata into all the languages in the App Store.

Why bother localizing metadata?

Localization of the app itself is needed to make it convenient and user-friendly. Localization of metadata is so that the user can easily find the app in their native language.
The chart below shows a sharp rise in the app's rankings on the top charts (in the «Photos and Video» category) immediately after metadata localization:

October, 2015. Countries charted: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Great Britain, USA.

What localization languages were the most successful?

The success of localization can be judged by the number of downloads and by profits. A high download rate does not always mean significant profits. For example, we saw a sharp spike on Google Play in India, but the country doesn’t generate many paying users. There were many downloads, but very few paying users. On the other hand, large numbers of downloads help to boost rankings, which in turn generates additional organic traffic.

Rankings on Google Play in India for June 1—August 1, 2017.

In this chart you can see the app's rise on the top charts for Vietnam after ASO in that locale:

The opposite also occurs, where downloads are few but profits are high. This means that the given locale has a high ARPU (Average Revenue Per User).

Countries with the most paying users in the RetouchMe ratings: USA, Great Britain, Russia, Germany, Canada, Italy, France, Spain, Brazil, Australia, Switzerland, Turkey, Mexico, Netherlands, and Israel. This list is approximately the same both for the App Store and for Google Play.

Statistics for paying users in different countries

Has localization into so many different languages paid off?

As for as indicators such as ARPU, these are naturally going to be far higher in the USA and Great Britain than in India, Vietnam, and similar countries. But we came to this conclusion: if you have a good product, and you give attention to ASO in all languages, localization practically always pays off!

How do the App Store and Google Play compare?

The App Store has the most paying users, but recently we have started growing rapidly on the top charts of Google Play countries, in terms of profit among other things.

Although RetouchMe does offer free photo editing, our app is a paid product, so the number of paying users is important. This makes for an interesting situation: on Google Play we rank 20th in terms of profit (in the USA). On the App Store our rating is lower than on Google Play, but our Apple users are considerably more profitable.

Ratio of profit from the App Store vs. Google Play — approximately 88% and 12%.

What challenges have you encountered during localization?

Our only challenges have been with the UI in Arabic and Hebrew (which are written from right to left). These languages required considerably more time for testing and UI debugging.

One localization headache is caused by the long words in languages such as German, French, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian. So how do we deal with this? We ask the translators at Nitro (using the «comments for the translator» feature) to use «not more than 13-15 characters, please.» Sometimes this can be a challenge, but the translators do an excellent job of selecting a translation that meets our requirements.

Likewise, to avoid errors and difficulties in localization of string resources we order linguistic testing from Alconost, which is a tremendous help.

Are there plans to continue expanding the list of languages?

The chief factor in our choice of localization is the languages available in the App Store. Only recently iOS 13 gained support for two new languages: Hebrew and Arabic. We immediately contacted Alconost, and these languages have now been implemented in our apps.
Of course, we also localize the app on other stores: Google Play, the Amazon App Store, the Samsung Galaxy Store.

In the future we plan to expand our feature set and create a web-based version of the app. At that point we will begin localization of our web site, which at present is a promotional site.

What are some unusual RetouchMe features?

Sometimes clients ask us to add new editing options, and we immediately set about doing so.
Here are a few features that our customers requested, and we promptly delivered:

  • Options for processing pets (eye color, fur color, enlarge/reduce the animal, lengthen/shorten the tail, etc.)
  • Humor (replacing faces using templates)
  • Smoothing out wrinkles in clothing
  • Restoration of old photographs (turning black-and-white photos into color photos, filling in torn photos)

How much time is required to add a new feature to the app?

Sometimes less than a day. We add an option, order an icon from the designers, and create examples of the option in use. Then we translate the option name in Nitro.

If the option is somewhat complex, requiring several additional screens, it can take a little longer.
Here it is very convenient that we receive all translations within 24 hours: a new option can be added in just a couple of days, since we do not need to publish a new release.

The Nitro team tried out several RetouchMe features on themselves (and their cat). Here we see a rather thin Maine Coon made fluffier, with bigger eyes:

If you long to travel, but vacation is still a long ways off, you can indulge in adding a picturesque backdrop to your photo. In RetouchMe you can upload any picture you like, or choose from the app's impressive collection of backgrounds:

Why did you choose translations through Nitro for RetouchMe updates, instead of an Alconost manager?

When localizing the app into a new language we use Alconost's service, with subsequent linguistic testing. But in the course of constantly developing and improving our product the need arises for small translations. These may be marketing texts, ASO optimizations, or new editing options, and we want these to be ready as soon as possible.

Sometimes at the start of the work day we send Nitro a text for translation into 32 languages, and by the end of the day all the translations are complete, leaving us ready to add the option to the app with no need for a new release.

We also appreciate that you have no minimum order: we can submit even a single word for translation.

If problems arise, support from a manager is just a click away via online chat.

Sometimes there have been slight delays due to Chinese holidays, but in general our experience with Nitro has been nothing but positive. Your service has been a life-saver!

Even a year ago the Nitro interface was completely different. Today it has become much more user-friendly, with a «copy translation» button, arrows for viewing translations, and the ability to leave comments for the translator. Recently options were added for uploading pictures and adding terms to the glossary. We will definitely be putting them to use.

Button for copying translation text

We are grateful to the RetouchMe team for sharing their experience and for vividly demonstrating how localization can affect store visibility, download numbers, and app profitability. You guys are awesome! :)

The article was contributed by Alconost.

Nitro is the professional online translation service by Alconost. Alconost is a global provider of product localization services for applications, games, videos, and websites into 70+ languages.

We offer translations by native-speaking linguists, linguistic testing, cloud-based workflow, continuous localization, project management 24/7, and work with any format of string resources.

We also make advertising and educational videos and images, teasers, explainers, and trailers for Google Play and the App Store.
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