When creating an app, two key words should come to mind: ‘accessibility’ and ‘usability’. The more people have access to your app, the more likely they are to use it. While most app developers choose to focus on lucrative Western markets like the US and Europe, there is huge potential looking outside of those markets.
Emerging markets such as India, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, have huge populations who are now coming online in droves, constituting a massive potential opportunity for app developers looking for high scale.
The challenge of these markets, however, is the fact that their mobile infrastructure is still relatively young and underdeveloped. They suffer from weak network connectivity, meaning that data-rich applications developed for robust mobile infrastructures won’t do well there.
The answer to this issue is building a ‘lite’ version of your app. Lite apps are smaller, stripped-down versions of the original app, better suited for countries where the majority of phones are plagued by data issues and memory limits. Lite apps solve these issues by packaging their main features into a smaller app with different content that takes less time to download and does not run through your data, resulting in higher conversion and lower drop rates during the installation process.
Below are some compelling indications on why now is the right time to consider developing a lite version of your app:
Industry big-timers are entering this market
Regions like South Asia have caught the attention of the industry’s biggest players, with big-time companies releasing new lite apps in order to attract more users in developing countries.
Facebook was among the first to address the growing demand and solve regional connectivity issues by creating a stripped-down version of its social networking app for Android, called Facebook Lite. The app, which uses less data and works across varying devices and network conditions, supports slower networks in order to maximize accessibility and user experience in developing countries.
Lite does away with many Facebook features that require lots of data and strong networks, like location services and video, and in March of this year, the app reached 100M monthly active users, becoming the company’s fastest growing mobile app and signifying the huge potential of this market.
The growth of lite apps doesn’t begin and end with Facebook, as more and more developers have decided to release lighter apps to address a continually expanding demographic that is quickly becoming more mobile-friendly. This past July, Korean app developer Line launched a lighter version for its messaging app Line Lite, which is popular in third tier countries and has been seeing rapid growth since September. In November 2015, an additional big-time player joined the Lite apps arena – Cheetah Mobile. The company launched a Lite version of Clean Master – Clean Master Lite – which is specifically designed for phones with less than 1 GB of memory and a small installation package size of only 3.61 MB.
Rising trends signify high potential in the region
When it comes to the mobile app market in emerging countries, demand (and potential) is certainly growing, with several encouraging key trends: smartphone adoption is at an all-time high, with India topping the US in 2015 as the world’s second-largest smartphone market behind China, and Indonesia is expected to pass 100M smartphone users in 2018, becoming the fourth largest smartphone population in the world; there is a marked increase in alternate forms of mobile payment access, such as digital wallets and other new models of payment that put a focus on m-commerce and the mobile-first economy; and growing internet access in underdeveloped regions, many of which are densely populated with people eager to get connected.
Game developers in particular should pay attention to this opportunity. App Annie's 2015 Gaming Report exposes the growing usage of mobile games in developing countries, with APAC seeing the largest increase in share of consumer spend on almost every platform.
Additionally, Southeast Asia is the fastest growing e-commerce market in the world and the most developed region in mobile gaming in terms of revenue, with high rates of app penetration and usage in the region. Southeast Asia’s economic growth prospects, huge population, and fast-rising (mobile) internet connectivity almost guarantees double-digit growth rates for years to come.
A 2015 Statista report displaying the penetration rate of smartphones worldwide showcases the rapid level of growth - and opportunity - in emerging countries, with countries such as Brazil, Turkey, Mexico, and Indonesia displaying substantial growth. With the development of these key trends amid improvements in digital infrastructure and population growth, now is the right time to get into these markets - without the high cost often plaguing apps developers in more developed areas with highly saturated app markets.
With fewer apps, competition is low and penetration is cheaper
The app market in emerging regions is less dense, and with fewer players having developed lite apps so far, competition should be less fierce. This, coupled with the fact that spending power in these regions is lower, also means that it’s cheaper to acquire users and grow market share.
As you’re looking for ways to expand your business across the developing world - lite apps represent an overwhelming opportunity for better growth, increased access, and higher usability among users in emerging markets.
Where are lite apps gaining popularity? To get a sense of where some of the hottest regions for lite apps are, check out the helpful gifographic below: