How to Localize Your App for Vietnam
With an estimated GDP of $362.64 billion in 2021 and an expected GDP growth rate of around 7% in 2022, Vietnam is the fastest-growing major economy in Southeast Asia. Localizing your apps and games in Vietnam is, therefore, essential to succeed in this market. So, what do you need to consider when localizing your app or game for Vietnam? We have gathered all the information and tips you need to know to localize your app/game successfully.
Mobile landscape in Vietnam
iOS vs Google Play in Vietnam
According to Statcounter (October 2022), Android occupies almost 70% of the market share in Vietnam. Since the average income in Vietnam is not high, many people opt for affordable smartphones with Android running on them rather than iPhone.
Nevertheless, iOS still occupies a little more than 30% of the Vietnam market share. So the App Store shouldn’t be overlooked in Vietnam. If you intend to launch your app in Vietnam, we recommend you to make it available for both Android and iOS, but keep Android as your priority.
Source: Statcounter – GlobalStats, 2022
Top apps & games in Vietnam
The top charts for apps in Vietnam are shared between local and non-local developers, with a majority of apps localizing their metadata and creatives for the Vietnamese market.
In terms of app preferences, the Vietnamese lean more toward video players, social, communication, shopping, and tools apps. On iOS, the Entertainment category is also very popular. These categories currently generate the most downloads for app developers. Most of the top 10 free apps on the Play Store belong to one of these categories (Communication, Tools, Communication, and Shopping).
Top 10 apps and games in the Vietnamese mobile market.
Mobile games are very popular in Vietnam – it’s one of the countries that generates the most game downloads worldwide (#10). With an estimated game revenue of USD 61.6M, Vietnam is a more profitable game market than the United Kingdom. Action, Arcade, Casual, and Puzzle games are the most popular game genres in Vietnam.
Similarly to the apps’ top charts, the games’ top charts in Vietnam are shared between local and non-local developers with a slightly stronger presence of one or the other depending on the category. Metadata and creatives are very often localized, and only a few leading worldwide games rank in the top 10 charts without doing so.
To penetrate the Vietnamese mobile game market, multiple foreign game developers rely on Vietnamese game publishers to publish and promote their games in Vietnam. Several big names stand out among these Vietnamese game publishers, including VNG Corporation, which published the popular Chinese MOBA from Moonton Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, and Gamota, which published the Chinese real-time strategy game from Lilith Games Rise of Kingdom.
How to localize your app or game in Vietnam?
Mobile developers should not miss this huge opportunity to tap into the Vietnamese app market. To help you, we have listed the different elements to keep in mind when localizing your app/game into Vietnamese.
- The Vietnamese uses a unique Roman-influenced alphabet of 29 characters in which the characters F, J, W, and Z are missing. When translating text from English, Vietnamese usually requires 30–35% more space. As a result, you’ll have less space in your metadata to put important keywords, so you’ll have to pick wisely.
While English can use the short phrase “easy-to-use,” Vietnamese has to resort to a longer phrase, “giao tiếp dễ dàng,” which could be translated as “easy communication.”
- The Vietnamese language has evolved with its history. As a result, Vietnamese is influenced by both Chinese and French. Between 30% and 50% of Vietnamese’s current vocabulary is derived from Chinese – its influence is pervasive in the fields of religion, politics, and medicine. French’s influence is more visible in fashion, food, and infrastructure vocabulary. Finally, English, as in many other countries, is also regularly used in business and to describe modern technologies. Vietnamese remains the norm, nonetheless.
- Vietnam is separated geographically into three main regions – Northern (Hanoi), Central (Huế), and Southern (Saigon). Therefore, Vietnamese spelling and vocabulary might change from one region to another. Northern Vietnam spelling is considered the standard and is used in official texts, schools, media, etc. However, the vocabulary varies greatly by area and might cause misinterpretations between native speakers. We, therefore, highly recommend you to work with a native speaker to translate your app metadata to Vietnamese. A professional translator will help you match the cultural specifics of Vietnam and select the right font and size, thus increasing your chances for success.
- Foreign brand names are well received in Vietnam. Many Western apps and games keep their brand names unchanged on the App Store, and some Vietnamese games even write their title in English. This is the case for Gangster Crime, Mafia City by Zego Global Publishing and for Play Together by VNG Corporation. However, certain categories such as Dating, Cards, and Casino tend to prefer Vietnamese to English.
- Descriptive Vietnamese keywords are often added as an extension to the title after the brand name to better describe what the app or game is about. For instance, both Tinder and Discord keep their brand names unchanged but have added descriptive keywords in their title: Tinder – kết bạn và hẹn hò (Tinder – date and make friends) and Discord – Tán Gẫu & Tụ Tập (Discord – chat & gather).
Discord and Tinder app titles in the Vietnamese App Store.
In Vietnam app stores, the vast majority of short descriptions and subtitles are written in Vietnamese. As such, it’s a best practice to translate your short description or subtitle into Vietnamese if you want to launch your app or game in Vietnam. Use the allocated space to explain in more detail the purpose, features, and benefits of your app.
On iOS, the keyword field gives you the opportunity to add unaccented keywords without them being visible to store visitors. While such a strategy can be very useful in some countries, where certain unaccented keywords have a higher search volume than accented ones, this strategy can prove dangerous in Vietnam.
This is because many Vietnamese words take on a completely different meaning when their accent is changed. For instance, the word “bạn” means friend and is often used in social & dating apps. On the other hand, “bắn” means shoot and is used for shooter games.
Top search results on Google Play in Vietnam for the keywords “bắn” (friend) and “bắn” (shoot).
Therefore, we recommend to always use the correct spelling of the keywords that you place in your keyword field. If you decide, nonetheless, to place an unaccented keyword because it has a higher search volume, triple check that its meaning doesn’t change. Also, make sure it’s still relevant to your app and that it appears in the top search results for that keyword.
As far as your app’s long description in Vietnamese app stores is concerned, we recommend translating the long description to ensure good understanding and create (linguistic) proximity with store visitors. Translating the long description will also allow you to increase the density of high-volume Vietnamese keywords that are relevant to your app, thus increasing your chances of being discovered on the store.
Not all English keywords necessarily need to be translated, as some of them have entered the Vietnamese language. For instance, the word “chat” is more popular than its Vietnamese equivalent “tán gẫu” and has a higher search volume than the latter. Communication and dating apps are, thus, better off placing “chat” in their metadata.
Optimizing app creatives in Vietnam
- Vietnam apps often use a minimalist style in their creatives, somewhat closer to the one we know in the West. A device frame is often used with a coloured background, which is sometimes a simple solid color and sometimes a more complex illustration.
Adopt a minimalist style for app creatives in Vietnam and keep your screenshots legible for your store visitors.
- The Vietnamese prefer bright colors for store creatives. Dark colours are not totally absent, but black is very rarely used as a background color. Additionally, the usage of cute, anime-style characters can be found in the screenshots of many apps.
Follow Vietnamese creatives trends and feature cute anime-style characters in your app creatives.
- Since many apps feature “people” in their creatives, it’s important to choose Vietnamese models. This helps store visitors to easily identify with these models and picture themselves using your app. For example, Bigo Live took this process one step further by having their models wear traditional Vietnamese accessories and clothing, while keeping a modern look.
Optimize app creative localization efforts in Vietnam by including cultural elements in your screenshots.
Optimizing game creatives in Vietnam
Characters, mythology, and historical elements
- Games creatives in Vietnam tend to be more crowded and to use more complex designs than those of apps. An example of this are the illustrations usually used as the background of games screenshots.
Panoramic and elaborate backgrounds are very popular in Vietnam app stores.
- Characters occupy a prominent place in Vietnamese game creatives. They can be found even in categories from which they are normally absent in the West. For example, the Music and Card categories. Characters in Vietnamese games are often placed in the foreground of the screenshot next to a screen displaying gameplay and in-game elements.
Including characters in music game creatives in Vietnamese app stores helps create a proximity to the idol phenomenon.
- Many of the most successful mobile games in Vietnam include elements that recall the history of Vietnam, which is closely linked to that of China. For example, many games are set in the Three Kingdoms period (222 – 280 AD), a period of political tension and military conflict between three Chinese dynastic states, one of which included the territory of today’s North Vietnam.
Mobile games in Vietnam take advantage of this setting to feature the great generals of this period wearing traditional warrior armor. They are also often influenced by the great classic of Chinese literature Romance of Three Kingdom and its fictional characters.
- Mythology also plays an important role in Vietnamese mobile games creatives. Asian fantastical elements – for example, phoenix, dragon, and monkey king – are often present. All these historical and mythological elements are found in abundance in the Vietnamese games creatives from various categories (Action, Role Playing, Strategy, Card, etc). In these mytho-historical games, thick stylized captions that stand out from the image are often preferred.
Mobile games in Vietnam app stores mix history and mythology in their creatives.
- Finally, collaborations with Vietnamese celebrities, displayed in the creatives of mobile games, are also popular in Vietnam. Not only do these collaborations create interest in the game, they’re also a good way to connect with store visitors. As such, such collaborations indicate that the game is well-rooted in Vietnam and knows its culture rather than being a simple Western import.
Collaborate with Vietnamese celebrities and show them in your mobile game creatives.
Vietnam is a fast-growing market and an early implementation of your app/game is important to ensure success. However, the Vietnam mobile market can be a challenge if you are not familiar with it. Here are a few tips you can follow to successfully localize your app/game in Vietnam:
- Foreign brand names are well received in Vietnam, but we still recommend adding generic Vietnamese keywords as an extension to your app title to drive more traffic to your app or game.
- Translating your metadata in Vietnamese app market is recommended, but doing it well is necessary. This is because the meaning of a word can vary depending on whether it is accentuated or not. Working with a professional, native-speaking translator to take the many geographical and cultural variations of Vietnamese is essential.
- Vietnamese people have a preference for cute, anime-style characters in app/game creatives. In the same way, Vietnamese people identify more easily with Vietnamese models. Use these two best practices in your mobile app/game creatives to increase your conversions.
- For apps, keep your screenshots minimalist and legible. For games, a more busy style with elaborate illustrations and characters placed in the foreground works well in screenshots.