• The Total Available Market (TAM), the number of smart device users is growing fast. That gives us a chance to see some organic user base growth, but all the analysts are confident that is not enough to maintain a sustainable business on long term. We have to do more.

    To sell more most of app developers pour money and work on improving visibility and conversion rates within their Target Market. That’s not surprising – visibility and conversion rates are the home ground for marketing agencies, the territory where they feel safe to advise (and invoice).

    But there are a couple of other – less frequently mentioned – options to grow your markets: mostly “do-it-yourself” tasks with good chance to succeed. To refresh the terminology: 

    Mobile app localization total available market


    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_addressable_market


    Although this definition leaves room for some dispute, we follow Steve Blanks and Bob Dorf’s classification: 

    “The TAM for makers of a new smartphone app might be the 1.6 billion total smartphone owners worldwide, but if the application is available only in English or works only on an iPhone, the SAM or potential market served is far smaller. And the target market might be Apple App Store customers...”

    Blank, Steve; Dorf, Bob (2012-10-21). The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company (Kindle Locations 2800-2802). K&S Ranch. Kindle Edition.

    The Penetrated Market (PM) is your existing user base. You can find great and detailed descriptions on the web how to convert your Target Market into Penetrated Market as much as possible. For example:

    • ASO, beautiful icons and perfect screenshots
    • Social networks and viral effects
    • Adding new features, creating a new fancy design to your app
    • Creating an app called WhatsApp that sells itself and the company.

    You can work on your Target Market, change it, increase it or even shrink it hoping to get additional penetration. All of them make sense but the bottom line impact is usually not significant:

    • Repositioning your app to a different audience
    • Extending the functionality
    • Pivoting such as creating a brand new app or opening a souvenir shop just to name a few options are viable ideas but fall out of the scope of this article.

    A much more realistic but underemphasized approach is to increase your Served Available Market. Growing it will likely grow your target market proportionally and even if your conversion rates do not improve the impact is significant growth on download count and user base.

    What options do we have to increase the Served Available Market? 


    20m xls chart

    1. Expanding on existing platforms, developing to new platforms (wearable and connected devices):

      Incorporating more technologies and devices is a big question mark: if the market is already there, competition is already there. If the market does not exist, why should you enter it?

      • Implementing your app on more platforms. Adding IOS if you're on Android only or vice versa significantly increases your SAM. But you do not have any competitive advantage on the new platform. You cannot transfer your download counts, ranking, user reviews. You are the new kid on the block and that's a hard scenario
      • Extending your app coverage to smart watches, smart TVs or connected cars may make you rich if Facebook buys your startup. But at the moment there are no widespread devices and no users. Selling them anything is more than challenging.


    1. Work harder:

      • Supporting more form factors i.e. adding tablet version of your app is a good idea. But most of the apps already work –at least on a certain level– on tablets so the net SAM addition is marginal. (Since most tablets are second devices for existing users, face lifting to bigger screens is more important in user retention.)
      • Changing your business model –if you haven't done it already– from paid app to anything else is considerable from competitive point of view. It has almost no cost but a significant revenue impact, of course. And you will gladly welcome all users who decided not to pay for anything – if this was your goal.


    1. Globalization – the long tail myth:

      Expanding SAM to new geos is usually underemphasized. Most of the app developers/publishers focus on the highly developed (and highly saturated) markets and try to make their fortune there – they think that the rest is long tail, no reason to address.

      But that "long tail" means 1.1 Billion users today and the real growth happens on the emerging markets. 
      Of course, you must be aware of that around 900 million smart device users on those markets do not speak English. 900 million potential users will not find your app, will not use your app and will not pay for your app – unless you localize.

      • Localizing in the traditional way: traditional app localization via translation agencies or other language service providers even if positioned as an online service is an outdated process that does not scale to the app market realities. There is a long list of showstoppers: lack of market information, upfront payment of 70-150USD /app /language, human work intensive recurring workflow, inability to provide end user support in the new languages...
      • Lean localization avoids all these showstoppers. It relies on real customer involvement to avoid risk and waste. The underlying technology allows the strongest user feedback: users participate in the product manufacturing. Furthermore, the dynamic distribution technology completely separates the localization work from the software development process, ensuring streamlined change management and lets developers focus on their core business.


    Increasing the Served Available Market has big impact but it often has low awareness. Marketing buzz is about conversion rates, mature markets and hard to repeat success stories.

    Furthermore, all of the above SAM expansion tools mostly mean familiar tasks within your comfort zone and they have positive side effects on competitive positioning, churn and conversion rate.

    You do not have to select only one from the list. Use the set of tools that best matches your situation. Please note, that each app, user base and business scenario is unique, so the numbers on the chart are just samples.

    What's your opinion? Is there anything missing from the list? Sure! Please, let us know! Contact us


    Read more about lean localization: Lean localization blogpost

    Download the SDK that enables your app to be localized on the lean way: Developer Self Service Site

    Click here to download the application that supports lean localization.





    See it in action