The competition between popular children's apps got more intense over the past two months as PlayKids, the top grossing kids app in over 20 countries, was launched in China last December and achieved over 300,000 downloads in the first month.
In an exclusive interview with The Gospel Herald, Eduardo Henrique, PlayKids' Head of Global Expansion, spoke about the challenges of launching his popular children's app in the huge Chinese market. "The launch has clearly been a success," said Henrique. "It's a learning curve, but I am very optimistic. It's super difficult to succeed in the app market anywhere in the world."
One of the challenges that Henrique and his PlayKids team faced when launching in China was the need to understand the local culture. "So we hired a Chinese country manager who was locally raised," Henrique explained. "She's driving our marketing."
Another key decision which Movile had to make was the platform on which they would launch their popular app. PlayKids was launched only on iOS which is not the usual way app developers roll out their new versions.
However, Movile already had a reliable billing platform with Apple and the company felt that following a simpler route would let them move faster in a tough market.
Another factor may well have been the presence of over 100 million iOS devices in China. Henrique is targeting this large user base for his advertising, but he first had to narrow the outreach for marketing. So by focusing only on users in China's large cities (such as Beijing), and more specifically women between the age of 25 and 40 years old, PlayKids hopes to generate an even more successful response.
"Women in this age group are mainly in charge of their children's education so they choose the apps," Henrique explained.
Advertising for PlayKids in the country was further complicated by the lack of the world's most visible and influential social media platform. Facebook has been banned in China since 2009, so Henrique had to find ad networks with local ties to reach potential customers.
Another important factor was speed. Immediately after launching in December, PlayKids revised its Chinese version. According to Henrique, this was partly to keep interest high and capitalize on the upcoming Chinese New Year. But there was another, perhaps even more important element that faces all app developers: imitation.
"Chinese companies are extremely efficient in copying you and improving on what you did," said Henrique. "My challenge was to move faster than my local competitors."
The Movile executive is realistic about the challenge of competing in the difficult Chinese market. Despite PlayKids' impressive early success, not everything went smoothly for its introduction.
The Chinese government requires that you must have a legal entity inside the country if you are going to use local host servers. Movile did not, so they had to use a service outside the country which meant crossing stringent protection controls more commonly known as "The Great Firewall."
"Performance was excellent, but downloads were a problem," said Henrique.
As a result, he is opening a subsidiary company in China that will allow PlayKids to run from service inside the country.
In March, Movile is planning to launch more new content including cartoons. "Instead of complaining, I just have to move faster," said Henrique. "We want to offer more."
Now that PlayKids has been successfully introduced in China, the country's large user base can expect to see a lot more from a company that clearly is not just playing around.