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Unlocking China: A Conversation with Woofz, Gismart’s PetTech Company

From 4 Million Downloads Globally to Navigating Cultural Nuances, Dive into the Strategy and Story behind Woofz

Developed by global app developer and publisher Gismart, Woofz has made its mark as a leading dog training app with over 4 million downloads since November 2020. As it carves a niche in the competitive Chinese market, we invite Oksana Demidova, Head of Performance Marketing, to share the story behind Woofz’s creation and promotion. She’ll discuss the challenges of breaking into China and the pivotal role Nativex played, along with insights on niche app marketing.

How Woofz Succeeded in a Niche Market

Could you briefly introduce Woofz and your role there?

Launched in 2020 during the pandemic’s height, Woofz addressed the increasing number of people seeking canine companionship. Yet, the idealized dog life portrayed on social media often clashed with the actual challenges of pet ownership, leaving many new dog owners overwhelmed.

Woofz was founded with a mission to bridge this gap, fostering strong, enduring bonds between dogs and their owners for a lifetime of happiness. Now, with over 4 million downloads, the app provides a rich suite of features such as comprehensive training courses, a dog tracker, a puppy journal, resources on canine mental health, and a convenient dog clicker.

On a personal note, I joined Woofz in 2021 as a User Acquisition Manager, drawing from my background in the educational sector. Since then, I’ve risen to become the Head of Performance Marketing, guiding Woofz’s user acquisition, pioneering new media channels, and leading our creative strategy evolution.

We’ve learned about your previous experience with wellness and language-learning apps before your involvement with Woofz. Given that dog training represents a niche market, especially within the realm of mobile apps, could you elaborate on the factors that influenced your decision to focus on this specific niche?

Presently, Woofz operates as an independent division under the Gismart umbrella, a developer and publisher renowned for its entertainment-focused apps and games, headquartered in London, UK. Gismart primarily operates within three core domains: wellness products, music entertainment apps, and utilities. The Woofz team, comprising approximately 15 individuals, is dedicated to executing all tasks utilizing internal resources.

The conception of our dog training app was far from coincidental. Despite this market’s niche character, projections for Pet Tech’s growth in Western countries extend well into the 2050s. The onset of the pandemic witnessed a substantial surge in pet ownership, with the United States alone experiencing a growth rate of approximately 20% from 2020 to 2022. As people started achieving a certain level of prosperity, they not only had the means to bring pets into their lives but also dedicated more time and resources to nurturing their animal companions.

Currently, Woofz proudly holds a leadership position in the Dog Care sector across most markets, and we recognize the potential for further expansion and development.

Being one of the premier dog training apps, Woofz has achieved an impressive milestone of over 4 million global downloads in less than three years. Could you kindly share some successful experiences and insights that could be invaluable to developers operating within niche markets, encompassing effective marketing strategies and more?

Woofz is available on both iOS and Android platforms. In three years, we’ve garnered over 4 million downloads and gained invaluable insights from both our successes and challenges.

When it comes to our marketing endeavors, there are several pivotal lessons to highlight:

First and foremost, listening to our users has been crucial. We tested numerous hypotheses before finding the ones that work best for us. As a marketer, there’s always a risk of assuming what dog owners seek without truly understanding their wants and needs. To create an exceptional product, we must constantly ask questions and engage with our users – even if their feedback isn’t what we initially anticipated. The creative solutions that are now driving success for Woofz were often not the frontrunners at the outset. It’s all about rigorous testing and refinement!

At the crossroads of education and lifestyle, our users prefer demonstrations of training sessions over basic advertisements like “We will teach your dog commands.” Our advertising seamlessly integrates with the learning experience, demonstrating rather than merely telling. Show, don’t just tell.

Collaborations with creators and influencers have been game-changers for us. Recognizing that dog training isn’t a fundamental human need, we tap into the appeal of aspirational content. When dog owners observe someone else enjoying a remarkable bond with their pet, it ignites a desire within them. Thus, user-generated content and partnerships with influencers lie at the core of Woofz’s advertising strategy.

And last but not least, a tip from me: If you want to become big, act as if you already are. We have a strong marketing team where each member combines the expertise of multiple specialists. This enables us to continuously and rapidly test new solutions and not solely focus on what is currently working well. Consider what the leading players are doing and see how you can emulate them.


The Journey of Tapping Into the Chinese Market

We see that you’ve invested in the Chinese market and have worked with local media platforms since last year. Could you share what motivated Woofz to explore the Chinese market?

The Pet Care niche is experiencing growth worldwide, and China is no exception. We identified the Chinese market as one of our priorities by the end of 2022. We have already surpassed 60,000 installs from China, and our performance is steadily improving.

In 2022, China’s pet economy industry reached 493.6 billion yuan, showing a remarkable 25.2% YoY growth. The market is projected to nearly double, reaching 811.4 billion yuan by 2025. Chinese pet owners are increasingly willing to invest more in their beloved furry companions.

Despite our recent successes in China, we are aware of the Chinese market’s immense potential. We acknowledge that there is still much ground to cover and work to be accomplished. We are committed to tapping into this market’s vast opportunities and expanding our regional presence.

As we know, many international developers face significant hurdles stemming from cultural disparities and a lack of familiarity with Chinese media platforms. Could you shed light on the most substantial challenges that Woofz encountered while entering the Chinese market and how your team navigated these obstacles?

Entering the Chinese market indeed posed challenges for us as well. Despite having a set of confirmed best practices from the global market, almost none of them yielded the anticipated results.

One of our biggest roadblocks was understanding the Chinese user behavior as compared to our global audience. We had to experiment with pricing and subscription models for some time to find the optimal approach. This led us to discover that Chinese users are generally less willing to pay for subscriptions than users from the US or other English-speaking Tier 1 countries. They tend to have higher churn rates, and the overall conversion from trial to subscription was much lower. It became evident that Chinese users are particularly mindful of their spending habits.

Another challenge was our creative materials. Almost all creative materials that performed well in the global market didn’t resonate with Chinese audiences. Therefore, we are now collaborating with Nativex to develop unique creatives tailored to the Chinese market. We’ve also partnered with Chinese influencers to better connect with our target audience.

Cultural differences also play a significant role. In the global market, Woofz primarily catered to owners of larger dog breeds, such as retrievers, Rottweilers, and Labradors, shaping many of our user acquisition strategies. However, in China, the preference leaned toward smaller dog breeds. This prompted us to explore new approaches for engaging with owners of these smaller breeds.

Furthermore, localization emerged as a critical component. As an app driven by educational content, we ensured that our product underwent localization for new markets. However, it’s crucial to understand that, for the Chinese market, translation is merely the initial step; true localization requires a deep understanding of the culture and user preferences.

Establishing a foothold in the Chinese market demands a comprehensive understanding of its unique characteristics. It’s an ongoing journey of adaptation and refinement, where flexibility and cultural sensitivity are key to success.

Is the team considering investing more in marketing to China? Could you also elaborate on the motivations behind these plans?

In the near future, we plan to strengthen our footprint in the Chinese market by launching App Search Ads and sustaining our collaborations with influencers.

According to the latest data, China currently has 2.47 million pet-related enterprises, and this number is still growing, pointing to a considerable number of dog owners and a robust market opportunity for dog training in China. At the same time, dog parents are used to solving their issues offline, through dog handlers or dog schools. We still have to work on making people aware that it is possible to effectively raise a pet with the help of an online consultant, like Woofz. Building this knowledge is our big task. While we’ve made notable strides in the market, we firmly acknowledge that China’s potential is still vastly untapped.


Strategies and Future Planning

What’s the current roadmap for Woofz within the global pet tech market? Beyond your ongoing efforts, are there additional strategies in the pipeline? For instance, are there plans to explore new markets, tap into different media platforms, or employ innovative marketing approaches?

Our approach to marketing often feels like a page out of “Alice in Wonderland” – where running is the norm to maintain our position. But to truly progress, we understand that we must run twice as fast.

We have ambitious expansion plans that encompass both depth and breadth. The Chinese market is our first venture into Asia, but we are also interested in other Asian countries. Soon, dog parents in Japan and South Korea may also have the chance to experience Woofz.

Continuous testing is a key aspect of our marketing strategy. We are always on the lookout for new media sources to explore. Approximately 10% of our marketing budget is dedicated to testing, allowing us to stay at the forefront of innovation and discover the most effective channels for reaching our target audience.

As the pet tech industry continues to reap the benefits of advancing technology, we’re witnessing a growing trend toward more detailed market segmentation. This includes categories like exercise tracking, feeding, entertainment, and beyond. Is the team contemplating developing new features for Woofz or perhaps exploring the creation of new apps dedicated to pet tech in addition to Woofz in the future?

Technologies are constantly evolving, and so are we.

Currently, we are working on multiple solutions to enhance the caliber and versatility of support that Woofz provides to our users, leveraging AI technology. We also have an exciting AR feature in the backlog, brimming with potential.

The main focus here is not to introduce features just for the sake of having them, but to incorporate technologies further to enhance user experience and satisfaction with the app.

After all, the dog owner and their furry companion are at the heart of everything we do. Our ultimate goal is to create a seamless and delightful experience for them, making Woofz an indispensable tool for all their dog-related needs.


Get More with Nativex

Local agencies can be an invaluable resource, especially when faced with the challenges of entering a new market. They adeptly craft compelling messaging, pinpoint trends in user-generated content, identify influencers to match, and target your advertising audience. With a wide range of mobile marketing solutions available, Nativex empowers global brands and developers to reach their audiences in China and other key markets worldwide.

Contact the Nativex team today to start your journey to success!