You’ve invested hours upon hours into your app or software creation. Now, it’s time to introduce your brainchild to the world. The only question remaining: how are you going to do it? If you’re interested in rolling out your app in stages or incorporating user feedback into development, then a soft launch is your choice. The method is also great for people on a budget. Here’s what you should know about soft launches to help you with your app release.
What is a soft launch?
A soft launch (also known as a soft release) is a test drive for your app. A limited rollout, a demo stage, and beta testing are all examples. It allows the software a trial run in a controlled environment. With this method, developers can monitor user experience, using the data to optimize the software.
A soft launch can happen a few different ways:
- The app rolls out to a small group of users. Initially, only a specific number of people or geographic areas can access the app. For example, when Pokemon Go first came out, they released it only in Australia and New Zealand. The developers took feedback from users in this area to make small edits to the app, before eventually releasing it to Europe, then later the globe.
- Introduce the app or software idea in stages. You’re not releasing your grand vision in its entirety. Instead, the first release is the minimal viable product, which is the core functionality of your app without any added features. Let’s imagine you wanted to make a wedding planning app. Your minimal viable product would be software allowing you to book wedding venues. Over time, you scale up by adding features, such as scheduling cake tastings, reserving florists, and booking a hairstylist.
Imagine soft launch strategies as a tool that lets you wade into a pool gently, as opposed to cannonballing into the deep end. It involves a little more time but can be a smoother transition from software development to testing to release.
Soft Launch vs Hard Launch
When speaking about soft launch vs hard launch methods, one is not any better than the other. They both serve different purposes. What matters is choosing the option that is best for you.
We know a soft launch is a phased, step-by-step rollout. In comparison, a hard launch is your play’s grand opening night! All the behind-the-scenes work was leading up to this moment, where anyone can come to watch the show.
Because you’re trying to loudly capture people’s attention, hard launches require a well-structured marketing strategy. This could involve paid advertising, making the cost greater in comparison to soft launches.
A note here: make sure your software is as close to perfect as possible. This is not a dress rehearsal, but your big Broadway debut and there is no room for error.
Benefits of a Hard Launch
- Beat the competition – if you are in a niche that has other app makers all with the same idea, you can earn a competitive edge by delivering your app first. You’ll likely amass more name recognition and press.
- Publicity – The hard launch strategy lets you generate a lot of interest in the app’s introduction. It’s a big, loud announcement party, which can help it trend and garner user excitement. Sometimes the hype stemming from a well-coordinated marketing strategy is the most important priority.
- Revenue – Sometimes people want to skip the beta stage and go straight to monetization. Again, you need to have an app ready to deliver on its promise. But if you do, a hard launch lets you monetize a large user base quicker.
Benefits of a Soft Launch
- Feedback – The importance of receiving early user feedback cannot be overstated. Discovering insights about the user experience early on allows you to optimize quickly. It’s easier to build a requested software feature than to build the whole software program, find out something negatively affects user experience, go back, and find a way to change it.
- Generate buzz – Nothing gets people talking like exclusivity. A soft release to a restricted number of users can generate hype as people wait for access. When the Clubhouse app launched, it was invite-only and restricted to iPhone users. The clamor for an invitation was booming! People were asking strangers on every online forum to get a coveted invite to the new social networking platform. We’re so used to having fast access, when something comes along and makes us wait, it stands out from the crowd.
- Cheaper – Using a soft launch to release a bare-bones version of an app and slowly add new features over time is typically cheaper than building a full-fledged app all at once. You can monitor user engagement in the beginning, then make real-time changes as you build your app in stages.
- Contain coding bugs – There is always a bug in software. Always. One advantage of a soft launch is being able to catch these issues in a controlled environment, so only a few people notice the issue. If something has to go wrong, the problem ideally occurs in a sandbox environment where the impact can be minimized.
Planning for a Soft Launch
Key questions to ask yourself as you plan for a soft launch strategy and soft launch announcement:
- How much money is needed?
- Which channels to announce the soft launch?
- How many users will be included?
- What are my metrics of success to measure?
- How to gather customer feedback?
6 Soft Launch Ideas that Work
1. Use influencers
Find influencers relevant to your industry or software. Firstly, creators themselves are a great source of feedback. Also, working with creators who have an established user base in your niche is a great way to get the word out to your target audience. Do you have a new fashion app? Soft launch it to chosen fashion influencers and their followers, before a larger rollout.
2. Targeted “first look” opportunity
Reach out to a group who would find demoing your software exciting. For example, you could collaborate with an online tech magazine by offering their 8k subscribers the unique chance to beta test your app.
3. Invite only
As mentioned earlier, everyone wants to be invited to the party and feel like an insider. Invitation-only access paces out the flow of new users to your app while generating some buzz about your software.
4. Test messaging
A soft launch is a great time to try out different messaging styles and content to see what resonates best with your audience. Fine-tune your calls to action, brand voice, and ad copy, so you’re clear on your direction when you move out of the soft launch.
5. Founders club
Sweeten the deal for people to use your app early. You can offer something in exchange, say free lifetime membership, to the first group of people who demo your app. You’ll get a motivated crowd drawn in by the reward, yet eager to offer their feedback and feel part of a special founders circle.
6. Behind the Scenes
During your soft launch, you can create content that generates excitement for the full rollout. Take quotes from your demo users and turn them into a visual for social media. Record a video of someone using the app to let people know what to expect. Personable appeals also work well, such as going live or recording a video on social media showing people what you’re doing in preparation for the soft launch. It gives your brand a personal and endearing touch.
Remember during the soft launch, you’ll need to measure data, experiences, and performance. Then use these insights to prepare the next step or build for your app. Be clear on what you want to look for as markers for success. Are you interested in overall engagement? Time spent on the app? Purchases made? What do you need to change or improve?
Conclusion on a Soft Launch Strategy
In the age-old debate of a soft launch vs a hard launch, both sides have their benefits. If affordability, testing, and early feedback are all important to you, then a soft launch could be the winning strategy. If you have a flair for grandiose entrances and fast monetization, then a hard launch could be up your alley. Or get creative and combine elements from both strategies. After all, it’s your launch party, so you might as well enjoy it and design it to be exactly what you want!
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