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Soft Launch

What is a Soft Launch?

A soft launch refers to the common strategy of releasing a product ahead of its scheduled launch with little or no marketing push. Unlike full launches, soft launches are usually planned as “rehearsals” for a full launch, and let developers simulate real-world interactions with their app. This launch is usually limited in the number of users admitted and can help a company check and fix things like bugs or user reactions before a full, official launch. Soft launches also allow companies to optimize marketing spend by testing user acquisition strategies in markets similar to their launch market. Some companies choose soft launches when they want to keep their service under wraps and gradually add users.

Soft Launch vs. Hard Launch

For many companies, a soft launch offers a more cost-effective approach to product releases that also provides more time to fine-tune existing offerings. Additionally, a soft launch grants studio teams time to gain both practical training and situational learning by exposing them to a limited audience and real-world scenarios. Finally, soft launches help companies gather data in real-time about their apps and services, providing a solid foundation to continue developing. Hard launches, on the other hand, might offer benefits in terms of immediate revenue from mobile app monetization, but they expose companies to greater risks. Hard launches are usually accompanied by a large marketing push that raises awareness and increases hype. A company that chooses a soft launch will see slow user growth at first before ramping up; a successful hard launch will see a spike in user growth around the launch date which stabilizes as time progresses. This also helps monetization by creating a large audience almost immediately. Apps that have unsuccessful hard launches may be doomed to fail, however, as they exhaust marketing budgets before optimizing for ROI, user experience or retention, and they risk turning off potential users with a buggy experience. Soft launches, while delaying significant user growth, can be more sustainable over the long term.

Strategies for Soft Launching an App

When it comes to apps, the most important aspects of a soft launch are user data and app performance data. The former is key to determining the actual audience interested in your app, as well as how successful current user acquisition strategies are in terms of conversion. By understanding this, companies can optimize their resources better when they officially kick start their marketing efforts. One useful way to test user data and audience response is by launching limited user acquisition campaigns in smaller, more affordable markets first. A soft launch should also focus on app performance and fixing existing problems. As important and effective as testing can be, real-world users are often instrumental for identifying bugs, glitches or problematic points in the in-app experience. Moreover, a live app can help companies determine what features are popular and which could be added to provide a better service. Live AB testing is incredibly useful for determining which services are worth keeping, and how to market them best. Finally, understanding which monetization strategies work with the greatest efficacy is easier to accomplish with a soft launch, as it provides leeway to adjust. Aspects like rewarded video or display ad implementation, along with IAP design, can be tested thoroughly to ensure they see high engagement and don’t disrupt the overall user experience - before exposing the app to a full audience.
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