All4 min. read

Why is a soft launch valuable for the app owner?

Anna Korman

Marketing manager, Appbooster

With mobile app marketing getting pricier and the cost of user acquisition increasing, it becomes especially important to pre-test marketing campaigns and the success of your apps in general. One of the ways to test how your app or game works and study all the aspects of its marketing without spending too much is a soft launch.

Why it's important to do research before the big launch?

Marketing is quite a demanding process. And we are not just talking about the money you invest in the promotion: there are also the working hours to put into the promos, ASO, community development, communication with the press, influence marketing, etc. All these tasks require a lot of time and effort. If you do these haphazardly, you are risking to miss your TA and let all the effort and money go to waste.

By doing research, you will be able to collect preliminary data about the app, identify the bottlenecks where the users get stuck or drop the app altogether, estimate the LTV and CPI, draft your promotion strategy, and formulate and confirm your TA theories.

What Is A Soft Launch?

A soft launch is a process of releasing a product (game or app) and testing its performance within a limited market (audience). Soft-launching a product helps you understand how the app in its current state will be perceived by its potential users.

Effectively, this means testing your product 'in combat conditions' to determine the key performance parameters. This is an attempt to forecast your app's future based on a small test group. As the saying goes, “you won't get a second chance to make a first impression”, so a soft launch is aimed at honing that first impression using a small audience before the global launch.

For a soft launch, you usually select a country that is as close to the target market as possible but smaller in size and cheaper when it comes to the cost of attracting users. For example, with Europe as the target, the soft-launch country of choice is often Finland. For Asia, it's Thailand or Vietnam, and for US, it's Australia or Canada. However, it's quite appropriate to run such testing on any relatively small sample (for instance, one or several US states).

The important thing here is to correctly assess how relevant this sample is to the upcoming "large" user base. For example, if an announcement of the game on the developers' site gets you a few thousand users, this group will be enough for a soft launch when it comes to size — but not relevant at all if the game is aimed at teenagers.

What Are The Goals Of Soft Launch?

You will possibly set your own goals for such an 'in-the-field testing', but generally, there are some key questions about the product that any soft launch needs to answer:

  • How eager are people to click on the app's ads?
  • Which of your creatives work the best?
  • Is it easy to 'sell' the product to the audience?
  • Which demographic groups is the app most resonant with?
  • What apps is this segment currently spending time in and will you be able to squeeze your competition?
  • At what scale range will the app remain cost-efficient?
  • How large and profitable can it become?
  • How viral is the product?
  • Do the users share information about it?

When researching these aspects, make sure that the metrics you collect are reliable, that they do actually reflect the product's quality and are not incidental. By the end of a soft launch, you should have enough data about the behaviour of your product's target users, about their attrition, about the key metrics of your effective marketing. This information will confirm your product hypotheses, while also helping you quickly and effectively introduce any changes necessary before the official release.

As a result, you will have a better understanding of your product: whether it is ready for its worldwide release, whether you yourself believe in its commercial potential and prospects.

How to plan a soft launch – tips

No two soft launches are alike; however, there are some common areas of interest:

  • Determine the main objectives (KPI) before you start testing — a soft launch is an iterative learning process. List the questions you would like to answer.
  • Do not obsess over volumes — it's quite appropriate to run tests on just hundreds or thousands of users; you will gather sufficient amounts of the data necessary even if your user base is not that large.
  • The product does not have to be 100% ready — it's enough to present the main functionality, or 20—25% of the game levels, for example.
  • Assess how relevant the users you have invited are to your TA.
  • Ensure reliability of the back-end — if your game lags or freezes, it will distort all the data collected and mask the errors within the app.
  • Start with the most extensive targeting and gradually refine it.
  • Be ready to quickly test point hypotheses, be ready to quickly generate those within the team and deploy them within the product.
  • Finally, when a soft launch is finished, be ready to find out that your product is not yet ready to embark on its around-the-world journey.

App Soft Launch Advantages:

  • It helps to find out approximate metrics (such as Cost Per Install (CPI), Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), etc.) and get better results in future.
  • It helps to figure out which segment of the target audience brings you income. It gives you a better idea of who we should acquire further.
  • You can monitor user behaviour and make amendments in the custom events funnel accordingly.

Why App Soft Launches Are Important?

Just as with any part of your marketing plan, with soft launches, there are specific approaches, skills, and experience involved. A soft launch might even show that your product has no prospects at all. However, It might also surprise you with a greater-than-expected demand for it. In any case, you will not know that for sure until you run the test. Not to mention that such a test will save you money when compared to launching the product globally from the start.

If your product needs a soft launch, we at Appbooster will be happy to help you — by setting the correct goals and measuring your app's metrics at a minimum cost. Contact us via the online consultant or by filling in the application form on the main page. Successful hypotheses for all!

Anna Korman

Marketing manager, Appbooster

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