Guest post by Michael Organ, Customer Success Engineer for V-Play.
A successful soft launch is the best way to optimize your app for widespread release.
A soft launch is a limited release of your app, usually on a regional basis, that allows you to see what the initial reaction to your app or game is like.
This technique has grown in popularity, with many developers trying the tactic before tackling major markets like the US.
There are many advantages to the soft launch, like:
- Receiving early customer feedback
- Gaining positive reviews and
- Ironing out any bugs that you missed during testing.
Soft launch your app the right way and you can enjoy more than early downloads.
Find out how to take advantage of a crucial stage in release and give users the best version of your app or game!
Why you should soft launch your app
App store optimisation & user acquisition
Soft launching is a good opportunity to see if your app store pages are optimized.
App store optimisation is a crucial part of your user acquisition strategy so it’s important to get this right early on.
Soft launch is the stage where you make sure you’ve got the most appealing app store pages possible.
Hopefully, you’ll also start to get reviews on your app store pages.
Early positive reviews are a great endorsement of your project and something that potential users will consider upon full release.
These reviews are the social proof to potential users that your app or game is worth downloading and increases your chances of acquiring users.
2. User retention
A major benefit of a soft launch is the ability to increase user retention.
When you see numbers like that, improving user retention has to be a priority for any serious developer.
Fortunately, soft launching gives you some quick feedback on when users are dropping out and lets you tweak your app accordingly.
For game apps, there is compelling evidence that spending more than one month in soft launch can increase retention by 20%”.
Soft launch is also a great time to get real feedback and improve the UX of your app.
If you receive similar feedback from multiple users, then you can clearly identify a part of your project that needs some work.
You’ll also receive technical feedback on how your app functions on a range of devices.
Unfortunately, not all devices are created equal. And while you may not be able to achieve full functionality on every single device, knowing about flaws and being able to inform users about them will be appreciated.
It’s important to give your users a simple way to contact you with feedback during soft launch, so make sure to include an email address or other contact info somewhere on your app.
And even if you’re not getting organic feedback, at least you’ll have a user base to approach and get your questions answered.
4. To validate your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
Although you may not like to think about it, soft launch will either validate your idea or show that your app isn’t ready for market.
If you release your project to a poor reception, you can decide what needs to be improved or else begin a new project.
Even large successful studios have been known to abandon projects due to poor performance during soft launch.
You can also receive validation upon soft launch and find out that people like your idea.
In this best case scenario, you can justify your commitment to your project and continue to give it the time and resources it requires.
And if you require external funding to scale, you can use this initial data to compel investors to invest in your app!
Where should you soft launch?
The main factor that will separate your soft launch from your full launch is the fact that your soft launch will be limited to a handful of countries to begin with.
The main decision on where to soft launch your project depends on the markets you plan to target upon wide scale release.
Classic soft launch locations
If you’ve developed a mobile app with the intention of releasing it in major markets like the US, you’ll want to soft launch in an English-speaking country.
That way, your soft launch users will interact with your app the same way as your target audience and leave reviews in a language they will understand.
Australia and Canada are often chosen as regions for soft launch because of their similarities to the US such as language, population density and its developed economy.
However the bigger issue is that CPI (the cost-per-install) is rising in these countries.
The new kids on the block
Depending on your project, there are a couple of different locations you can try instead.
For more markets similar to the US, countries like Ireland and The Netherlands are a good choice.
English is wide-spoken in both and users here behave in a similar fashion to those across the Atlantic.
New Zealand is another option if English speakers are necessary for the success of your app or game.
If you’re looking for a large user base, Asian countries like India and the Philippines are the go-to choices.
Both countries have large populations and English is wide-spoken. This is useful if you’re launching a multiplayer game or an app that relies on some kind of connectivity between users.
Making a choice
Of course there are many other options and you’ll have to do some research on each particular market to see if it suits your needs.
Your considerations will have to include CPI, similarities to your target market and population size.
The important thing is not to choose a location by default; you want to pick a country to best suit your soft launch needs.
What to measure during soft launch
1. Organic traction
Before you can measure anything, you need to be getting downloads.
In order to analyze organic traction, you’ll need to consider how many people visit your app store pages and how many people decide to download your app.
According to a recent report by chupamobile.com, the average install conversion rate from visitors to app store pages is 26.4%.
However, this varies depending on the category of your app.
In any case, your first port of call will be to ensure that your app store page is optimized for search. If people can’t find your page, then they can’t download your app or game.
Once people find your app store page, they need to be compelled to download your app.
Make sure you’re using the best text and images to promote your app.
App store optimization is an on-going process but if you can get it right during soft launch then you’ve gained a large advantage over your competitors.
2. User Retention
As previously mentioned, one of the main reasons to do a soft launch is to improve retention.
Having active users is what publishing a project is all about so increasing retention during soft launch is critical.
You need to keep an eye out for the point in your app where users stop participating.
Measure your 1st day retention rates, your 2nd day retention rates and so on, until you find the point at which users become fully active with your app.
When a large majority of users are dropping out on the first day then maybe you need to change your onboarding process in some way.
Getting users to stay active in your app or game for as long as possible is the key to successful monetization.
3. Lifetime Value
During soft launch, you can begin to figure out how much each user or player is worth to you. This is referred to as “lifetime value”.
It’s important to calculate the lifetime value of your users, so you can compare it to your cost-per-install and know how much profit you can expect from each new user acquired.
Understanding these numbers will enable you to see if the production and promotion of your app is ultimately worth it in a financial sense.
If you find out during soft launch that your CPI is higher than the lifetime value of a user, you still have a chance to improve it before full release.
4. Viral loop
A viral loop is how you get your users to tell their friends and family about your app or game.
If you can create a project with a working viral loop, you’re bound to see good results.
Nowadays, they come in all different shapes and sizes, ranging from posting highscores on social media to in-app bonuses when you invite friends and family to join in.
There are many different ways to implement a viral loop but the go-to solution is to include social sharing functionality in your app or game.
During soft launch it’s important to keep an eye on how many users take advantage of this feature.
If you find that it’s not being used then maybe you should consider a more engaging viral loop.
It could be something as simple as including a prompt to share in a different phase of your app or game.
It’s important to experiment with this during soft launch to find the optimal version of your viral loop.
5. Monetisation Model
You’ll probably have decided which monetisation model to use long before release but it’s still something to consider during soft launch.
If you’re not getting a good enough LTV from your users, you can use soft launch to improve your monetisation model to where things become profitable.
If you’re receiving no return from users, then it might be time to consider more drastic actions.
It’s better to make hard decisions like this in the early stages of your app or game rather than 6 months into producing and promoting it.
6. Bug Reports
Although the main purpose of a soft launch is to improve every area of your app, it’s also a time to iron out any kinks in your code.
One of the great things about soft launching is that users with all types of devices will try out your game, giving you a broad spectrum of technical feedback.
If you’re getting a lot of bug reports, make sure to fix them long before your full launch.
Your app or game should be as close to the perfect product as possible when the time comes.
How to soft launch like a pro
If you’re ready to soft launch like a pro, follow these 10 steps:
- Decide which market you’d like to target on full launch
- Pick the most suitable location for your soft launch accordingly
- Optimize your app store pages
- Measure your success in acquiring new users
- Find out at what point you’ve successfully retained a new user
- Calculate the LTV of these users
- Evaluate your monetization model
- Experiment to find out how your users like to share your app or game with others
- Fix any bugs that users report
- Repeat steps 2-9
Even if you’ve gone through all these steps once, there’s no reason you can’t improve each area again during soft launch.
The key to success is to optimize what works best and to identify and improve where your app or game is not performing.
And you can measure and experiment with every area of your app or game by conducting multiple soft launches in different countries.
You can let us know how your soft launch is going in the comments.
Thanks for reading and make sure to share this soft launch guide with all of your friends and colleagues!
Latest posts by Michael Organ (see all)
- A Short Guide To Soft Launching Your App Like A Pro - March 14, 2016