Here’s why a soft launch is the best way to test your mobile app idea before its official launch.
•Published: Apr 14, 2022
So you have an app, but it’s not ready to go to market. You first need feedback from users to tell you what’s working and what’s not.
And how do you do it? By soft-launching your app before going into a full release.
A soft launch is a strategy that involves releasing a product before its official launch date to a limited market with very little marketing. The goal of the soft launch is to test your app idea and validate product-market fit before releasing a full, complete product to the public.
A soft launch helps maximize the success of your upcoming app release. The soft launch enables you to test your product idea, build an initial user base, and fix any issues that may arise before the official release date, which improves the success of your official launch.
Soft Launch vs. Hard Launch: What’s The Difference?
A hard launch is, in contrast to a soft launch, a product’s official and public launch to all markets, usually accompanied by ad spend. The goal of a soft launch is to collect customer feedback, while the purpose of a hard launch is to profit from a viable product.
You still want to collect customer feedback during a hard launch, but that isn’t the primary goal. You should make all significant improvements — improvements that would affect your entire user base — during your soft launch and before your hard launch.
Another big difference is that users typically have low expectations with a soft launch since it’s a beta version of your product. They expect to find glitches, bugs, or other forms of friction in the app experience. During a hard launch, however, user expectations will be much higher. A successful hard launch requires launching a product that feels professional and has the least amount of bugs possible for app users.
The 3 Benefits of Soft Launching Your App
Soft launches are a safe way of testing your mobile app before you go public with your product. Here are the main advantages that come with soft launching your app:
Identify Bugs and Glitches Early
During your soft launch, your app users will use your product just as they usually would with a hard launch, including facing glitches and bugs. However, the stakes are lower since you can identify these bugs early and fix them before the official launch. The glitches will impact fewer people as a result.
When Pokemon Go was first released as a soft launch on March 4, 2016, to Japan and on April 7, 2016, to New Zealand/Australia, they identified right away that they needed stronger servers. During the soft launch across these countries, Pokemon Go’s servers quickly became overloaded, which made the game impossible to play for users. The overload led to Pokemon Go’s developers having to make their servers more resilient before officially releasing the game to other countries.
The Pokemon Go team was also able to identify and fix their “three-step glitch” problem, which incorrectly would display all Pokemons around the user as three steps away from them.
Reduce Your Financial Risk
Typically, developers spend years creating a product in the gaming world and investing money in marketing, hoping the hard launch will be successful. But you can’t be certain your mobile app will be successful. Soft launching your app is less financially risky because you can test how your audience will react to your app idea before investing more of your money into development and marketing.
1047 Games reduced financial risk with a soft launch of their multiplayer shooting game Splitgate and even used the soft launch to acquire funds. Investors gave them $100 million thanks to a series of successful soft launches.
Before their soft launch, for example, 1047 Games had a hard time getting funding because investors didn’t believe Splitgate could succeed and compete with other more popular games such as Battle Royal. 1047 Games used the soft launch of their multiplayer shooting game Splitgate to reduce their financial risk and to acquire funds. Investors gave them $100 million, thanks to a series of soft launches.
The Splitgate soft launch was an important part of their success. Ian Proulx, CEO at 1047 Games, said, “Why would I spend money marketing a product that I have no idea about whether it will be a success? There’s no way we can take that risk — if we spent our entire budget and got it wrong, we’re out of business.”
When 1047 Games’ original MVP for Splitgate was first released, the game generated over 600,000 downloads. The second soft launch was even more successful, with a whopping 10 million downloads worldwide.
Collect Feedback Until You Build the Perfect App
A soft launch is the opportunity to invite your customers to be part of the app development process. During the soft launch, you collect your customer’s feedback on your features and app experience to refine your product until you deliver what users want.
Cryptohawk.ai is an app powered by AI that helps predict the price trends of Ethereum and Bitcoin. They released a soft launch that lasted three months, where the engineering team collected user feedback and refined their machine learning model until their app matched what their audience needed.
The gradual improvements Cyptohawk’s engineers made to their product during the soft launch paid off. Cryptohawk currently has a 4.9 and 5.0 rating on the Apple and Google App stores, respectively, with users raving about its prediction features for trading crypto.
A Soft Launch Sets You Up for Success
Building the perfect app takes time and is not a straightforward process. You have to test your app idea first, build hype around your upcoming product, find the right APIs to integrate important features within your app (such as in-app messaging), and refine your app until it matches users' expectations.
A soft launch helps you minimize the risk of investing tons of money into launching a mobile app that could be full of glitches or doesn't meet users' needs. You’ll deliver a better product, improve user satisfaction, and attract more attention from potential investors.