A successful soft launch is the best way to optimize your app or game 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 such as receiving early customer feedback, gaining positive reviews and ironing out any bugs that you missed during testing.
Soft launch your game or 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!
This post was originally prepared by the V-Play team as a guest post for Buzinga: Buzinga App Development is an award winning Australian-based app development company, working closely with innovative enterprises and smart startups that have ranked #1 on the appstore and sold for over $12million. We will help you design, build and launch world-class creative mobile solutions.
Why You Should Do a Soft Launch!
App Store Optimization and User Acquisition
Soft launching is a good opportunity to see if your app store pages are optimized. App store optimization 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.
A major benefit of a soft launch is the ability to increase user retention. User retention is a serious issue for developers with over 77% of apps being deleted 3 days after download and only 15% of mobile games lasting more than one month after download.
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 or game accordingly. This has been backed up by DeltaDNA, the game analytics, and marketing company, who claim “games that spend more than one month in soft launch can increase retention by 20%”.
Note: There is a range of free V-Play features that can help you to improve your user retention rates. If you’re interested in keeping your users, you should check out the V-Play Game Network and the V-Play Level Editor.
The V-Play Game Network allows players around the world to compare game high scores and achievements without the need of creating extra accounts. Players can also challenge each other across multiple platforms and share their progress on Facebook.
The V-Play Level Editor allows your players to quickly create their own levels and then share and rate them over social networks, directly on their device. This gives them the power to build a community around your game and save time on content production.
You can also take advantage of our Multiplayer feature to connect your players in real-time.
A soft launch is also a great time to get real feedback and improve the UX of your app or game. User feedback is important because you’ll get suggestions on what users like and dislike about your project. 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 or game 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.
Although you may not like to think about it, the soft launch will either validate your idea or show that your app or game 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 the 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.
Note: You’ll need the best analytics to measure the success of your app during the soft launch. You can easily receive analytics about your app or game using V-Play’s Google Analytics plugin and Flurry plugin.
Where to 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 or game 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.
Canada is often chosen as a region for soft launch because of its similarities to the US but it also has its drawbacks. A large amount of the population is French-speaking and may have problems using your app or game. However the bigger issue is that CPI (the cost-per-install), is rising. It’s becoming more expensive to soft launch in Canada and this doesn’t seem likely to change soon. The same is true in Australia, which is another classic soft launch location due to language, population size and its developed economy.
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
Before you can measure anything, you need to be getting downloads. It’s a simple fact of life for every single app or game. 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 or game.
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 or game. 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 or game. 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.
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 or game 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 tutorials in some way. If you notice that users are dropping out at a later point, then you need to identify what’s happening and change your onboarding process accordingly. Getting users to stay active in your app or game for as long as possible is the key to successful monetization. Measure your retention rates and you can improve your onboarding process and day-by-day use.
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 or game are ultimately worth it in a financial sense. If you find out during the 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.
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 high scores 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.
One feature that promotes your mobile game’s viral loop is the V-Play Level Editor. It promotes user-generated content in your game and encourages players to share what they have created with their friends. This feature is free with every version of V-Play!
Nowadays, most apps and games fit into two main monetization models, F2P or premium. You’ll probably have decided which model to use long before release but it’s still something to consider during the soft launch. If you’re not getting a good enough LTV from your users, you can use the soft launch to improve your monetization model to where things become profitable. If you’re receiving no return from users, then it might be time to consider more drastic actions.
Games, in particular, have been forced to change their entire monetization model during soft launch so it can be done. 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.
Note: You can monetize your mobile apps and games in a number of different ways with V-Play. You can add in-app purchases and take advantage of well-known monetization plugins such as Admob, Soomla, and Chartboost.
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. You can get bug reports using the HockeyApp plugin.
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 you’re 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!