Bringing your product such as a mobile app to the public eye is a responsible step, which requires considering a list of important aspects. One of these aspects is the choice of the launch type: soft launch or hard launch. In this article, we’ll explain the idea of each approach and help you figure out the difference between hard launch and soft launch. So if you're in two minds about the best solution that would make sense for your business – keep reading this post!
What is a soft launch?
In a nutshell, a soft launch is an opportunity to test your app in a limited market before you go all-in with a full-scale release. Instead of jumping into uncharted waters, this method allows developers to launch an MVP version and experiment with different features and strategies while gathering valuable feedback from real users.
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Speaking of some successful examples, let’s recall Rovio Entertainment’s case. They soft-launched Angry Birds by creating an exclusive version only available in Finland (their home country), and then gradually expanded their geography to reach the global level. This strategy worked wonders: Angry Birds quickly became one of the most popular games ever made!
Soft launch benefits
As you see, a soft launch is like dipping your toe in the water before a deep dive. Now that you have a general idea about this concept, let's discuss the main advantages of soft launch:
1. Cost efficiency
Soft launching is a great way to get a new product off the ground without breaking the bank. It allows companies to test the market before investing heavily in marketing and advertising campaigns. As such, developers win time to identify any app issues and make adjustments without unnecessary expenses.
2. Thorough testing
A release to a local market or a limited audience helps you get real-time feedback from users and investigate bugs or areas of improvement under real-world conditions. Simply put, you’ll have a head start prior to releasing a full version of your product publicly.
3. Sense of anticipation
Providing early adopters with exclusive access to your product can help you build hype around the future larger-scale release. Never underestimate positive word of mouth – if done right, a smooth launch can provoke anticipation and keep potential users interested.
4. Strategy change
Until you have released the product globally, you still have a moment to revamp your strategies without taking too much risk. Based on user feedback, businesses can better understand customer needs and preferences, conduct additional research, test out new ideas, and fine-tune their strategies accordingly.
5. Chance to step back
Let’s not exclude the situation when everything doesn’t work as expected. Lack of user interest, fierce competition, excessive churn – there’s a long list of reasons why your product can fail. But once you opted for a soft launch, you can kill your app without squandering the entire budget.
What is a hard launch?
Unlike a soft launch, a hard launch is an official release that suggests that your product is well-tested and fully packed.
Drawing an analogy, it’s like a rocket taking off – when all your hard work comes together and you see if it rushes into space or crashes and burns. This requires a lot of preparation, planning, and coordinated effort to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Microsoft and their Windows 7 can make an example of a hard launch. In fact, most popular operating system versions are usually promoted as hard launches.
Hard launch benefits
While some of the pros of a hard launch can be seen immediately, others take time to achieve. Here are the hard launch benefits that you should consider when planning your next big project:
1. Competitive advantage
Hard launching gives businesses a tangible competitive advantage of getting their product out into the market faster than rivals. This means that they can capitalize on any ongoing trends and opportunities before anyone else. In other words, you can become a market pioneer with an innovative app that customers are eager for.
2. Increased visibility
Since the launch of a full-scale product is a big deal, it requires a smart marketing strategy and media coverage. As such, hard launches create a buzz and generate interest that can be hard to achieve through a soft launch. With a resonant hard launch, you can quickly reach out to potential users.
3. Higher conversions
With its full-fledged features, a hard-launched product offers users a greater experience. Plus, such apps look more solid and complete as well as inspire more trust than soft-launched beta versions.
4. Quick profit
This point follows from the previous one. Beta versions and MVPs are less trusted by users as it’s not clear when they will be scaled to expand their functionality. Thus, users are more likely to invest their time and money in something that has already been tested thoroughly.
Soft launch or hard launch: when to choose?
Finally, we’ve got to the most interesting part – it’s time to discuss the situations when you should consider a hard launch or a soft launch. If you’re still in two minds about which method makes sense for your particular case, we hope this section will clear things up for you.
Scenarios when you need to consider a soft launch
Tight budget and resources
Both soft launch and hard launch traditionally require significant amounts of money and resources. But in the case of a hard launch, it’s essential to allocate budgets to marketing materials and promotional events, which many startups simply don’t have access to.
A soft launch can be a great way to release a new product without large financial investments and tremendous team efforts. Instead of an extravagant launch event, this type of approach allows you to start from a smaller scale before going any further.
In effect, starting product development with an MVP is a smart choice for a startup. With more flexibility throughout the whole lifecycle, you can build an app that is functional, cost-effective, and still creates value for users.
If MVP development services are what you’re looking for right now, drop us a line for more detail.
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Incomplete product validation
It’s quite a risky endeavor to pour countless hours into building a product that may not hit the mark with users, isn’t it? In this case, opting for a soft launch gives developers the chance to avoid tough deadlines (and distress) and refine the app based on user feedback. Why not save development costs and give developers peace of mind that their app has been tested carefully prior to its big debut?
Undefined monetization model
Monetization is an important factor that shouldn’t be overlooked when you get your app out into the world. Many startups are tempted to go all-in with an aggressive launch strategy, but it’s a bold move. You need to ride on the training wheels first to master riding a bike in the future.
Testing your monetization strategy during a soft launch can help you eventually find your gold mine or make it clear that you need to come up with something else. With careful planning and testing, your app will make users happy with their purchases and developers generate revenue.
Uncertain user expectations
The truth is that no matter how well you build your app, from the design to its functionality, there will always be some uncertainty about what users expect of your product. Nobody reads minds after all! But if you want to tailor your app to user expectations as much as possible, a soft launch makes a huge difference in its success rate over time.
By gaining valuable insights into which features work best for different types of users and which ones need improvement, you will reduce (or even eliminate) the number of users who may be disappointed with their in-app experience. In addition, prompt feedback allows developers to make necessary changes quickly, before the official launch.
New big update you’re not sure about
Let's look at an example when you already have an application running on the market but want to roll out a large-scale update you are unsure about. Choosing between a soft launch and a hard launch for new updates, the first option is most common even among established companies. For instance, Instagram first tested the reel format in Brazil in 2019 before rolling out this new feature in the rest of the world.
Following the example of Instagram, you may also test changes in a specific area or on a limited focus group to make sure everything is working as expected and address any issues without causing too much disruption.
However, when it comes to some minor updates, there’s no need to puzzle over a hard launch or soft launch. Tiny tweaks don’t usually require testing on narrow demographics so you can just hard launch them without wasting too much time.
Scenarios when you need to consider a hard launch
Foolproof product performance
There's no better feeling than knowing that your product is ready for its prime time. If you’ve considered every detail, tested the app thoroughly, and have confidence in its performance, a hard launch could be the way to go.
It's a nice opportunity to show off all the work you've put in and prove its quality. With proper promotion leading up to the release date, you can heat excitement and maximize user engagement.
Well-thought marketing strategy & adequate budget
What if everyone is aware that something cool is coming? Right, it brings a business more exposure than ever before. Careful execution of your marketing plan along with ample investment in advertising campaigns can help you get people talking about the upcoming release. So when you’ve already created the buzz, it’s just the right moment to go ahead with a hard launch and show your cool app to the world!
Probability of idea theft
“Time is money” especially refers to a competitive environment where acting quickly is vital for your business's survival. Given your possible worries that competitors can steal your original concept, a hard launch is the best solution.
First and foremost, it gives you time to build an audience for your app before anyone else can get their hands on it. By introducing your product early, you’ll have more control over how people perceive it. Secondly, launching quickly helps you keep rivals at bay by giving them less time to copy what you’ve already done.
We hope that upon reading this post you’ve got a complete picture of the difference between hard launch and soft launch. At first glance, it may seem like a soft launch clearly trumps the hard one but both options have their pros and cons, depending on each company’s individual needs. Make sure to weigh the approaches carefully before deciding the route that works best for your business.
If you need a reliable partner who can advise on a soft launch or hard launch strategy that is right for you – contact SolveIt expects for a free consultation and further product development.