“When you're testing to see how deep water is, never use two feet.” - Ben Franklin
Soft launches allow marketers to test the waters without diving in. During soft launches, user acquisition strategies can be tried, tested, and changed to fix issues and refine approaches before they become serious problems upon launch. Think of it as a dress rehearsal, a way to execute like it’s the real thing so you can see what needs to be changed before the real launch happens. Limiting yourself to a single release can potentially reduce your app’s potential, as it could become hidden under the myriad applications present in every app store. Without a significant budget and a strong focus on the day after a user installs, you aren’t gaining crucial momentum to solidify user awareness of your app, and you aren’t putting your app in the best possible position to succeed. Soft launches are a great way of putting theory to the test by gauging your creation without putting everything on the line.
The goals of a soft launch are to:
Gather data on user behavior
Define success criteria
Find out which kinds of promotions are effective
Learn enough to repeatedly optimize with each new launch
Planning: Before you launch, you'll need to decide:
How many users you need to acquire in order to gain meaningful data
Types of users you want to target
Length of time for the soft launch
Budget per launch and what percentage it makes up of your total acquisition budget
Step 1: Set up your tool stack
Set up your app on Adjust by implementing the Adjust SDK and setting up the events you want to track as KPIs (purchases, subscription, level-up).
To set up Adjust via Segment, follow the detailed setup directions here.
Having your measurement apparatus set up is crucial to the success of a soft launch. You need to have your acquisition and in-app metrics fully set up, calibrated, and ready to go in order to really see what needs to be done before go-live.
Step 2: Determine your ad networks
Next, you’ll need to determine which ad networks you’d like to run soft launch campaigns on (ex: Facebook, Ironsource, Vungle, Twitter, etc) and integrate them via Adjust dashboard.
Different ad networks typically offer different reach and/or demographics of the users available on the network. You should choose the ad network that’s best aligned with the audience that you’re trying to reach.
Set up your testing agreements with your ad networks and make sure they’re fully plugged into Adjust, which you can do through our dashboard. If they’re not set up properly on the Adjust side, you won’t be able to see any metrics coming through from their test.
Step 3: Build your audiences
Use Adjust Audience Builder tool and/or Segment to create audiences for targeting for the campaigns.
If this isn’t your first soft launch, you’ll most likely have a pool of users you can test your soft launch with. Use our Audience Builder to build out a test audience that can then be sent to your advertising partners for targeting.
If you’re unable to build a test audience for your soft launch, skip this step and work with your advertising partners to ensure that you’re reaching out to the most ideal users for your soft launch.
Step 4: Launch!
Launch soft launch campaigns on ad networks and ensure you are running with a consistent budget, pricing model (CPI, CPM, CPC, etc), and time frame.
Set aside a small portion of your ad budget to run these test campaigns with your partners. Keep budgets and bids consistent, and try not to add too much variation. The whole point of this exercise is to see how your app and UA strategies will perform if all things are considered equal.
Step 5: Review your initial results
Once soft launch has completed, compare outcome (performance data) against desired goals. Optimize accordingly and proceed with a full launch. Below is outcome data you should be measuring:
User acquisition (installs)
New user cost (CPI)
Organic growth (organic installs)
User engagement (in-app events)
Sessions per user
Time per session
Time per user
Some good signs of a successful soft launch include high user acquisition, high retention, high time per session, and low new user cost. Basically, you’ll want to maximize user acquisition and engagement while keeping costs low.
Other metrics, like organic growth or sessions per user/time per user, can tell you different things. High organic growth shows that the app already has brand recognition within the marketplace, whether it’s through ASO efforts or well-driven hype.
Sessions per user and time per user can further measure sustained engagement with users going in-and-out of your app. But high sessions per user and relatively low time per user can signify that your app has a buggy experience that requires the users to restart it.
Here is what we’ve done in this growth recipe:
Described the importance and outlined goals of a soft launch
Documented some of the planning steps your team should take to prepare for a soft launch
Outlined the steps to take when soft-launching a campaign
Evaluating results and next steps