MVP & Soft Launch
No matter how well you’ve analyzed the audience, tested your messaging or aligned with your business goals, no app is completely ready to go from day one. But all of that research, planning and building will deliver a minimum viable product (MVP) that you can take to market.
Why build a minimum viable product and not a maximum product? Frankly, there’s just no substitute for having your app out in the world where it can collect feedback from real-world users. That’s how you’ll come across bugs, missing features, onboarding hiccups, unexpected use cases and surprising complaints. Having this feedback early, before you’re completely committed to a plan, will allow you to respond with agility and pivot if necessary.
Yes, it may be stressful to put your app out there before you’re completely ready, but it has to happen sooner rather than later. You can also consider beta tests, which both the Google Play and Apple platforms offer to app developers. This way you can invite a small or select group of users to test your app or new features before rolling it out to the public.
Remember, your feature list can — and most likely will — change once the app is live. To succeed at this stage, be sure to:
- Build scalability into your initial app - does it have a foundation that will support growth?
- Plan on a development process that’s flexible and can adapt
- Collect and respond to user feedback
- Set priorities and schedule A/B tests
- Prepare for growth and change
If you have the time or budget to go beyond a small group of beta users, you may want to plan for a soft launch.
Test the Waters With a Soft Launch
Many publishers choose to test the waters before committing to a wide-scale release. This limited release — either by audience or market — is known as a soft launch. It’s a great way to gather valuable feedback before rolling out your app to a larger market.
It’s best to choose a smaller but comparable market with similar user behavior to the one you wish to eventually enter. For publishers hoping to make it big in the United States, for example, they may want to try a soft launch in Australia, Canada, Ireland or New Zealand first.
With a soft launch you’ll be able to better assess:
- App performance (including potential bugs)
- New app features
- Overall media mix
- Advertising creative and brand messaging
- Budget expectations
- What users like — and don’t like
With a soft launch, you’ll also learn a lot about your audience. Pay attention to where users show the most and least engagement. This data will be useful later on in the app lifecycle.
Dating app Tinder regularly soft launches new features in Australia before rolling them out to all users. The brand has collected feedback on pricing and functionality for features like Tinder Social and Boost, and then used feedback to make tweaks before rolling them out to users worldwide.
It’s important to test as many variables as possible during a soft launch so there are no surprises when you release your app into the global arena. With a soft launch under your belt, you’ll be more prepared to give users what they want.
Strategy is the art of planning for what’s ahead. Let's review why you'll need a thoughtful strategy in order to build an app that answers a market need and attracts loyal users.