User acquisition done right: start with a soft launch

paid ua apps

For your app to make an impact on a crowded marketplace, you need to launch strong. But you only get one chance at a launch, so our App Launch Marketing Series blogs are here to help you do it right. We’ve looked at everything you need to get in place before launching – but what about when the time for release comes?

User acquisition done right

Once your app is out in the world, and you’re ready to extensively scale your userbase, paid user acquisition (UA) is a fantastic method. But before you start investing money in UA, it’s a good idea to test the waters with a soft launch.

In a soft launch, your app is released to a single market, to see how it performs and what users make of it, before going global.

There are many benefits to this approach, some of which we’ll examine below, but the most important thing is that a soft launch can clear the way for a smooth day one when the time comes for a full release.

Test the user experience

Any good app will be thoroughly tested during development. But when users start arriving en masse, it’s inevitable that they’ll expose some issues you missed. A soft launch lets you test for friction points while it’s still relatively easy to make product changes, rather than risk putting off users in your key target market with an unforeseen issue.

The impact of location

If your app has a major geographical element, a soft launch will let you test outside of lab conditions. Think of a dating app – user experience doesn’t just mean how well the app works, but also how many other users there are nearby.

Filling your app with users in every target market requires huge budgets, but it’s much easier to launch on a city-by-city basis. This can be achieved by launching to the whole market but making access invite-only, which can also help demand grow.

Proof of concept

So you’ve got a great idea you think could be the next big thing – but is there a genuine demand for it? A soft launch can help you establish how viable your app is, both in terms of user numbers and how those users will convert to fulfil your North Star metric, whether that’s making a purchase, watching content or signing up.

Identify users

As part of this process, a soft launch can help define who your users are going to be. User personas are a great tool for designing towards, but this is an opportunity to see how those line up with real users, and start testing the best ways to reach them.

Making the most of UA

As mentioned, paid UA activity will be a vital part of building an audience for your app. A soft launch can provide the perfect testing ground to see what works and what doesn’t with a limited audience, giving you learnings that can be applied to the full launch. This can be especially effective if you’re doing the soft launch in a market where UA is more affordable.

A headstart on app store optimisation

Paid UA works best when it’s married to a great strategy for attracting organic users. A soft launch provides a good chance to strengthen your ASO by testing every element of your app store listing (see more on ASO from our last blog in the series) to make sure everything is pitch perfect before exposing it to a mass audience.

Hone your business model

One of the things that’s hard to establish before your app is out in the world is the lifetime value (LTV) of users, and how that compares to acquisition costs. If LTV is higher than the cost per install, your app can be considered a success. If not, identify where the problem lies: are there more efficient ways of approaching UA, or do you need to reconsider how the app is monetised?

Prepare for the worst

If your app fails to perform during the soft launch, it’s time to consider what changes and improvements could be made, whether that’s to how the app functions or to your business model. In some cases, it may even be necessary to abandon the project and move onto something else – some of the most successful developers in the world work on this basis, and while it’s obviously not the intended outcome, it ensures you don’t waste budget on the project.

Prepare for the best

On the other hand, your app might be an instant success and attract a huge audience. However, supporting a large userbase requires major technical resources, and demand can grow faster than supply. An invite-only soft launch allows you to scale up gradually, and make sure supply always matches the demand.

Where next after a soft launch?

With your app idea validated and the UX tested in a live environment, it’s now the right time to pull the trigger on a full launch, globally or in your key target market. Supported with a full UA budget –being spent as efficiently as possible thanks to your learnings from the soft launch – this will give your app the very best chance of success.

Here’s the rest of our app marketing launch series:

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