The effectiveness of a global commercial launch can be critical in determining the future success of an app. So how do you make sure you’re set up for success? While there are several tactics available to help mobile marketers achieve their goals, one indispensable step on the path to greatness is the soft launch. The soft launch helps app developers understand vital user behaviors, test scalability of their systems, and uncover any bugs before it’s too late.
To learn more about soft launch tactics, we reached out to Arthur Chin, Head of UA at TreasureHunt, and asked him to shed some light on this critical phase.
1. Understand the KPIs You Are Gathering Against
To get started, Arthur suggests connecting with other key stakeholders within the company, and identifying which KPIs are most indicative of success for the game, and how much data is needed to reach statistical significance. The marketing team then calculates this number into a budget, and this budget becomes the foundation of the soft launch media plan.
“If you’re looking for a growth model, then I’d say retention or CPI would take precedence. It varies for each app, but I think every funnel can be reduced down to one or two metrics of early success”, Arthur says. He advises looking at “top of the funnel KPIs”, such as Tutorial Completion, Retention on D1 and D3, and then looking deeper to D7 ROAS, 14 and 30 Retention, and Projected LTV.
2. Leverage Data from the Soft Launch with the Product Team
Since soft launch gives developers a glimpse of how users interact with the app, they now have an opportunity to re-prioritize features accordingly. The data from the soft launch can help fine-tune the product pipeline or reassign resources towards bug fixes. But this doesn’t necessarily yield perfect clarity just yet.
“On paper, this may sound straightforward. However, in practice, you’re always trading off one thing for another and sometimes the data isn’t exactly clear. Do you shift time and effort towards improving one KPI, or continue to focus on another? Then there are internal factors: What if Design values ‘Feature A’, and Marketing believes strongly in ‘Feature B’? A lot of risk-reward analysis is needed at this stage, involving many different stakeholders,” explains Arthur.
All these questions and more are likely to come up during a soft launch. “You’re going to need to build a level of trust with other departments in your company, and get everyone sharing the same vision of success -- it’s a difficult task for any company, really,” he suggests.
3. Think About the Target Users and Appropriate Media Channels
There’s an abundance of channels available for soft launch app promotion, and they may differ based on the app category and region. Based on his experience at TreasureHunt, Arthur recommends using Facebook and Google during the soft launch phase. “They provide typically good quality users, are easy to use and are the easiest to scale. For us, we have to make it work on Facebook and Google first before branching out.”
Think about the target audience, and obtain the right amount of users to leverage lookalike audiences at the first opportunity. “Utilize machine learning as much and as soon as possible to find the optimum users given the amount of data,” adds Arthur.
Soft launch should be considered as a “test of the viability of your product”, according to Arthur, and thus should be approached with a plan to get “as many users as statistically necessary to validate the most important metrics, which in turn will determine whether the product is, in fact, ready for launch or not.”
4. Choose Your Market Wisely
Arthur recommends segmenting your soft launch into two categories: a shorter technical soft launch, and a second larger and longer soft launch.
For the former, Arthur suggests targeting an English-speaking country with good mobile coverage and a low cost of acquisition. “The goal here is to get a large number of users in quickly to test the stability of the game and get an idea on the performance of our creatives and targeting. The behavior of these users is less important; this is really just a large QA test.”
As for the latter, Arthur advises to approach countries that share cultural, linguistic and mobile behavioral similarities to the main target markets. For instance, at TreasureHunt, for the US, the focus during soft launch might be Canada and Australia, while for Western Europe they’ll likely focus on the Nordics or the Netherlands. “The performance of these geos is used to forecast figures for our main targets. And generally, they’ve been good predictors.”
5. Calculate the Budget and Set Realistic Goals Within It
Marketing an app on a somewhat smaller budget is drastically different in comparison to those with Rovio- or MZ-sized pocketbooks. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the functional approach will be all that different. Arthur explains: “It boils down to obtaining enough users for statistical significance, and provide measurable insights to the right stakeholders. Wasted money is still wasted money whether you’re in a small up-and-coming studio or a massive company like Supercell.”
While having a larger budget certainly has its advantages, and those with smaller budgets might have to make some compromises, Arthur advocates for extracting as much data on performance as possible. “Marketing at this stage should be bringing to Product and Design teams as much data as possible, in order to help make the app the best it can be prior to the global launch.”
To learn more about Arthur's formula for success, head over to his profile!
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