A soft launch is a product launch that is limited in scope, such as a release to a small group of customers. This type of launch is often used to test a product or service and gather data for improvement before a full rollout. Soft launches can help minimize the risks associated with launching a product or service, including poor customer reception or operational failures that could disrupt the business. By launching to a smaller group of customers, companies can reduce the impact of potential failures and gather valuable feedback to inform future development and marketing efforts. The following are illustrative examples of a soft launch.
Releasing first to customers who are pushing your products to their limits. For example, a snowboarding company releases a snowboard that uses a new lightweight material to a handful of professional snowboarders to generate publicity and refine the product.
Releasing the product to your existing customers or a small number of customers on an invitation-only basis. For example, an insurance company offers a new travel insurance product to existing customers before rolling out a marketing campaign to generate demand.
Offering the product or service to employees and their families first. This can serve as a dry run to work out problems before releasing to customers. For example, tax preparation software that is used by employees to submit taxes before rolling the product out to a large number of customers.
Releasing the product or service in a limited number of locations such as a restaurant chain that tests a new menu item in 10 locations before full rollout.
Releasing the product or service on your website or app before launching to other channels. Digital channels lend themselves to surveys and other methods of gauging customer reactions such as A/B testing.
Launching the product’s functionality and features in phases. For example, a credit card that is initially released with manual processes and a lack of technology integration meaning that customers can’t access things like online statements. The product is improved with a number of rollout phases whereby support and features are added.
Minimum Viable Product
Minimum viable product is the practice of evolving a product with a process of aggressive and constant change. This tends to reduce the footprint of product launches as they are typically incremental and easy to backout. For example, a software company that plans to develop a full ERP platform might start by releasing a small tool for operations managers. The product might be updated hundreds of times before it could be considered a full ERP platform.