How to Choose User Acquisition Channels for Soft Launch

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This is a guest post by Galina Divakova, the CMO at Clickky, a full stack marketing platform for mobile publishers and advertisers. She is an experienced mobile marketing manager with great passion for all the things tech. Galina is always in search for new trends and solutions that might bring new opportunities in the rapidly evolving mobile industry.

If you are preparing to release an app, you face a number of risks. The competition is extreme and it is very easy to get lost among the hundreds of other offers. Instead of leaving everything to chance, you can optimize your app in the best possible way with the user acquisition. Run a soft-launch campaign before the official release, attract users first, observe their behavior, check the results and analyze them. In the end, your app will have much better chances to succeed.

1. What is a soft launch?

Soft launch is a widespread technique of testing an app before it hits large markets. Usually, it implies a limited release in a smaller region, similar to the one you are planning to target eventually. For example, developers targeting the USA often run soft launches in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Soft launch can help you get early feedback on your app, receive first positive reviews and get rid of any bugs you missed.

There are plenty of benefits when it comes to app optimization: you can get a better idea of the cost of acquiring new users, a number of daily/monthly users you can expect, the retention rate and customer lifetime value, and then use all these data points for predicting the performance of your app in the target market.

2. Choosing a country for the soft launch

To test your app efficiently and get relevant results, you need to select a country similar to the one you plan to target eventually. CPI rates in emerging markets will be much lower than those in Tier 1 states. That is why, if you want to launch a campaign for developing economies, prepare for CPIs in the 0.2 USD range, but in case you aim for Tier 1 — the price will be much higher.

Follow the example of Rovio who soft launched its flagship Angry Birds franchise in Finland, Poland, Australia and New Zealand before the worldwide release. Choosing Tier 1 economies with many English speaking users prepared the company for hitting large customer base in the USA.

3. Doing user acquisition smartly

Running a soft launch for an app without user acquisition is almost impossible. You need to persuade the users to download your app before they can give you feedback. There are numerous ways to attract them, but what are the fastest and most beneficial in terms of ROI?

Try user acquisition with self-serve advertising and monetization platforms for gaining visibility and exposing your app to as many potential customers as possible. In order to do it effectively, you need to choose between non-incentive and incentive traffic, set up the targeting and pick the payment model that is right for your campaign.

A. Incentive and non-incentive traffic: understand the difference

When acquiring users, you need to have a clear idea what kind of customers you want to get in the end. You can choose to stick with the incentive traffic: in this case, users who download your app are literally pushed (or incentivised) to get it, so they can receive benefits or exclusive features in another application. They do not have an initial interest in your offer and therefore you should not expect high retention rate. With incentive traffic, you can expect CPI rates to range between 0.5 USD and 1.0 USD.

Non-incentive traffic allows you to access targeted users. They see an ad and make a decision to click on it based on their own preferences. The chances that they will use your app again are much higher — maybe they will even write a review for it or recommend it to a friend. However, this type of traffic is more costly: the CPI rates up to 3 USD. But the value of such customers is higher too, so if your final goal is to get revenue from your app, and not attract random users, non-incentive traffic is the way to go.

B. Track and assess the results

Assessing results of the user acquisition campaigns is possible with the metrics, such as CPC (cost-per-click) or CPI (cost-per-install). Cost per click is a payment model, by which an advertiser pays a publisher for the number of ‘clicks’ or interactions of a user with an ad. Cost per install, on the other hand, allows an advertiser to pay only for the number of installs an application gets. CPI model is initially better because you only pay for people who actually installed your app, not for clicks that potentially may go to waste.

For tracking the results of a CPI campaign, get the SDK of a tracking system such as AppsFlyer, Adjust, Tune or Kochava.

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4. Choose a platform for user acquisition

When choosing a marketplace for user acquisition, consider the one that can offer non-incentive traffic and CPI payment model, in order to target the users that can become paying customers. They will give better retention rates and show more willingness to give you feedback, review your app and endorse it further on.

Try to choose a platform with a programmatic approach, that offers automated targeting of users, based on their location, device, etc. This will save you a lot of time for customizing the campaigns. Additional advantage if it is self-serve, so you can manage your campaigns directly.

5. Run a/b tests for ASO

Another thing you want to do during the soft launch which requires user acquisition is the app store optimization (ASO.) You can use an app a/b testing platform for creating web pages that emulate the App Store, change the elements of the page (screenshots, icons, descriptions) and drive traffic from an advertising and monetization platform to see what works better. Track how users react to specific elements and stick to the configuration that converts best. Eventually, you will have an optimized page before the hard launch of your application and better chances to get found in your target market.

User acquisition is a great way of running a soft-launch campaign before the final release. That is how you can test your app, analyze its functionality and app store optimization. Moreover, you can get a better idea of your target audience and get first positive reviews. In the end, you will have a clear picture of how your app will perform on the market, in short terms and with no big investment.