Soft Launch vs Hard Launch – What’s the Difference?

Soft Launch vs Hard Launch – What’s the Difference? - –

When opening a store, launching a product, or kick-starting a new digital campaign, there are many factors to consider. How should you announce the launch? Do you have adequate staff to begin selling your new product? How are you going to get media attention? Are you truly ready for the launch? Do you have a backup plan if things go wrong?

Your business should be able to answer these questions, as they impact some crucial considerations to make. One of these considerations is whether or not to opt for a soft launch or hard launch.

You can choose a soft or hard launch depending on where your product is at the development stage. In this article, we explain the differences between the two and when it makes sense for your business to use one strategy over another.

What is a soft launch?

A soft launch is the launch of a product, service, or campaign with little or no fanfare or formal announcements. It’s more like a preview launch. It can also refer to the gradual release of a product—i.e., releasing it in stages—which allows room to slowly develop the product into an offering that’s more ready for the market.

Soft launching a product means releasing an initial, less robust version. It’s the launch of smaller components before the release of the final, comprehensive product, service, or any other offering. The initial versions allow businesses to gauge customer feedback or response and make the required changes in the upcoming versions. This evaluation is based on predetermined metrics agreed to by all the parties involved in product development.

Since a soft product launch happens with a limited audience or in stages, customer expectations are often low. This is because customers understand that a company is just starting to launch an offering. However, it’s important that businesses take feedback from customers during this phase and analyze the responses to make modifications for a better user experience before launching a full-fledged product.

Many retail stores and restaurants host a soft launch before hosting a more formal grand opening. This allows them time to get the store ready, work out accounting, and ensure they’re adequately stocked. When it comes to a soft launch online, an alpha or beta test version of a software product is first launched.

What is a hard launch?

A hard launch is the formal official launch of a market-ready product that has no bugs. The media and public at large have seen a formal announcement; therefore, more people know about the launch and are paying attention to it.

A hard launch is great for garnering attention from the media and potential customers. Grand store openings (complete with celebratory ribbon-cuttings), releasing a computer game, or kicking off a marketing campaign on social media are all great examples of hard launches. The event—offline or online—details are made available to the public at large.

The challenge with a hard launch emerges when there are issues with operations. If there’s a technical problem or if an offering doesn’t connect with the target audience, customer engagement or response can get severely impacted. This can occur, for instance, if a restaurant is too slow in getting food out or if a marketing campaign fails to have the desired impact on its target audience.

Soft launch vs hard launch: What’s the difference?

When it comes to a soft launch vs. hard launch, the primary difference is the state of readiness. A soft launch implies that your product is not quite market-ready or that your staff may need more time to prepare. A hard launch, on the other hand, means that everyone and everything is ready to go.

A soft launch may not launch a complete product or may be released to a smaller audience. However, a hard launch is released to its entire audience, and the product is complete. In a soft launch, people will not be surprised if changes are later made to the product; that is not the case with a hard launch.

There are also differences in outcomes. With a soft launch, it will take time for a campaign or product to make a noticeable impact on a target market in terms of sales success, brand awareness, and user acquisition. With a hard launch, results will likely be more immediate and noticeable.

When should you use a soft or hard launch in a digital campaign?

There are many instances in which you should consider using a soft launch strategy, instead of a hard launch, for a digital campaign.

A/B testing is one such great example of a soft launch online. In A/B testing, you test different versions of a digital campaign based on variables such as messages, text, and graphics. A/B testing helps determine which version of an ad campaign is getting the best reaction from potential customers. Once you have that data, you can create the final campaign version. From there, you can launch the campaign feeling confident that you’re using the best aspects of the ads you tested.

A soft launch can also help identify bugs or challenges within your campaign. It can, thus, help smooth out the rough edges. Opt for a soft launch if you aren’t completely confident that you’ve worked out all the kinks in your product or service. But if you’re confident that you’ve done everything you needed to do to create a first-rate product, you should be good to go with a hard launch.

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