Imagine this: You have a successful app. There are thousands of people who actively use it everyday. Now, you have a great new idea for a feature in the app. So you launch it. Turns out, your users absolutely hate it and the feature fails miserably. Your competitors take advantage of this scenario and from running a successful mobile app, it becomes a ‘what-not-to-do’ story in digital marketing.
We usually don’t start our posts in such a dark manner. However, with the topic being dark launching, we thought we might as well stick to the theme! But jokes aside, Dark Launching has no metaphorical darkness attached to it. In fact it highlights all the activities a coder or marketer can take up to prevent the aforementioned bleak scenario.
What is Dark Launching?
Dark launching is the practice of launching new features to only a pre-defined group of your users before releasing it to all your users. A dark launch usually helps product developers and marketers test out the feature with real users, get real-time feedback and assess stability. The biggest of companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook regularly deploy dark launching so that they can be sure of their new feature before fully launching. These apps are being used by millions and are continuously running. A new feature that ends up becoming a glitch can possibly bring the whole system down. The smarter way to prevent something like this would be with dark launching.
In terms of code, dark launching is a process of “wrapping” the new features in a code that you can turn on or off depending on when you want to release it and to whom. That’s why it has an administrative feature attached to it, so that brand marketers can decide exactly when they want to release it.
How to choose the subset of users who the feature will be released to?
There are many options for choosing your audience. You can do it percentage-wise where you first enable the new feature for 1 % of the users. If it’s doing well, you move to 5% and you gradually increase the percentage according to whatever you’re comfortable with.
The other way of choosing your audience is by using lists. Chances are you will always have your audience divided in the form of most active users (or users most likely to give you feedback), medium usage users and inactive users. Beta testing is usually done when the first group of users receives the update. They are known to be loyal to your brand and most likely to offer you constructive feedback for the new feature. They are also the most excited to receive the new feature and feel part of an exclusive group. If the feature is successful, they will also be the best word-of-mouth ambassadors for your brand.
Another way of getting more users on board is by asking them to opt in for the new features. Most of the features are launched via feature flags and toggles and can be switched on or off. Because they are currently independent of the system, a user can also be asked to join and test it. This is a great marketing move as well, and will give you deeper insight into the mind of your current user.
So should you Dark Launch?
Hell, yeah! At GR Imagine, we are serious believers of dark launching. Nothing like knowing what works and doesn’t before making the final change. We’ve guided many clients through the dark launch phase which has also helped clients identify their most valuable users. Want to find out more? Contact +91 79 40054643.