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A soft launch is a type of release for hardware, software, and websites where the product is released incrementally with little fanfare, initially to a limited audience. Many companies like to use this type of launch to test the viability of a product. It is also useful because it allows companies to fine tune a product before making a big marketing push. Such launches are especially common with websites, to which new features can easily be introduced.
When making a soft launch, a company releases a product with little or no marketing. In the case of a website launch, many companies release redesigns in a soft format. This allows them to test the response to the new site from existing customers before attempting to expand their customer base. When introducing a new website or concept, a soft launch is a popular option as well. It can be a valuable tool for a website, as a design which users dislike can be quietly retired. Changes can also be made to increase the functionality of the website and respond to user requests.
In the instance of hardware products, it is not uncommon to do a limited release soft launch to test the market prior to a wide scale release. It also means that companies can make last minute changes to the product if it is deemed necessary after the launch. In many instances, soft launches of hardware are done in major metropolitan areas, where the company has access to a wide variety of demographic groups.
Soft launches are also used for software, with a small release being made to a limited group of individuals for beta testing. Software can be extensively tested by the releasing company, but ultimately it needs to be used to determine how effective it is. Major flaws in the design may emerge during beta testing, and can be corrected before the product is released into a major market. This prevents costly and embarrassing mistakes as a result of product weakness.
Some software is soft launched on the Internet, which allows for easy software updates. Early beta testers can grow attached to the program, and will continue to download new versions as they are released. Thus, companies often build up a loyal customer base which spreads the word to other potential customers. The result is a stronger product and a better company.