Despite what the term “feature launch” may imply, your strategy for launching a new feature isn’t something you should only be thinking about in the lead-up to go-live. Any plan for how you bring a new feature to market should begin well before launch (even before you start building it), and should help shape every stage of the journey—from research and development to marketing and adoption.
Creating a clearly defined launch strategy—and sticking to it—can determine whether your new feature sinks or swims. And when a successful release relies on the actions of many different teams, having a coordinated and data-informed plan is crucial, particularly at scale. The good news? Aligning your entire organization around and informing your go-to-market motions with a unified product experience (PX) solution can help.
With PX software, enterprise and large-scale organizations can:
- Become more data-driven—to ensure they’re building the right features in the first place
- Prepare and guide their users through change—to ensure the right people see and try the feature
- Drive steady usage—to encourage feature adoption and improve customer retention
- Gather usage data and feedback—to continually iterate on and improve the feature
Let’s take a closer look at how PX software helps teams build and execute the best feature launch strategy possible—setting their products up for success.
1. It helps ensure your team is working on the right things
Ask any product manager (PM): There’s nothing worse than dedicating months’ worth of time and resources towards building a feature, only to realize that your users never actually wanted it in the first place. In fact, this is one of the biggest areas of inefficiency businesses report experiencing, and one of the greatest drivers leading product and development teams to PX software.
Before you even consider building a new feature, start with the data. Product analytics (a core component of PX software) tells you exactly how users are engaging with key features and areas of your product—so you can see what’s working well, understand your users’ behavioral patterns and workflows, and identify opportunities for improvement (in other words, potential new features to improve your users’ experience).
This quantitative data is also valuable for pinpointing features that might be ready to sunset. If a feature is seeing low or diminishing usage or generating consistently negative feedback, it could be worth deprecating. This frees up your team to focus on other, higher-value features your users are actually leveraging; and creates the opportunity to build a newer, better feature to replace the old one. The decision to sunset a feature goes hand-in-hand with your strategy for launching a new one—which brings us to how PX software can help ready your users for change.
2. It gives new features the best chance of being seen by the right people
You can’t just launch a new feature into the market without giving your internal teams and users a heads up about it. If your users are still using an older version of your feature (a particularly common occurrence in mobile apps), you need to prepare them for the newer version—and show them why it’s so great. Plus, there’s enablement to consider—will your users intuitively know how to use the new feature, or do they need a little guidance (or even more robust onboarding)?
A PX solution like Pendo allows you to ready and guide your users through change—and promote your exciting new feature—all within the context of your product using in-app guides. In Pendo, you can also segment your audience and target guides to specific audiences who will find the new feature most valuable. And by communicating with these users in-app, you give your new feature its best chance of being seen and adopted.
Particularly in large organizations with complex product portfolios, it’s generally a good idea to make communicating change and promoting new features a collective effort. For example, product teams should work with support or enablement to plan communications that ready users for change, or show them how to complete workflows that may be impacted by feature launch or deprecation. Product should also collaborate with marketing to plan in-app promotions that alert and steer users to new features, using a variety of in-app guide types. Even for internal-facing software, product and IT orgs can work with change management teams to proactively communicate process changes and mitigate employee confusion.
3. It ensures people continue to adopt the feature
Following a feature launch, it’s important to keep a close eye on engagement and usage. Product analytics can tell you what percentage of users initially adopted the new feature, and how many continued to use it after your launch campaign and communications tapered off. This gives you an idea of how intuitive the feature is to use, as well as how well users are adopting it into their existing workflows.
Just as in-app guides are invaluable for promoting new features, they also help encourage continual usage of the feature over time. Less intrusive in-app guide types like tooltips are a great way to remind users how and why they should use specific areas or features of your product. They’re also a great way to keep core functionality top of mind without overloading users with alerts. If your analytics data indicates that adoption of the feature is stagnating, you can leverage in-app guides to remind users of all the great things they can achieve with it or to provide helpful walkthroughs and education to get usage back on track.
4. It informs and improves future product prioritization
The best PX software enables you to survey and collect feedback from users directly inside your product, without requiring users to visit a third party site or follow a link from an email (both of which yield lower response rates). This qualitative feedback data gives you valuable insight into how your users feel about the feature, and can be a valuable source of inspiration for future feature improvements and optimizations.
While it may feel counterintuitive to start considering how you will gather this post-launch information—and ultimately act on it—before you even launch your new feature, it’s a vital element of a good feature launch strategy. And it ensures you have a gameplan to continually optimize what you’re working so hard to build. Clearly communicating how you plan to use this feedback (for example, through a product feedback policy) can even build trust with your users and encourage them to use it frequently because they know you’re invested in listening to and heeding their input.
Finally, in the same way your feature launch began, this data is vital for informing how you refine and optimize the feature moving forward. It’s also critical for planning product roadmap and resourcing decisions, so you have everything you need to successfully build and launch your next great feature.