How to Incentivize Software and Web Site Beta Testers

We recently released a Beta Test Incentives Kit that helps you build a comprehensive strategy for motivating and rewarding your beta testers throughout your beta test. This kit walks you through creating a naturally rewarding testing experience, as well as selecting and distributing tangible gifts to your beta testers to thank them for their time and effort. These best practices help ensure that your testers feel valued for the role they play in your beta test, which results in more and better feedback across your beta program.

While the general rules of incentivizing testers apply to all beta tests, there are some specific considerations for software and web site beta tests that must be considered when building your incentives strategy. This post looks at what makes these tests unique and how you can leverage those traits to motivate and reward your beta testers.

Note: Our Beta Test Incentives Kit addresses how to reward beta testers in private (closed) beta tests. If you’re looking to run a public (open) beta test, download our Public Betas Whitepaper, which will help you plan and implement a successful public beta test to help launch your product.

What Makes Software and Web Tests Unique

From an incentives perspective there are two things about software and web products that make beta testing them unique.

  1. Product Distribution: Since software and web products aren’t physical products (like hardware products) you don’t have to worry about shipping or retrieving units. You do have to determine, however, the role your product is going to play in incentivizing your testers and plan accordingly.
  2. Test Size: Since you aren’t limited by the number of units you have available, software and web tests can be much larger than hardware betas. This means you need to plan for engaging and incentivizing a much larger pool of testers, which presents its own set of challenges.

Tips for Incentivizing Software Beta Testers

Let’s look at how these factors affect how you incentivize testers during a software or web site beta test.

Product access during beta is NOT a reward in itself

Many companies think that letting testers use their product during the beta phase is enough of a reward, but it’s not. You’re getting a lot of value out of your testers during the beta phase. While they might get some value out of the product during beta, it’s not enough to justify the time and effort they’ve put into trying out your product and giving constructive feedback. You need to give them a more lasting reward, such as the final product, a gift card, or some other appropriate gift.

Get creative with drawings and contests

As we mentioned above, software and web site tests are often large because there are no unit restrictions or shipping costs to consider. This means you need to find creative ways to engage and reward a larger group of testers. In addition to giving your testers a reward at the end of your beta test, consider working drawings or contests into your strategy to increase participation without blowing your budget.

Time bomb your software

Make sure you build some sort of expiration into your beta product that will render it useless at a certain point. If you don’t, you risk losing a powerful motivator with your testers. If they already have unlimited access to the software, they no longer have as much of an incentive to give feedback. If it’s clear that the software will expire at the end of the test they will be incentivized to keep participating to earn the final reward.

Use the product as an incentive (but not the beta version)

Since there is often little to no cost associated with distributing a software or web product, try to give your testers a final version of the product as a thank you gift. This is often what the testers want anyway, so they will likely be happy to receive the final product. We do not, however, recommend letting them continue to use the beta version. The risk of leaving beta versions in the field (and having to support them) almost always outweighs any cost associated with giving testers the final version.

Determine if you need to supplement your incentive

The value of the incentive you give your testers needs to match the effort they put into your test. Many software or web apps are inexpensive or free. If that’s the case with your product, you’ll need to supplement with some other reward, such as a gift card or a t-shirt. Otherwise your testers won’t feel like you value their time and contribution. If you’re planning on supplementing your product with additional rewards, be sure to communicate this to your testers so they know a reward is coming and will work harder for it. The calculator in our Beta Test Incentives Kit will help you decide if your product requires a supplement.

More Advice and Best Practices

Motivating beta testers is no easy task and each product will present unique considerations when it comes to building your incentives strategy. Our Beta Test Incentives Kit includes a lot more advice to help you plan your unique strategy and the calculator will help you determine the value of the incentives your testers should receive at the end of the test.

Fundamentally, any incentives strategy comes down to acknowledging the time and effort your beta testers put into testing your product. If you show them how much you value the role they play in making your product better, they’ll repay you ten fold with better feedback and brand loyalty.

Download our Beta Test Incentives Kit now!

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