The closing phase of any beta test is an exciting time. You’ve done most of the heavy lifting, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, now you just need to finish it all up. The main factor that makes hardware beta tests unique is the fact that you’re dealing with physical units — which you often need to get back from your testers. Because of this, hardware beta tests can be very tricky to handle once the testing phase is over.
There are some important do’s and don’ts that you’ll certainly want to keep in mind when your test begins to wind down. Below are some tips to help you close your tests effectively and leave your testers happy.
Give your testers the product, if possible
You need to give your testers some sort of reward at the end of the test to thank them for their contribution. If possible, let them have a production version of the product as that reward. This gives them what you already know they want and is often an easy reward for you to provide.
If that’s not possible, you can consider just letting them keep the beta unit instead. This will make your job easier because you don’t have to deal with the time and expense of collecting them. Plus, your testers have already signed NDAs, so you know they’ll keep quiet about your product. However, this all depends on how stable your beta units are and whether they’re reliable enough for your testers to use long term.
Retrieve your beta units, if necessary
If you need the units returned, you must set this expectation up front. Make sure that testers understand that the beta unit (and all of its packaging) must be returned and make this process as simple and easy as you can for them. Include return shipping labels in the initial package to the testers (testers should never incur shipping costs for participating in your beta), with clear return instructions.
Hold rewards until you get beta units back
Only distribute the testers’ rewards after you’ve received the beta unit back from them. It can be tempting to send rewards out immediately at the close of a test. However, once a tester receives their reward, they will be less inclined to return the beta unit. If the tester knows right from the start that they must return the beta unit before they’ll receive their incentive, then they’ll be much more likely to do so in a timely manner. You’ll also want to remind them that they need to return all of the packaging and beta materials (instructions, manuals, accessories, etc.) so that you don’t have those materials in the field after your test is over.
Process the returned units
Track which testers have returned their unit (using the tracking numbers from the return shipping labels you provided to testers and the serial numbers you wrote down at the start of your test). This way, you know which testers have earned their reward and which testers you still need to follow up with. This will also be important so you can connect specific beta units with the bugs they encountered during the test, so that your development team can fix and regress the issues before launch.
Don’t forget to say thank you
No matter what incentive you choose to give your testers at the end of your beta, also consider calling your testers or sending them each a personal thank you note after the test is over. Showing that you value their contribution goes a long way toward turning your beta testers into brand evangelists, who can be a valuable asset during the launch of your product and future beta tests. An email is a good start, but a signed thank you letter from a member of your team will make a much bigger impact on your testers. Since hardware tests are usually small, this is an easy and really meaningful way to close out your experience with your testers.
It’s important to remember that capping your test off in a positive way is crucial. You really don’t want to cut corners at this point just to get it all over with. Take your time and close your hardware beta test in a way that leaves your testers happy and the experience complete.
For more advice on running a hardware beta test, download our eBook on What You Need to Know About Hardware Beta Tests. You can also download our Beta Tester Incentives Kit for everything you need to develop your beta incentives strategy.