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Test Planning

So You Announced Your Product at CES — Now What?

January 21, 2015

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this month, we saw technology companies of every size and shape converge to show off their new products. Each day was filled with flashy demos and big announcements about new cutting-edge products. The buzz about what the future of tech looks like was constant and exciting.

Once the excitement of CES fades, however, we all know what happens next. As companies release their new products, the stories about these promising new technologies quickly change into stories about product launch failures. That new wearable doesn’t do half of the things it promised or that new smart home product doesn’t work consistently. Complaints about the UI or show-stopping bugs quickly turn the public’s excitement into disappointment and the technology world moves its attention onto something else.

If you’ve just announced a new product at CES, then this is the nightmare scenario for you. So, what can you do to mitigate the risk and launch your product successfully? Beta testing your product properly before release plays a huge role in launching a successful product. It’ll help you find and fix bugs, evaluate the user experience, and confirm that your product meets the needs of your target market. Here’s some advice for taking your product from CES to launch smoothly.

Make Sure You Have a Plan

A lot of negative press about announced products centers around delays. Products can be delayed by months or even years as companies run into problems, resulting in a complete loss of momentum and squandering all of the excitement from the initial product announcement.

So, it’s important that you have a well-thought-out plan for testing and improving your product that covers the length of your test, the breakdown of your testers, the feedback you’ll collect, and the overall goals of your test. This will give you a realistic time frame for your launch and ensure that no surprises pop out of the woodwork and delay you (though it’d still be a good idea to build some wiggle room into your schedule, just in case).

Make Sure Your Product is Ready

The second trap many CES products fall into is not living up to the hype. Missing features, inconsistent performance, or a poor user experience can certainly sink a new product.

Before you start your beta test, make sure your product is feature-complete and stable enough to work in the hands of your testers. This way you can collect data on the real customer experience, which will help you predict any problems or challenges you might see once the product is in the wild. If your product is too early or unstable, you won’t be able to gauge the true customer experience. If your product isn’t yet beta-ready, consider running a few phases of beta testing so you can get continuous feedback as you complete your product and prepare it for launch. We recommend even using a product readiness checklist to make sure you have all of your bases covered.

Be Sure to Get Enthusiastic, Qualified Testers

Before CES you may have been concerned about finding testers and early users, but now the buzz is so loud you can’t keep them away. Before you launch your product, however, you need to be discerning about who has access to your product.

You need to design and implement a strategy for qualifying the right people into your beta test and collecting their feedback. This means separating the people who just want to play around with your product from the ones that will provide useful feedback. You can achieve this by developing a strategic qualification process for your testers that ensures that they’re members of your target market and ready to provide detailed, relevant feedback about your product.

Make Sure You Can Maintain Confidentiality

The last piece is making sure that you have a strategy for maintaining secrecy as you get closer to launch. Leaks about a product’s poor performance or the development challenges a company is facing can be just as damaging as a poor launch.

To help avoid leaks, build a confidentiality strategy into your beta phase. Even though you’re putting your product into the hands of strangers during beta, there are steps you can take (such as requiring NDAs and limiting the size of your tester team) to protect your product and keep things under wraps. That way you can control the message and maintain momentum with strategic product updates during the beta phase and avoid the rumors about product problems.

A solid beta testing strategy will help you work out the bugs, gather valuable insight from your target market, and ultimately launch your product with confidence. Without it, you risk launching a product that doesn’t deliver what you’ve promised, damaging your company and your future products. For more advice on planning and managing your beta test, check out our free resource library.

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