Beta testing is a low-cost tactic for squashing bugs and getting early feedback from your users to help you avoid costly errors before releasing your app. In Clutch's 2017 survey about the costs of developing an app, 32% of app development companies reported that the "testing and deployment" stage cost less than $5000. Naturally, the costs grow as the beta program scales in size and sophistication, but they remain low relative to their return.
You probably already use most of the tools and services you need for beta testing in your development process. However, there are a few costs that are not shared or are unique to beta tests.
Using the right tools is one of the keys to streamline your beta test and get more results out of it. Analytics and bug tracking/reporting software should already be used in your development process and aren’t a unique beta testing cost. On the other hand, in-app chat tools are sometimes only feasible for beta tests, while beta distribution tools serve little purpose outside testing.
Most of these tools offer a free tier that will satisfy the needs of small beta programs at no cost. Moreover, their $50-100/month basic packages are usually enough to satisfy most beta programs’ needs. The more expensive packages are useful, but only necessary once you have a couple of thousand testers and quick iterations.
Incentives may be the only cost that is truly unique to the beta phase and also the most flexible. Options like swag and gift cards have a direct cost that comes out of your budget, but others like free subscriptions or in-app content are indirect costs that are trickier to quantify.
Moreover, you must consider the length and complexity of your beta test before choosing your incentive. The longer and more elaborate your beta test runs, the more work will be expected from beta testers, which in turn merits bigger incentives. That being said, incentives should be kept reasonable to avoid turning them into your testers’ goal, skewing your results.
Generally speaking, incentives should be around $10-20 and in no way exceed $50. The material incentives like gift cards should especially stick to the lower bounds of this range. Some incentives can serve other purposes too and might be worth spending on. Swag can serve as a marketing tool and free in-app content can boost retention and engagement.
Marketing and recruitment
While beta tests themselves can be used as a marketing tool, they do require a dedicated marketing plan and budget. The tactics and channels you use will change according to the size of your beta program and your target audience. Additionally, the cost varies wildly across markets and industries, even within the same channel.
The beta's marketing budget should be similar to your app’s marketing budget relative to the duration of the beta test. Keep in mind that you should start marketing for your beta test at least a few weeks before you launch.
Even if you decide to save your marketing efforts for the actual launch and keep your app under wraps, you still need to recruit beta testers. In this case, you will need to go through a crowd testing service or a beta management platform.
Whether you hire a dedicated beta testing team or assign the beta test to the development team, beta testing is still work. The amount of work grows with the scale of the beta test, adding to the cost of the beta test. You might start by adding the tasks to your teams' schedule, but as your beta program grows you will need to hire a dedicated owner for the beta program, and eventually a whole team.
The most valuable cost of beta testing is time but it is also the hardest to put a dollar value on. Especially for startups, time can be in very short supply as they try to maintain their quick pace and rapid iterations.
A well-laid plan for your beta test will help you optimize its duration and make the most out of it. Generally speaking, a new app needs at least 4-6 weeks to be properly tested and will see diminishing value after 12 weeks. Apps that are only testing minor to moderate changes can get away with 2 weeks of beta testing and should avoid crossing the 4-6 week threshold.
Bug and Crash Reporting
With each report, you automatically receive comprehensive data to help fix issues faster, including steps to reproduce errors, network request and console logs, and environment details. For bug reporting, your beta testers can also send screen recordings and annotatable screenshots to provide further context.
In-App Surveys and Feature Request Management
Collect user feedback from your beta testers right inside your app to minimize interruptions and boost participation rates. Get powerful insights to enhance your product roadmap with surveys that you can target to specific tester segments and feature request voting to understand user pain points and desires.
Beta testing has been shown to be an effective tool for app quality, marketing, support and many other departments. However, you need to be aware of what it will cost you to get each of these results before you can set a budget and start planning. Remember that this is not an all or nothing deal; according to your resources and priorities, you can start by focusing your beta test on what you need most and then expand as you see fit.
- What to ask your beta testers to get better feedback
- Comparison of the top beta app distribution tools
- What beta test legal agreements do you need for your app?
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