Few products are so exciting or essential that they can genuinely sell themselves. In most cases, it’s much more effective to support a new product with a marketing campaign. Kick it off with a powerful product launch that lets your audience know there’s something special on the horizon. The challenge: Do it online! Can a virtual product launch be just as effective as a live one?
Virtual Product Launch Pros and Cons
Pro: Attendance Isn’t Limited by Geography
One of the biggest advantages of a virtual product launch is anyone can get involved from anywhere in the world. Providing they have an internet connection and a capable device, they’re good to go. You can reach people all over the world, and that can greatly expand your pool of potential customers.
Pro: Attendance Requires Less Commitment
Because the action is online, it takes less effort for people to participate. There’s no need to travel or spend time finding a venue or event space. Online product launches tend to be more compact and take up less time. That means more people may be willing to attend a virtual product launch because it’s less of a commitment than going to a physical event.
Pro: Virtual Launches Are More Affordable
The costs of launching a product can add up quickly. Depending on your launch plans, it might mean anything from hiring a venue and throwing an expensive party to attending a series of trade shows over the course of a few months.
A virtual product launch is likely to be much more budget friendly. You don’t need to hire a venue or vendors, or pay for any of the other myriad expenses involved in holding a live event. You don’t need to cover the cost of exhibit space at trade shows or of renting or buying a trade show booth. There are costs involved in a virtual product launch, but, overall, it’s more affordable online.
Con: Customers Don’t Have the Option to Try the Product Themselves
Product launches are effective partly because they’re the first chance customers have to try out hotly anticipated new products. If the launch happens digitally, it may take some of the excitement out of that first experience. And at least some people won’t buy new products if they can’t take a look in person.
It’s not a problem for all kinds of products, of course. But for some, it can be a disadvantage that your audience doesn’t have the option to try out the product themselves. When the experience of using the product is a big selling point, a live launch is often best.
Pro Tip: Turn this negative into a positive by creating an immersive 3D virtual experience to demonstrate what it’s like to use your product. Immersive experiences are still a novelty to most people, and that novelty factor can help build anticipation and encourage people to try out the demo.
Con: Tech Troubles Can Put a Damper on a Launch
No matter where you hold a product launch—at a live venue or a digital one—there’s always a risk of unforeseen problems. When you hold an event online, there are additional issues to consider.
Some problems just can’t be anticipated or controlled. Just like a storm might cause a power outage at your live venue, an internet outage might bring the virtual events platform down.
However, some tech issues are preventable. For instance, if you’re using a dedicated virtual events platform, choose one that’s intuitive and easy to use. This will help ensure your audience is able to access the event. And opt for a virtual product launch platform with an event technology support service so people who do have problems can get help quickly.
Should You Launch Your Product Online?
It may seem more intuitive to launch a product using a physical event format, but the truth is, a virtual product launch can be just as effective. It all depends on the product and whether it suits the virtual format.
To decide if you should launch online, there’s only one thing to consider: How well can your audience visualize what it’s like to use your product? If a virtual product launch can’t replicate a key aspect of the product, an online launch may not be the best option. However, for some products, there may be a way to let consumers experience it by proxy.
If you’re launching a food product, for instance, your launch could include a live demonstration with a chef who shows off several ways to cook with or prepare the food. But your audience will miss out on a key aspect of the product because they won’t be able to smell, touch, or taste it. One way to solve this issue is to partner with popular influencers, people who can test the product in advance of the launch and talk about it on social media. This kind of strategy is often enough to convince consumers that the product is worth trying.
How to Showcase Your Product Online
1. Find Your Audience
Any product launch will fall flat if it’s not targeted to the audience that is most likely to be excited by the product. The first step in launching a product online is to find your audience:
- Who is your target market?
- Where do they hang out online, and how can you reach them there?
- What needs or problems can your product solve for them?
- What will encourage them to attend a product launch?
- What will make your product stick in their mind?
2. Choose a Platform for the Launch
Throwing a virtual product launch event means you don’t need to hire a live venue. But if you want to hold a launch day event, you’ll need a virtual space for that purpose. There are lots of online spaces that can work. It’s important to choose a space that fits your brand, the product, and the audience. This could mean anything from a casual low-fi product launch on Facebook Live or a livestream on YouTube to a 3D immersive party on a dedicated virtual events platform.
3. Build Pre-Launch Anticipation
Attending a virtual product launch may be a lesser commitment than a live one, but it’s still important to build anticipation prior to the event. You need that pre-launch marketing campaign to let your audience know your new product is exactly what they’ve been looking for.
Your pre-launch campaign should build buzz. You need to pique your audience’s interest enough that they’ll make sure to be online for the launch. There are lots of ways to do this online, with a range of channels that are ideal for getting that all-important momentum going. Some options include:
- Social media content – Start a social media campaign with a hashtag and daily posts with hints and clues about the new product.
- Email marketing – Send out email blasts to your subscriber lists with details on the product launch.
- Influencer marketing – Partner with key industry influencers to increase the hype. Have them start spreading the word by posting content or creating teaser videos. Or invite them to take over your social media for a day. They can get their own followers involved while engaging with yours.
4. Plan the Perfect Launch Day Content
Once you’ve defined your audience and picked a launch platform, you can start to plan the launch itself. The first step here is to define your goals for the product launch. What do you want to happen on launch day—is this a day for making sales, or do you have other goals in mind? Sometimes launch day isn’t about sales but is the start of a process of getting people into the sales funnel. Once you’ve defined your goals, you can figure out how to make it all happen.
The next step is to develop an event experience that puts your audience where you want them to be. Whether that’s making a purchase, signing up to an email list, or something else, your launch day content should be designed to put your audience in that mindset.
The product itself will also influence what kind of content is suitable. For small products that people are likely to buy and use over and over again, a low-key launch is most appropriate. This might involve, for instance, a social media campaign with influencer partnerships, rather than an actual event.
For big-ticket items that most people buy only occasionally, many brands hold launch-day events that put on more of a show. Think tech products such as Apple-branded items, where launch day typically means a presentation watched by tens of millions of people all over the world.
5. Follow Up After the Event
The virtual event is over, and it’s time to relax—or is it? In fact, this is exactly the wrong time to draw a line under your product marketing campaign. Don’t let all the momentum you’ve built go to waste. Keep the conversation around your product going with a post-launch campaign, instead. Talk about the launch on social media, share highlight reels of the best moments, and invite your audience to share their highlights too. Send out a post-launch email round-up, and make sure to add your new email subscribers to your long-term email list.
Online Product Launches Can Be Just as Rewarding as Physical Events
With the chance to launch before a huge global audience, there’s no question virtual product launches can be highly effective. Like any live product launch, the key is to get your product in front of the right audience—and then show them why they need it.