Utilizing Public Betas and Free Trials to Launch a Software Product

Mehra, A and Saha, R L (2018) Utilizing Public Betas and Free Trials to Launch a Software Product. Production and Operations Management, 27 (11). pp. 2025-2037. ISSN 1059-1478

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Many software product firms release a public beta prior to launching its product. Public betas are adopted by innovator consumers and firms use free feedback from these consumers to improve the quality of the product. While trying out the public beta, innovators also learn their product preferences accurately. In addition, opinions expressed by the innovators about the software on public forums like blogs, etc., can introduce a perception bias about the product's quality among the imitator consumers. Therefore, there are demand and cost side tradeoffs in introducing public betas. In addition to public beta, firms can introduce product trials along with the product. Product trials serve as a learning mechanism for all consumers (innovators and imitators), unlike in the case of public betas where this benefit accrues only to innovators. We examine the firm's optimal strategies to introduce public beta and/or product trial. We show that introducing public beta does not necessarily result in a higher-quality product. However, even when the quality is lower, consumer surplus and social welfare can be higher. Interestingly, while introducing public beta in addition to trial may appear to be optimal, it may not always be so. We show that similar results hold for products with network effects. We also find that even though the marginal value of quality to consumers is higher for products with network effects, the quality of the product can sometimes be lower than the quality in absence of network effects.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Business and Management
Information Technology
Date Deposited: 07 Aug 2017 19:00
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2023 16:30
URI: https://eprints.exchange.isb.edu/id/eprint/541

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