What Is a Rollout?

Rollout is an informal business term for the introduction and integration of a new product or service to the market. A rollout often refers to a significant product release, which is frequently accompanied by a strong marketing campaign, to generate consumer interest. There can also be rollouts of new changes within a company across the board to operationalize a new procedural or structural change.

Key Takeaways

  • In business, rollout refers to the introduction of a new product to market, or the integration of new internal operational processes, system, or policy.
  • Rollouts typically leverage the expertise of multiple business units in order to be successful, including marketing and operations.
  • Change management consultants are focused heavily on ensuring internal rollouts of new technologies, policies, and structures, are done in ways that do not shock the internal culture or cause dissonance.

Understanding Rollouts

Product Rollouts

As mentioned, a product rollout is a business, marketing, and operations strategy in order to deploy a new product to the masses. Mostly, this refers to the strategy behind a product's initial introduction, although it can also extend to long-term operations.

Such a strategy can play a part in the product's success or failure. Some products, for example, are given limited rollouts targeting a particular region or set of customers. This may be designed to enhance customer interest in other regions or market segments. Often times, technology companies introducing a new app, for example, will choose to do only a North America rollout. By slowly rolling out their services, companies can more manageably control and limit the size of any challenges or bumps along the way. For an extended period of time, food delivery companies such as Postmates and GrubHub would only service their respective headquarters in San Francisco and Chicago. Now, other companies such as Uber have done global rollouts of their products and subsequent features such as Uber Pool ride-sharing.

Operational Rollouts

A rollout in business may also refer to the implementation of a new system within a company. A company may refer to its rollout strategy for its new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which could include the entire company or only to select departments. Rollouts are typically large changes requiring concerted efforts, and the field of organizational change management in and of itself is a booming one. Organizational change management and the rolling out of new processes, structures, or systems allow a business to scale and more effectively operate. However, done poorly, a rollout can cause a lot of dissatisfaction among team members. For this reason, limited rollouts of internal systems offer the advantage of harming productivity less than a full rollout.

Types of Rollouts

There are multiple types of rollouts, including rollouts:

  • To an exclusive group of VIP or repeat customers.
  • By invitation only, such as when Facebook first launched and included invites only within Harvard.
  • Through friends' referrals only (such as networking and dating apps like The League that requires you to be within a certain social circle).
  • By region or location, based on where the product is expected to do well to test initial reception.
  • Through beta testing or A/B testing, to allow a group to flag potential bugs or issues in the product. Instagram is currently doing this kind of rollout testing its new feature that hides the number of likes from a user's photo.
  • A complete rollout that is dramatically unveiled all at once. This kind of rollout is generally discouraged unless it is small and guaranteed to meet wide acceptance.

Ultimately, carefully executed product rollouts to targeted groups of people or within a company can be the make-or-break factor for its success.