Leveraging Free Trials to Increase Conversions and Improve Customer Experience


If you want to improve brand awareness and get more exposure for your product or service, consider launching a free trial campaign. Free trials can attract brand-new customers and give long-term members of your target audience the nudge they need to finally try your product. 

Free trials offer many benefits to you and your customers, but there are also potential downsides. A poorly designed free trial can create a high customer churn rate and even damage your brand’s reputation. 

It’s crucial to work with your team to plan a free trial campaign that prioritizes the customer experience and gives them a favorable impression of your product and your company. That means optimizing the customer onboarding process for the trial and engaging with customers regularly to gather feedback, answer questions, and encourage post-trial purchases.

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What Are the Potential Benefits of Free Trials?

A well-designed free trial offers advantages to your company and your potential customers.

Increasing Brand Awareness and Conversions

Free trials can increase your target audience’s knowledge of your products and services, which is especially important when your company is new. But a free trial campaign can still be extremely beneficial for an established company; this type of offer can help your brand stand out from competitors and attract new customers.

Improving Customer Experience

Customers also stand to benefit from a free trial. With this type of offer, a potential customer gets the chance to try your product or software program before committing to it. The free trial allows the customer to experience the real value of your products and services, so they aren’t just relying on generic statistics and pitches from your sales team.

Additionally, a free trial streamlines the onboarding process if a customer decides to buy the full version of your product once the trial ends. They’ve already been using a limited or full version of the product and engaging with your customer service team, so the jump to being a full-time paid user is minimal.

Free Trial Offer Models

There are several different ways to set up your free trial.

Opt-In Unlimited Free Trial

With an opt-in free trial, the customer usually provides their name and contact information in exchange for a full version of the product they can use for a limited time. They don’t need to provide payment until after the trial ends and they decide to purchase.

– Quickly builds brand awareness and launches new products– Users may find ways to subvert the free trial limitations
– Full functionality supports a good customer experience– Requires a high level of customer engagement
– Generally offers high conversion rates– Doesn’t always reach the correct target audience

Opt-Out Unlimited Free Trial

An opt-out free trial requires the customer to provide their payment information upfront. They still get to use the full version of the product for free during the trial, but they must opt-out to avoid being charged when the trial ends.

– It can be more lucrative because the customer provides payment details right away– Customers expect a quick time-to-value because they’ve already provided payment information
– Users get to experience full functionality– Generally ineffective for newer companies without brand recognition
– Some customers are reluctant to provide payment details right away

Freemium Limited Trial

Frequently utilized by programs that offer “in-app purchases” or “paid upgrades,” a freemium model only provides the customer with a limited version of the product. The customer won’t experience the full benefits of the product, but they can use the free version for as long as they want.

– A strategic plan for feature availability can encourage customers to upgrade– Users don’t get to experience all the features, which can compromise customer experience
– Users don’t have a time limit on the free version– Some users may decide never to upgrade
– Generally offers lower conversion rates than other types of free trials

Understanding and Improving Free Trial Conversion Rates

It’s critical to track and analyze the conversion rates from your free trial. Your company must understand whether the trial is effectively bringing on long-term customers or whether there’s a high churn rate of trial customers leaving after the test period ends.

There’s a simple formula to calculate the conversion rate for your free trial program.

(Number of free trial users who purchase the product / Total number of free trial users) * 100

That calculation will give you the trial conversion rate as a percentage. What’s a good conversion rate to aim for? It depends on the free trial model you use. For an opt-in trial, 25 percent is a good benchmark. For opt-out trials, the benchmark rate is higher: around 60 percent.

Common Factors That Reduce Conversions

The goal of a free trial is to get the user to purchase the full version. But that conversion only happens if the customer has a positive experience during the trial. Customers who don’t have a good experience during the free trial aren’t likely to purchase the full version of your product. 

There are many potential issues that can discourage a customer from making a purchase. Here are some of the most common issues that reduce conversion rate:

  • Unfulfilled expectations: Generally, a customer decides to join the free trial because they know something about your product. They may have read about the features on your website or attended a presentation from your sales team. However, if they join the trial and find out that the features and functionality they expected aren’t there, they aren’t likely to make a purchase. Customers who join an opt-out trial usually have the highest expectations because they’ve already offered payment information.
  • Complicated process: Most customers won’t be willing to go through a time-consuming process just to join a free trial. You need to find the perfect amount of time to require your customers to invest. An overly long or redundant sign-up process will turn away customers. But there should be some amount of time commitment to encourage your customers to actually utilize the product during the trial. Most customers won’t see value in something that requires no time or money.
  • Poor user experience: Your goal during the free trial is to show the customer all the benefits they can get from using your product. They need to see that your product is so valuable that they’re willing to pay your set price to avoid losing access after the trial ends. This is especially important in a freemium model; you must give the customer enough features to showcase the functionality without giving so much away that there’s no motivation to pay for the full version.

Optimizing Your Free Trial Strategy

Building an effective free trial involves balancing your company’s needs with those of your customers. You need to make sure that the trial gives customers an excellent experience and showcases the value your product provides. However, you can’t just give away the entire product for free; you need to limit either the features or the trial time to encourage customers to make a purchase after the trial period ends.

Identify Your Target Audience

It’s essential to customize your free trial to your target audience. And to do that you must have a clear understanding of what your ideal customers are looking for. Take the time to do market research, work with your sales team, and engage with your target audience to develop an in-depth view of their needs.

Then, develop a free trial campaign that’s customized and relevant to your ideal customers. Remember, the goal isn’t to market your product to everyone; in fact, most shoppers (66 percent) say that non-personalized content stops them from making a purchase. Conversely, 91 percent of shoppers are likely to purchase from brands that offer relevant recommendations.

Once you know your target audience, make sure your branding and marketing materials are on point. It’s also crucial to recognize your customers’ buying triggers so you know how to engage them toward the end of the trial. Depending on their interactions with your product, you can consider extending the trial or upselling them into the full version.

Increase Customer Engagement

Customer engagement is crucial during a free trial. It starts by making sure that your customers have accurate expectations and continues during the onboarding process as free trial participants start using your product. It’s essential to ensure that your customers have all the training and support they need to get the full value out of the trial. 

Show your customers that you’re also investing time and resources into the trial, and that you’re actively working to improve their experience. This is your chance to showcase all the benefits of working with your company. Scheduled check-ins offer customers the chance to ask questions, give feedback, and discuss concerns with your team. These calls keep your customers engaged and give them the support they need to have the best possible experience during the free trial.

Prioritize Customer Onboarding Experience

Onboarding isn’t just relevant to paying customers; it’s a crucial aspect of the free trial experience as well. Give trial participants the same level of service and support that regular customers receive, especially during the onboarding process. A poor onboarding experience can discourage a customer from even completing the free trial whereas an outstanding onboarding experience can significantly increase a participant’s desire to convert to a paying customer.

Improve Customer Experience and Free Trial Conversions With Help From GUIDEcx

A free trial offers your company a chance to connect with customers and give them a realistic look at the value and benefits of working with you. This is your chance to showcase your products and give potential customers a glimpse of the experience they can expect if they choose to purchase.

Take the time to choose a free trial model that fits your company and target audience the best. And then, optimize the customer experience, especially during onboarding. Create a streamlined process to get customers using your product as soon as possible with all the support they need for success.

GUIDEcx creates an exceptional onboarding experience for your customers and simplifies things for your team as well. Our platform ensures that everyone is on the same page and offers easy scalability, which is critical during a free trial campaign.

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Discover how GUIDEcx can help you improve efficiency by reducing your customer onboarding timeline and increasing the capacity of your project managers. Our unparalleled professional resources and unwavering commitment to excellence support our industry-leading customer onboarding solution.