Why Reducing Your Free Trial Can Actually Double Conversion

August 4, 2016

7:00 pm

It’s a counter-intuitive result: Cutting your service’s free trial period from an easy-going 30 days to a mere 7 can wind up doubling your startup’s conversion times. At least, it did in one recently reported case. Here’s a look at how and why this quick trick works.

Cutting Trial Time Pushes Audiences to Decide

The scarcity principle is at work here: People want what they can’t have, and if time runs up sooner rather than later, audiences will be forced to think about how much they value the service. Maybe they don’t want it enough to pay for it. In that case, they wouldn’t sign up after any free trial, no matter how long.

But if they’re interested in it, they’ll realize that they can’t wait. Cutting the wait time ensures that the lazier customers won’t forget to sign up at all.

Janna Bastow, CEO and co-founder of ProdPad, recently wrote about her company’s move from 30 days to 14:

“We found that on a 30-day trial, we could tell with 85% certainty by Day 9 whether a trial user would sign up. […] As an experiment, we decided to halve our trial period to 14 days and keep everything else the same. That one move doubled our conversion rate.

Without that luxurious month-long trial to waste, users immediately started to value their trial time more.”

Also, You Can Gamify the Trial

ProdPad didn’t stop there. Taking inspiration from Dropbox’s free and earn-able extra space, they restructured their free trial: At 7 days, it’s even shorter. However, users who spend more time using the service will gain additional trial time.  Users who add details like a user persona or their credit card details could earn more days, going up to 28. They were learning the system as they went. Essentially, ProdPad was giving every user “exactly the amount of time they need to decide they want to be ProdPad customers.”

What was the result? Pretty great: “With our new new user on-boarding, we’ve seen our trial-to-conversion time once again double, and our overall conversion rate has tripled since our previous version.”

Gamifying doesn’t work for everything, but it’s a clear winner here. You can’t say no to dramatically higher conversion rates that organically teach users how to use your software at the same time.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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