Try Before you Buy: How to Use Free Trial Subscriptions to Attract Customers

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Everyone loves to get something for free, so offering potential customers a product trial before they commit is a great way to build loyalty from the start. Of course, you run the risk of people taking advantage of your “try before you buy” generosity and taking the freebie and then never returning to pay full price. 

To try to mitigate this risk, you can consider different types of free trial structures and see what might work best for your business. Your goal in offering trial products for free or a trial subscription is, of course, to let would-be buyers get a true sense of how fabulous your product is or how much they just can’t live without your subscription. The mere suggestion of try and buy should pique curiosity in potential customers and make them want to explore what you have to offer. 

Offering a free trial also gives you, as the seller, the opportunity to make the best impression that you can on the people who take you up on the offer. This is your chance to offer stellar customer service, a super-easy shopping and checkout process, and of course, an amazing product or service. You can also use an offer of a free trial to manage online payments and make sure that your payment service provider offers all that you need to run a successful business. 

Read on for all you need to know about offering free trials and why the online payments system that you choose matters. 

Types of Free Trials 

There are a number of different options for you to consider when thinking about the type of product trial you are going to offer. The one you choose will depend on what type of product or service you offer as well as what your goals are in giving out trial products for free or getting people to sign up for a free trial subscription. 

Types of free trials include:

  • Time-limited - this is relevant for a membership or subscription site, and you can offer potential subscribers a trial period of one week or thirty days (or the time frame of your choice) or free access to the full service.
  • Feature-limited - this also applies only to membership or subscription sites and means offering those who sign up for the free trial access to only a limited amount of the features you generally offer for pay. 
  • Product-based - if you sell a product, you can offer free samples, perhaps a smaller version or lesser quantity (depending, of course, on what type of product you sell). You can also offer a trial period at the end of which the customer must either send the product back or pay for it. 

The best way to mitigate the risk of someone taking the freebie and running is to take credit card information from them up front with the stipulation that you will not charge them until after the trial period is over or until they expressly say that they wish to purchase the non-sample size of the product. 

You must have a payment services provider that allows you to collect online payment information without actually putting a charge through until a later date. 

Different Payment Methods for Free Trials

It’s perfectly legitimate and most companies are in the practice of collecting payment information as part of a try before you buy scheme. Customers provide the information with the understanding that they will not be charged until the end of the trial period, at which time they can either cancel or go forward with the purchase. It is a commonly accepted practice to put the burden of action on the customer - if they do not cancel the trial before the designated date or send back the product on time, the merchant is free to charge them as agreed. 

Depending on the different payment methods that you offer, you should be able to allow customers signing up to a free trial to enter the information of the online payment option of their choice. You will just need to ensure that you set up the checkout page in such a way that the card or other payment method will not actually be charged until a later date. If certain payment methods that you offer do not allow for deferred payments, then simply disable that option for the free trials. 

Potential Risks of Free Trials 

There are not many risks when it comes to offering a free trial subscription or a free trial product, but there are two to be aware of: the risk of losing money and the risk of wasting time. 

  • Money loss - while most people who sign up for a free trial probably have good intentions, there is always the risk of those who are just looking for a free ride. You must consider how much money you could potentially lose by offering a free trial and whether the risk is worth it to you for the potential income you could gain. As mentioned above, a simple way to mitigate this risk is to request payment information up front so that you have a way to collect if the customer tries to disappear. 
  • Time loss - a free trial can be a waste of time if the trial period is not long enough for the customer to truly experience the product or service and get the full picture needed to decide whether to move forward or not. It may take a few tries before you determine the optimal time and there’s nothing wrong with asking your customers for their opinion and feedback so that you can get it right and save time for everyone involved. 

Potential Benefits of Try Before You Buy 

There are many more possible benefits to offering a free trial than there are risks. Here are just a few of them:

  • Eliminate fear of commitment - some people are hesitant to try something new, whether it’s a service they really need or a product they are interested in. If they are given the option to try it out without any financial obligation, they may be more open to it. Of course, once they try, you can make sure they wonder how they ever lived without your product or service. 
  • Grow your email list - by signing up for a product trial, customers are required to give you their email address and other information. You can choose how much information they have to be willing to part with in order to participate and then you can use that information for more personalized communication going forward. 
  • Test your products - since no one is paying for your product during the free trial, it’s a great opportunity to try a new feature or introduce a new prototype and see what works before you do a full-on launch. 
  • Upsell opportunities - the people who sign up for a trial are pretty much a captive audience. You can take advantage of the time during the trial to offer them additional discounts or special promotions to encourage them to take the plunge and make the purchase. It’s also a great opportunity to put your best customer service to the test - wow them during the trial period and keep them as loyal paying customers in the long run. 
  • Diversify your audience - you never know who will see a “try before you buy” offer and decide to do it - people are often enticed by the thought of something free, even if they are not part of your typical target audience. You have the opportunity to grow and diversify your customer base without putting in much effort. 
  • Show customers what to expect - returns are often made when products don’t live up to the hype that customers were expecting. A free trial comes with little to no expectations and is the opportunity for the customer to see exactly what they will get and then be able to make the informed decision as to whether or not this is something that they want to pay for. 
  • Be a strong competitor - the ecommerce market is tough and competition is growing, so anything that you can do to differentiate yourself from your competitors is a good move and can help increase your revenue. If they aren’t offering free trials, then by doing so you are putting yourself one step ahead of the others. If they are also offering free trials, see if you can make yours a better deal than theirs - offer access to more features or a longer trial period. 

How Pay.com Can Help you Offer Free Trials 

It doesn’t make good business sense to offer a free trial without first managing online payments and making sure you collect the customer’s payment information so that you can charge them when the time comes. 

Pay.com can help make sure you have all the right infrastructure set up to help you collect the information you need to make it easy for customers to sign up for your free trials and for you to receive the funds quickly and easily. There are three features in particular that will be most useful when offering free trials: the dashboard, easy integrations and free cancellations. 

Dashboard Overview 

Pay.com’s customized dashboard gives you all the information you need to know about your customers, whether part of a free trial or full-fledged payers. You can track who has signed up, where they are located, what payment method they want to use and more. It’s easy to call up reports from the dashboard so that you can see the information that you need at any time. You’ll always know whose trial period is coming to an end so that you can charge them or you can set up automations and have the charges go through automatically.   

Easy Integration

Pay.com can easily be integrated with other platforms that you may use like Shopify, Woocommerce and more. It’s also super easy to integrate all of the different online payment methods with Pay.com, so whatever method you want to offer your customers to use when they sign up for their free trial, you can do it at the click of a button. 

Offer Free Cancellations 

While you hope that most customers will continue on and become paying customers at the end of the trial, there are those who will cancel and it’s important that you make this process easy for them. A good customer experience - even if at this point they are choosing not to become a paying customer - can go a long way in building loyalty. Later on down the road they may decide they actually do need the product you offer and they will remember what a pleasure it was and will return to you. 


FAQs

Why are payment gateways essential for online stores?

Without a payment gateway, an online store cannot receive any money. The payment gateway stands between the customer who is paying with a credit card or other payment method and the merchant’s bank account. The payment gateway facilitates the transaction and makes sure that the merchant gets paid.

Is a free trial a purchase?

A free trial is not a purchase, but it’s common practice for a merchant to collect payment information at the time of the free trial. This information is not used and the credit card is not charged until the trial ends, at which point the customer can either cancel or the payment will go through automatically.

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