Improve Trial Conversion Rate: Getting your Prospects to Become Devoted Users

September 29, 2010

Product and Development Tips: Optimize your product trial process

Today, it is almost the norm for any potential user to try out a ‘trial’ version of any given software before buying it. It is particularly true in the web-based SaaS application sector, where software can be readily delivered online via a web browser, and a trial instance can be given away to almost any prospect.

This is exhilarating for marketers and management teams, who have always complained about the difficulty of translating the product experience into marketing collateral. Now, to support their marketing content, they can offer up the actual product at little cost. There is already a lot of research and analysis on improving the conversion from visitor to trial sign-ups. However, much of the development in managing self-service user trials have been in the provisioning and controlling of the trial process itself, while not taking into account of the trial “experience” and how it might affect the conversion rate from trial users to paying users.

The typical user experience in a trial is mostly identical to the experience of a user (a payer customer). However, I would argue that this should not be so. The usability and user experience principles in designing a product can be used as reference for the trial user experience, but the trial has to go further and serve a very particular set of goals, for a particular set of “users”.

  • Firstly, the trial needs to provide an easy-to-use, back-to-basics experience with the product.
  • Secondly, the trial needs to be practically purposed, so that the user can see immediate value in using the product.
  • Thirdly, the trial experience needs to expose the key “interaction” modes between the user and the product, so that the user, having completed the trial, is comfortable with the interaction metaphor, the user interface, and have a satisfactory user experience.

The reason for these particular goals is that the right types of “users” who would like to trial the product, are likely looking for answers to the following:

  • How does the product work (first goal)?
  • Does the product do what it promises? (second goal)?
  • Is the product usable (third goal)?

(here we are discounting trial prospects who are just checking out a software with no concrete goal or purpose. These will not turn into a potential opportunity in any near time frame anyway)

From a recent user experience research conducted with a portfolio company, we found that there is a number of quick fixes in the product management process that can enhance the trialing experience, and address the three goals above quite effectively. They are:

  • Immediate Provisioning to sustain user’s interests and seamlessly transition them from the “interested web visitor” stage to “active trial user” stage.
  • Using Template Data to allow user to see how the product works immediately
  • Prominently featuring set up wizards to ease the setting up process
  • Following up and checking in with emails and personal touches to help users
  • Making the Trial End Date very clear so that there is a true sense of urgency in using and experiencing the product

These are the lessons we culled from the best software vendors in the world, such as, Atlassian and the likes. These ideas are practical enough to help software vendors enhance their product trial process and win many more customers through their trial program, thus creating a unique competitive advantage that ultimately contributes to growth, profitability and competitive positioning.

Chief Business Officer at UserTesting

Tien Anh joined UserTesting in 2015 after extensive financial and strategic experiences at OpenView, where he was an investor and advisor to a global portfolio of fast-growing enterprise SaaS companies. Until 2021, he led the Finance, IT, and Business Intelligence team as CFO of UserTesting. He currently leads initiatives for long term growth investments as Chief Business Officer at UserTesting.