Getting people to subscribe to your free trial is only half of the battle.
The more important task is to get them to upgrade because this is where your revenue comes from.
What is a good free-trial conversion rate?
In 2016, Totango surveyed over 300 SaaS professionals and concluded that, on average, only 20% of free trial users upgrade to a paid plan.
Think about this for a moment: 80% of free trial users never pay.
But that is actually the best-case scenario. In truth, free-trial conversion rates can vary from 1$ to 25%:
How is your free trial structured?
Your free trial conversion rate depends on how you structure your free trial. There can be two ways to approach it:
Opt-in: Users sign up for free, no strings attached, no payment details provided. When the free trial expires, they are asked to pay to continue using the platform.
Opt-out: Users sign up for a trial and provide credit card details (or agree to sign a PayPal agreement) to be charged when the trial expires. There are two types of opt-out trials:
Free until it expired: Users are charged nothing until the trial expires
“The first month is almost free”: Users are charged a nominal fee ($1) for the first month.
Consequently, the free trial conversions increase from the top:
Opt-in trial: The lowest conversion rates (15-20% at best)
Opt-out “Free until it expired”: This is when you pay nothing the first month, but you add your payment details to register. You are charged automatically once the trial period is over. The conversion rate is significantly higher since you charge your users automatically, but it also comes with an increased risk of refund requests and chargebacks.
Opt-out “First month is almost free”: The nominal payment “verifies” the readiness of your trial users to paying, so the conversion rate remains high while the risk of higher refunds/chargebacks is lower. Yet, not many people will want to sign up for this type of free trial, so you risk losing the vast majority of leads.
For the sake of consistency, I’ll focus on increasing conversions of the opt-in trials, as:
When you have your customers’ payment info, the switch from the trial package happens automatically. There’s not much to optimize for.
The opt-out trial structure has many other problems to solve – beyond conversion optimization – like managing the customers’ expectations and avoiding chargebacks.
Six ways to convert more free trial users
If you provide a free trial period that requires no credit card to sign up, here are a few ideas helping you to increase conversions.
1. Shorten the trial period.
More often than not, the majority of SaaS companies offer a 30-day trial period.
Well, this may be too much.
In fact, most free trial users make up their minds within 3 days, so by offering them a free trial for too long, you simply make them think twice.
Shortening your free trial means accelerating your sales, in many cases.
It is recommended to keep your trial no longer than 14 days.
At the very least, this is something to test.
2. Send trial ending notices.
Boost your free trial conversions by sending “trial ending” emails.
Using PayKickstart, you can automate this step by using the “trial ending” sequence. The email is triggered one day before the user’s subscription trial ends.
It will notify the user the trial is expiring and include a direct link to add their billing information to process the payment.
Many of the WordPress-based membership site solutions come with this option. Just don’t forget to set it up.
3. Create an exhaustive knowledge base.
The last thing you want to do is to have your trial users wonder how to find a certain feature or how to use it. The moment they leave your site to research, they may be lost forever, as this is when they are likely to come across your competitor.
Keeping your site clear and clean is one of the most important steps in boosting your conversions.
Collect your users’ questions and answer them diligently on your site. Keep your on-site knowledge base ever-growing. Here’s how to create a searchable knowledge base on your site to have all your users’ questions answered.
For SaaS platforms, it is also a good idea to answer all the questions in the video format for the users to have an easy walk-through. Renderforest is a helpful video creation platform that will help you put words into videos. They have lots of templates and tools to allow you to create whiteboard videos, slideshow videos, and more.
4. Run (seasonal) special offers.
Creating special offers is always an effective way to boost conversions, and free trial conversions is no exception.
With PayKickstart, you can create coupons to offer your free trial users a discounted price for the first month.
To create a sense of scarcity, you can also set the end date for your discount to work and market it as a limited-time offer.
5. Mind your CTA placement.
There’s a fine balance between reminding your free trial users of the need to upgrade and getting annoying to the point when your free trial is not even usable.
I have personally quit on many SaaS free trials because they got me to close off the popup demanding me to upgrade on each and every step.
I get it: You want me to upgrade but give me at least some time to browse around and make an informed decision.
There’s no single answer to how to position your CTAs so that they remain effective without being utterly annoying, so you will need to experiment.
It is a good idea to use tools that analyze user journeys, for example:
Both methods will help you better understand how your free trial users are interacting with your site.
Monitoring your conversions and user paths through the site will help you set up your “Upgrade” page in the most efficient way. Try using Finteza for your sales funnel monitoring — it is incredibly easy to set up and use. It doesn’t slow your site while allowing you to analyze your sales funnel data.
6. Simplify your upgrade options and/or options.
Making your users think twice is never a good marketing strategy. Your free trial period is designed for them to know what they want.
If you see too few people upgrade, the answer may be that you’ve made it too complicated.
It may be about making your upgrade options fewer. Or it may be about clearly explaining the difference.
In fact, simplifying their pricing and adding a comparison chart to their “Upgrade” page increased Groove’s conversions by 16% (and revenue by 25%).
“Never complicate what you can simplify. Especially if your competitors are simplifying. Making your customers work to understand your pricing is never the right approach”.
Another idea is to use a gated approach: segment your free trial users before they sign up for the free trial by having them choose the options.
Once they sign up, you will already know their needs and budget and will be able to sell them a plan they are more likely to need and be able to afford.
I hope these ideas will help you to get more of your free trial users to upgrade. Good luck!
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