The UX of Free Trials

What Do Users Expect From Free Trial UX?

SAAS companies are leveraging free trials as a way to capture attention and hook a customer base. Free trials, however, are about more than just improving your conversion rate. How do you ensure your free trial improves your conversion rate, but also pays close attention to the quality of your customer experience? Our research shows that there are three key elements users want from a free trial experience:

Consultation: Seamless consultative user experience through the customer journey

Many organizations have specialized internal teams that handle the different stages of the new customer conversion funnel. While organizations have found that this setup may improve conversion rate, our research suggests that users see a particular challenge when organizations hand off communication from one department to another. One team handles outbound marketing, one team handles user experience and user interface, and a third team handles sales lead followup.

However, your customer doesn’t differentiate their experience with your product at different areas of the funnel, and certainly not when encountering the free trial vs. paid subscription for the product.

While it’s tempting to look at your free trial through the lens of your business silos, our job as UX professionals and mature UX organizations is to identify ways to create a journey that feels seamless to customers. It takes significant internal coordination to maintain a consistent tone throughout the journey and across various platforms and communication vehicles.

One way to maintain consistency is to take a more consultative selling approach throughout the customer journey. If potential customers are most interested in solving a pain they have, consultative content that addresses that pain will feel more cohesive, regardless of which internal group is delivering it, or where it’s being delivered. The proper consultative content strategy also sets the correct tone for the second expectation free trial users have: support.

Support: UX Support Delivered in the Correct Way:

Remember, a cohesive user experience is more than just about creating support materials once a free trial user is onboarded. Great customer support begins as a customer enters the consideration phase for your product, and continues throughout the free trial period and into product purchase.

Today’s sophisticated buyers have access to virtually unlimited product reviews, online demos from third parties, videos, and other “help and support” content from the darkest corners of the internet. Monitoring user product reviews, cultivating professional reviews, and creating high-quality help content that addresses specific user needs are all key ways to make sure you are controlling the message about how your product works, while educating users on ways to solve their problems.

While addressing support outside your main channels is important, your free trial help materials are not a place for repurposed marketing content. It’s important that the user experiences (both virtually and in-person) give your customers confidence that you’ll provide great support when they’re a paying customer.

In our research, we find that the most successful organizations invest in high quality help/support resources and don’t simply repurpose marketing content. They produce videos, guides, and tools that are easily searchable, well-organized, and delivered at the right place and the right time within the UX/UI.

Further up the experience success ladder, at the comfortable and delightful rungs, great organizations provide “assisted moments.” These moments are small, focused messages that are exactly the answer to the questions users have in any particular moment based on who they are and what they are trying to do in their journey.

Your customers took the effort to sign up for your trial to learn how your product works and to determine if it meets their core needs.

Customers didn’t sign up to watch (possibly for a second or third time) your marketing video that you’ve posted on YouTube and across social media to get them into the sales funnel.

Customers want to feel confident that your product will shepherd them from their problems to solutions while feeling comfortable with the interface as they are doing so. Speaking of comfort/confidence, that is the third expectation of free trial customers.

Comfort/Confidence: Comfort in your UX, and confidence that your product drives the appropriate value

The free trial is an audition for your product, and customers want to know that you’re putting your best foot forward during the trial period. For a SAAS product, that starts with easy sign-up and onboarding via an intuitive interface, and continues with UX that prioritizes the correct aspects of your product, paired with the way users want to experience your product.

A potential customer’s level of comfort begins with the first interaction of the product: sign up. Our research shows that a short sign-up process and immediate login to the free trial with fast performance load time is critical. Signup is the user’s first impression of your product, and performance and intuitiveness matters. Clunky signup processes for SAAS products drives users to assume that those products are also clunky.

Customers want an intuitive interface that makes them feel they can quickly understand and use the product now and after purchase. Prioritizing the most important features of your product, and understanding how customers react to those features, is critical for a successful free trial. The free trial typically doesn’t have access to all features that a paid subscription may have, so it’s important to identify what critical aspects are most important to nudge a potential customer through to a paid service.

The best and the worst aspects of a product become more glaringly obvious when you condense your product or service into smaller parts the way a free trial can. We recommend ongoing measurement of UX success, along with prototyping to ensure you’re making the right decisions on what to include in and exclude from the free trial experience. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Unlocking long-term customer value is the result of a delightful and meaningful experience—throughout all touchpoints with your brand. The best free trial operators take a consultative approach to acquisition, invest in their support materials, and exhibit confidence via intuitive user interfaces that include the most critical aspects of your product. If you can do these three things effectively, you’re more likely to improve your conversion rate and turn those free trials into paid subscriptions.

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