Ever rising levels of competition for consumers’ money means businesses must not only work hard to win their custom, but also increasingly be willing to offer users a taste of the product or service before they’ve handed over a penny.
Some services, such as Spotify, offer a permanently free tier in the hope that customers will decide later on to upgrade to a paid package in return for more content or features.
The downside for such providers is that a lot of customers may be happy enough with what’s available for free and never upgrade and, while some services lend themselves to advertising, at best this only minimises the lost revenue, rather than fully replace it.
This is why services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, offer a free trial during which customers get to experience the full service for a limited time, but only in return for completing a full registration and providing their payment details.
The onus is then on the user to decide they no longer want the service after the trial and cancel it.
Other popular forms of trials include turn-limited free editions of computer games, a recent example of which is Civilization VI which, just before Christmas, was re-released for Apple’s iPad.
Previously a PC and Mac game, Civ VI is the latest in a long-running series originally developed by Sid Meier and the first ‘full’ entry in the franchise to come to a mobile platform.
The game’s getting some fair reviews but its £60 price tag is a lot more than many iPad users will be used to so, to help win sales, developers Aspyr are offering it at half price for a “limited” period and are allowing fans to play the first 60 turns for free.
While this free-play option is very limited – you can’t save your game progress and you can’t pick which nation you want to play as – it’s a very effective way of showcasing the game’s incredible graphics and slick gameplay.
Various print magazines offer introductory subscriptions either for free or very close to free – 10 editions of the Radio Times for one pound! – while the UK’s National Lottery offers free versions of their online ‘instant win’ games, allowing players to familiarise them with each game before spending any money, and most casinos and even some online bookmakers have a range of free play offers available.
But does giving a free taster of a service really work or do users just bank the freebie and move on?
Well, according to some studies, as many as three-quarters of those signing up for a free trial stay on as a paying customer which mean this apparent largesse is actually an incredibly effective and low-cost way of bringing in new customers.