Convert More Free Trials Into Paying Customers With These Novel Strategies

Conversion rates for free-to-paid trials range from 5% to 50%, depending on whether you require a credit card and a host of other factors. Here's how to improve those stats.

Scott Hurff

Scott Hurff

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Or: free-to-paid trial conversion benchmarks and how to improve yours.

There are two broad types of free trials.

Free trials with full feature access 

  • Trials that require a credit card up front are called “opt-out” free trials

    • These types of trials burn down product access over a period of days and can range from one week to multiple months 
    • Opt-out trials can be more meaningful in the sense that they require your product to prove itself before payment kicks in
  • Trials not requiring a credit card up front are “opt-in” free trials 

    • When the trial period ends, you ask the customer to input a payment method to continue access 
    • This method can be effective for creating lower stakes when the trial period ends, but conversion rates can suffer

Free trials with limited feature access

  • Limited free trials provide access to a subset of product features 
  • Limited-access free trials typically do not require a credit card up front because there’s already limited value being offered 

In this piece, we’re focusing primarily on free trials with full feature access. 

What’s a “good” free-to-paid trial conversion rate for SaaS products?

The TL;DR is that “good” free trial SaaS conversion rates range from 10%-50%. 

Conversion rates for opt-out free trials

  • “Good” free trial conversion rates opt-out free trials (credit card required up front) for SaaS range from 15% to 50%
  • An average opt-out free trial conversion sits at 25%
  • Since statistics here vary widely, so I’ll do my best to offer meaningful ranges

Softletter SaaS report found that for 2/3 of SaaS companies, free trials requiring a credit tend to convert at an average of 25%. But an older survey by Totango reported free-to-paid trial conversion rates closer to 50%.

GoToMyPC is one of those companies claiming opt-out free trial conversion rates around 50%, at one point reporting a 40-45% free trial conversion while requiring a credit card.

The takeaway: whether you’re closer to 25% or 50% free-to-paid opt-out trial conversion, your free trial conversion rate can always be higher. 

Conversion rates for opt-in free trials

“Good” free trial conversion rates for opt-in free trials (without credit card) range from 2% to 25%. Examples include:

Variables at play that affect free-to-paid trial conversion rates 

Beyond requiring a credit card, factors affecting your free trial conversion rate include:

  • Trial duration 
  • Sales cycle and product complexity
  • Industry
  • Price point

Free trial duration

Free trial durations must strike a balance between allowing customers to explore your product enough to realize its value, versus leveraging time pressure to encourage adoption. 

For lower-priced products or those with a shorter sales cycle, free trials tend to be shorter. 

For products with more complexity, multiple champions and owners, and potentially higher price points, longer trials are the norm.

At Churnkey, we’ve seen data that suggests B2B trial-to-paid conversion rates improve as trial duration increases from one week to one month, but then starts to taper off. So the sweet spot for B2B free trial length appears to be around three weeks to one month—just enough time for customers to realize your product’s value and get comfortable using it.

Strategy Tip: Extend Free Trials Automatically 

Finding that sweet spot trial duration, though, can be frustrating, and lead to trial cancellations before you’re able to convert a customer to paid. Offering to extend trials during the cancellation experience—while collecting product feedback—can be a very effective strategy for:

  1. Retaining more trialing customers
  2. Converting more trialing customers in the long run
  3. Discovering a more effective trial duration

Luckily, Churnkey can do this for you automatically. Learn more about Churnkey’s trial extension offers. 

Sales cycle and product complexity 

Factors here include:

  • How many individuals must be involved in your sales process? 

  • How long does your product take to set up? 

    • Does it require scheduling engineering time? 
    • Does it require integration work? 
  • How long does your product take to show positive results? 

This is typically a reflection of whether your product is B2C, B2B, or a prosumer product. 

In general, the more people involved in the buying decision and the more complex your product is to implement, the longer free trials must be.

Industry

The industry within which you operate will typically have norms that dictate how your trial period looks and converts. 

Video streaming services, for example, used to offer longer free trials (30 days) to allow users to fully experience their content libraries before deciding to subscribe. The obvious hope is that consumers will get hooked on a show and convert to a paid subscription without noticing. 

When Netflix offered a 30-day free trial, users convert to paid at the rate of about 33%. Since they’ve eliminated it, streaming free trials seem to have settled down into the seven-day mark. Paramount+, AMC+, BBC Select, Hulu, and a whole host of others all now offer only seven-day free trials. 

Price Point

How much your product costs will determine whether your customers can afford to pay for it, and how likely they are to actually use your product during a free trial.

If your product costs $100/month, consumers may be less likely to fully commit to a free trial, because the investment is higher. On the other hand, if your product costs $5/month, customers may suspect that it can’t possibly be worth that little, and may not bother trying it at all.

In general, the lower the price, the shorter your free trial should be.

How to convert more trialing users to paying customers

Offer personalized “concierge” onboarding to preemptively solve your customers’ problems

After the sale, don’t just disappear. This is the first stage of your customer’s journey. They want to see the benefits you promised them, and quickly. 

Don’t micromanage your customers, but have a coherent, clear, and actionable onboarding plan for them to follow. 

Then, be accessible. Orient your team to be available for implementation support for your customers’ engineering team, or offer “best practices” guidance and have settings or content already loaded into your product. 

Superhuman, for example, famously onboards everyone into their email app via a personalized video call. As you screenshare your current inbox’s setup (forwarding rules, folders, split inboxes), they recreate your inbox within Superhuman and show you how to work even faster within the product. 

Demonstrate value immediately: get the most important things set up first

Lead a horse to water, or, in this case, show your customer how to extract value from your product as soon as possible. That means making assumptions on your customers’ behalf to get them as far down the conversion funnel as you can get them without requiring any additional work. 

Wistia, for example, pre-configures your account settings based upon your stated “main goal.” If a prospect selects “Controlling access to my videos,” Wistia knows you’re building a membership site with restricted access, pointing you to the right settings and tuning everything behind the scenes accordingly. 

Reinforce a sense of urgency via multiple touchpoints 

With a clear end date in sight, you have a clear burn-down period in which your product has to prove itself. Likewise, remind your customers of the opportunity they have to extract value from your product for free. 

Via email, chat, in-app banners, and text messaging, your team should have a strategy to reinforce this. It’s a delicate balance. 

Be prepared to offer coupons at the end of the trial (or at preemptive trial cancellation)

Sometimes your pricing isn’t at equilibrium for certain customers. The timing might be right, the value might be just short of what they need, or there could be other mitigating factors. 

You’ve already hooked them. You’ve already acquired them. You’ve already spent resources demonstrating value. Perhaps a nudge on pricing—where it’s profitable for you and appealing to your trailing user—could get them to convert. 

With Churnkey, this is easily done within our personalized cancel flows. Churnkey will automatically:

  • Detect if a customer is on trial

  • Figure out their reason for cancelling the trial 

  • Offer them an incentive to stay, whether it’s:

    • Extending the trial period
    • Converting to paid at a lower price point 

The end: improving your trial conversion rate

Converting trialing users is the key to success for any subscription-based business. Your entire marketing, sales, and customer success strategies should focus on turning your free trialing users into paying customers, and then keeping them as such.

Improve your trial-to-paid conversion rate with the tactics above. 

And if you want a code-free solution to increase trial-to-paid conversion rates—while understanding your customers better and identifying areas for improvement—get started with Churnkey now.

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