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In terms of UX what do you guys think is the best approach when integrating a trial period for subscriptions?

My application offers a 15 day trial, at the minute the user can sign up without providing any payment information (Paypal Subscription). The account is then set to trial status and after 15 days the user will be redirected to an upgrade page.

Do you think this is the best approach? I am unsure whether or not to let Paypal manage the trial, this however means that the user will need to go through the Paypal payment system during signup. I think this may put some people off signing up.

On the other hand this approach may increase the number of conversions to a full account.

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From a UX point of view, PayPal is terrible. Consider using something else, like Stripe, which allows you to customise the entire payment flow so that people never have to leave your site. –  Rahul Jan 31 '12 at 11:45
    
Stripe only accepts US accounts, my application will be running from the UK so I will some sort of UK equivalent. –  IconicDigital Jan 31 '12 at 12:59
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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I use what I call the "37signals approach", which basically means I copied what they do. But only because it makes so much sense and is really user friendly:

  • You can sign up for any plan and the paid plans require your credit card info
  • Each plan comes with a 30 day trial that you can cancel at any time
  • With unpaid plans, a week before the trial expires, you start emailing the customer to remind them that their trial is going to expire
  • With unpaid plans, the day the trial expires, you enter the account into a "trial expired" mode which disables certain features (such as adding new information or saving) but allows them to export anything
  • Paid plans just automatically start billing you after the trial period expires
  • Feature a prominent "upgrade now" button in a place that makes sense
  • Continue reminding them over email for another week or two
  • Once a trial expires on an account, you don't get another trial by, say, upgrading to a premium plan

Takeaways from this approach:

  • Transparency. Being clear up front about the terms sets expectations so you aren't faced with any surprises further down the line.
  • Accept payment info up front. You're making an agreement with the customer that they will have a month's time to decide whether to pursue your subscription further, but they do have to give you their payment details. This is a fair deal; it establishes that you're serious about providing this service and that they're serious about following up in the case that they decide to continue.
  • Cancel at any time. Make it extremely clear inside the product that canceling is permitted at any point and with no questions asked. Customers will appreciate the freedom to choose without having their hands tied, and find it a refreshing attitude when compared with 90% of the services they interact with on a daily basis, such as newspaper or cable subscriptions.
  • Clear, non-spammy communication. When you send them reminder emails, just make it a reminder email, not a sales/marketing email. Your goal here is to convert them into paying customers, and you do that by impressing them with your sincerity and trustworthiness, not by trying to sell them something else.

Above all, remaing friendly and trustworthy. The trial is a period of uncertainty during which you have every opportunity to convince them to buy into your product offering, so make it count!

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Big thanks for the response –  IconicDigital Jan 31 '12 at 12:26
    
Just a thought, so do 37signals make you submit payment information during signup when subscribing to a paying account? I guess you need to make it clear to the user that they are free to cancel at any point during the trial period. –  IconicDigital Jan 31 '12 at 12:51
    
Yeah, take a look at the link I posted in my answer; it's the Basecamp premium signup form that includes credit card details. There's a lot to learn from the design of that form. –  Rahul Jan 31 '12 at 12:58
    
thanks I will take a look at the form –  IconicDigital Jan 31 '12 at 13:34
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