I think the title says it all, but let me give a little background to spice things up.

Currently, my company is working on a product. The product is an e-learning application for a very specific group of professionals, that generally have a good to great income.

For this latest product, we're deciding on whether or not to include a free trial. We're considering this because it would obviously lower the barrier of entry, and we feel our product is good enough to convince users to start paying us for it. The trial period would be adjusted to be long and inclusive enough to give the client an idea of it's use, yet leave them wanting more.

Regardless of how we implement this trial though, there's a good chance that having a trial affects how people feel about our product. I recall reading some research papers somewhere about free vs paid accounts, and how users would complain more when they weren't paying, than when they were. (Unfortunately, I couldn't find any sources just now)

Can we assume that the free vs paid account "dilemma" also applies to trial vs no trial?

Does this in any way relate to the pricing psychology?

Would love some actual data on this.

  • 1
    Free trials were once thought to have diminished the value of a product in the same regard as having your price too much lower than that of your comprtitors'. However, in today's society, of it costs too much it will be cloned and offered for free in many cases. I suggest you figure out the fairest price for your product and see how your competition tackles this problem. Do they offer trials, discounts, or subscriptions or coupon codes? Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 5:12
  • Cheers Spike, I'm going to look at the competition for sure.
    – Dirk v B
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 5:22
  • No worries. I had a thought. In your question you quoted a paper that mentioned free users complaining more. Were free users complaining more, or were there simply more users complaining? Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 5:28
  • Perhaps I should've worded that differently; they were complaining more [often]. It's not like I misinterpreted the words or anything.
    – Dirk v B
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 5:48
  • 1
    I don't know why a free trial would diminish the value of something. As a consumer, being able to try-before-you-buy has always seemed to be a huge benefit. Does offering test drives reduce the value of a Toyota?
    – DA01
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 21:18

2 Answers 2


A free trial can add considerable value to your product.

Free is never gratis. What you get in return for free is valuable attention from the people you care about. Though you have to make sure that the limitations are clear and that there's more value to be had when they pay. Also bear in mind that even a free product must have some value. After all, people do pay for it with their attention.

I operate several free services that actually bring in quite a bit of revenue. One service is supported by ads. Another simply draws attention to our main products. If you do it the smart way, free can be a great way to earn money.

I recommend the books of Chris Anderson and Seth Godin to learn more about the subject.


"pricing psychology" is sure to be involved since money is quite rooted on our minds, although it may not be relevant on your situation; we can't tell for sure because we don't know your company, product, users, appearance of the product time of trial and pricing, so we leave that aside for now.

In the technical world, there have been lots of examples of free and trial products, some of them with good records and some without.

People complain about free things more than paid ones, yes and no, it depends on the people, and since we don't know your users, we can't say that they will. What we can say, based on your words is that they can pay what you are going to ask for the product, but still we can ask, are they going to complain about the price? Sure, some of them. Are they going to consider a "cheap" (poor) product because is too cheap? Sure, some. Are they going to complain because we don't deliver as much as they expect for such a huge price (whichever the price is)? Sure, some will.

So, don't worry about people complaining, there will always be people and reasons to complain about.

About the specific question, no, it's not going to be bad for the image of the product and your company to offer a trial of the product. But you have to give a fair amount of time and options to test, otherwise, that is going to be bad for you. No main action should be limited.

Also, the limitations and the future features have to be clear from the beginning.

I don't have any data to reference, except my experience with clients and friends, but leaving friends aside, clients usually find good to have a trial, they even try to find ways to stay on the trial period longer, not because they can't pay the service, but because the service is good enough and they have a feeling of "defeating the system".

The main example I can provide, involves Basecamp, we have recommended this service to small companies (clients) and so far, no one has been dissatisfied with the fact that the trial was going to end. Some had problems using the tool, some wanted to do things they couldn't until the paid version, some didn't want any more than what was offered

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