How to Convert and Engage Subscription Trials

Content companies have long struggled with the question of how to best convert users into paying subscribers. Free content, free trials, and freemium subscriptions are all tactics that are used to attract new users, as it always easier to give away content than to get users to reach into their wallets and present those precious credit card numbers.

Many times users will sign up for a free trial because they are chasing a piece of content. A friend shared a link or they discover a clip on social media that piqued their interest and has brought them to that decision point, “Do I want to see this content enough to make a commitment to a free trial?”

The interesting data point for content companies is, when they have reached that decision point, you are already well into the process. They have found you (or your content), entered your sales funnel, displayed an interest, and reached the final gate. Your job is to give them that final nudge to fully commit to your service. The most effective way is to push them into a trial that will both satisfy the immediate need of accessing the content they are chasing while providing a commitment to the service and a reason to come back and view more of the free trial.

Free trials have been around just as long as content subscriptions. Tactics for converting users into trialists and then to paying subscribers are tried and true.

  • What type of trial are you offering?
  • A standard free trial where the content is free for a short period of time, once the customer has signed up and entered payment information?
  • A “frictionless” trial that allows the user access to content but will require them to come back and enter payment information later?

Your ability to use your data to impact conversion will be the difference in having a significantly higher conversion rate.

A lot has been written about the psychology of converting users from free to paying and about the best methods for getting users through the decision process and we will discuss them here. Your best weapon, regardless of the type of trial you are using, using data to guide their decision. Your ability to use your data to impact conversion will be the difference in having a significantly higher conversion rate.

Get Them to Commit

Because there is such a huge psychological factor in getting customers to commit to a paid content subscription, one key principle is limiting the number of times a customer has to make a decision and reduce the number of times they have to change their mind. To that end, frictionless trials traditionally have a lower conversion percentage than a standard free trial. They essentially give the customers bites of the apple, meaning there is a minimal commitment up front such as an email address and maybe a password, and later they will need to decide to give up payment information. The problem is they have already scratched the initial itch with little skin in the game and have to decide, with less urgency to make a bigger commitment.

As has been previously discussed in this blog, shorter trial periods are generally more effective in converting users but the best tool for acquiring new customers is a great product and deep content offering. Creating value for your customers will always be the most successful approach regardless of the tactics taken to achieve your conversion goals. That being said, we will discuss how to use data to inform your acquisition strategy and drive higher conversion

Create a Sense of Urgency

creating a sense of urgency with your trialists can be very effective in converting them to paid subscriptions.

We have touched on this a little but creating a sense of urgency with your trialists can be very effective in converting them to paid subscriptions. Forbes published an article about converting trialists focused on finding and converting the right trialists. This can be done with different methods: access to exclusive content, a temporary price reduction (first three months at a reduced price), additional features, etc. It is important to demonstrate there is value in signing up now rather than delaying that decision. People are motivated by different triggers so you should test and employ different offers or campaigns and use that data to inform your long-term strategy. Test different channels and study how each one performs in terms of bringing in new trialists and converting them to paid subscribers, which brings in the customers with the highest LTV.

How to Understand Trialist Behavior

Once a customer has committed to a trial it is very important to understand their behavior while in that trial period to give you a view of how likely they are to convert. The Wicket Scorecard gives you the tools necessary to not only monitor this behavior but the tools to take action and pull them into the service long term.

Most companies have an onboarding strategy. Emails or messaging to users while they are in a trial to introduce them to the content and features of the service. A typical example could be:

  • On sign up, there is the welcome mail which promotes the service and promotes popular content
  • Day three will promote additional content or a specific feature
  • Day six has a different message, etc.

This is a highly effective and well-documented approach and works well on a general level.

To yield even higher results, you can look at the data of those customers, break them into different cohorts, and send even more targeted messages that will resonate with each specific customer. As discussed above, it is very important to understand what brought a customer into your service. What was the content they were after? With the Wicket Scorecard, you can view the Trial Drivers (fig. 1) and the level of engagement with that content.

chart of trial drivers 
Fig. 1 – Top Trial Drivers in a video service are the first videos people watch when they sign up for a subscription trial.

This chart gives you a view of what content drove the trial, how effective it was at converting those users, and the overall level of engagement with that content:

  • Did they come in and binge a particular show?
  • Did they engage more steadily over a longer period of time?

This is important to understand to avoid a trialist binging a show and leaving before they have a chance to explore the catalog further. With the subscriber export functionality, this gives you the opportunity to message and onboard these customers differently.

Another feature allows you to identify those trialists that are not engaging with the service or whose interest may be waning. This, of course, can be used to help retain existing customers as well but is just as effective in acquiring paid users.

charts of lost customer key metrics 
Fig. 2 – Lost Customer key metrics, showing stalled users on the far right.

One of the Wicket Scorecard key metrics (fig. 2) gives you a view of the amount of stalled trialists. This is a powerful weapon in increasing conversion. Not only are you able to track the content people are watching while in trial and direct them to additional content within a similar genre or promote new content, but you can target differently the users that came in and either binged a show then stopped watching, maybe started watching, then got distracted, and change your approach to re-engage them within the trial, thus driving home the value proposition of your service as a destination for great content. From a recent article on Medium on optimizing conversion rates, “Your value proposition is what defines your product and makes it stand out.”

“Your value proposition is what defines your product and makes it stand out.”

With the Wicket Scorecard, you now have the ability to segment trial users into different cohorts and get very specific in how you message each user. This allows you to reduce the friction in your acquisition lifecycle and increase the relevance of your marketing campaigns, enabling you to attract more users that are likely to convert, engage, and stay with your service long term.

Keeping trial users engaged is just another of the ways to leverage Subscriber Export in the Wicket Scorecard. Consider signing up for our newsletter to ensure you do not miss a post as we explore use cases for engagement with your video service and enticing former subscribers to reconnect in the coming weeks.


Photo by Tony Reid on Unsplash


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