Techniques to Implement as a Subscription-Based eCommerce Business

As a subscription-based eCommerce business, you may be contemplating the idea of providing free trials to entice new customers and persuade them to test your products or services. While free trials can serve as an efficient marketing strategy, it is…

ecommerce free trial strategies

As a subscription-based eCommerce business, you may be contemplating the idea of providing free trials to entice new customers and persuade them to test your products or services. While free trials can serve as an efficient marketing strategy, it is vital to assess the advantages and disadvantages to determine if they are suitable for your business. Offering free trials can effectively attract new customers and promote brand awareness.

Pros and Cons of Offering Free Trial

To determine if free trials are right for your business, consider your target audience and the nature of your product or service. If your target audience is hesitant to commit to a paid subscription without first trying the product or service, then offering a free trial may be an effective strategy. Additionally, if your product or service is complex or requires a significant investment, a free trial may help customers better understand its value.

While free trials can be a great marketing strategy, there are also potential drawbacks to consider.

Pros Cons
Can attract more customers Can attract non-serious or non-paying customers
Allows potential customers to test out the product/service Can devalue the product/service
Helps build trust and credibility with potential customers Can be costly and time-consuming to implement
Can increase conversions and sales Can lead to increased customer support demands
Can collect valuable feedback for improving the product/service offering Can create negative customer experiences if trial isn’t managed well

Unlike the Freemium model where users gain access to a free version of a product without time limitations, eCommerce subscription businesses typically benefit more from free trial offerings. However, it is important to be on top of all the information you can gather while offering a free trial to thoroughly understand how you can improve the offer or even the products you have.

Initial Steps for Implementing Free Trials

If you decide to offer free trials, there are several best practices to follow:

  • Evaluate the timeframe to implement or specific valuable free offerings:  The length of your free trial should be long enough for customers to fully experience your product or service but not so long that they forget to cancel or lose interest.  Typically, free trials are for 7 or 14 days. On the other hand, you may also consider providing samples of your products while only charging the shipping cost to your customer with the goal of having them convert to a paid subscription later on.
  • Identify metrics that are important: The metrics you will use to evaluate the success of your free trial strategy will also be dependent on your long-term growth strategy.
  • Gauge the amount of upfront friction: This friction may be in the form of collecting upfront payments or limiting access to premium features in tiered pricing. Depending on the business, you might not see a high level of top-of-the-funnel growth but a higher free-to-paid conversion rate.
  • Utilize user response to your free trial efforts: Free trials may not always drive conversion. You need to listen to what your free trial users are saying when they don’t convert to a paid subscriber or immediately cancel their free trial subscription.

Techniques you can Implement to Improve Free Trial Conversion

Once you have decided to offer a free trial as part of your eCommerce subscription business, below are techniques you can apply to help it become successful.

  • Make it easy for the user. The user experience should be intuitive and provides value to your users so you can build a relationship with your target market. A good intention is to help them build a habit of using your product or keeping you at the top of their mind when it comes to addressing their needs. Having an easy onboarding system to help them understand the benefits of subscribing is key to improving free trial conversion.
  • Personalize outreach during the free trial. Leverage usage data and website behavior to determine any friction points you can address.
    For example, determining when you should send a follow-up email for resources they might appreciate, or even sending out a survey to understand their needs better.
  • Nudge the opt-in and incentivize upgrades. Give users a reason to opt-in to the paid plan. You can incentivize them by giving discounts or throwing in freebies when they subscribe before their free trial expires.
  • Get insights directly from your users. If a customer has canceled their subscription, you may use the chance to determine why they decided to do so through surveys right before they hit that “cancel subscription” button. Depending on what they answer, such as if it is because of the costs, you may consider offering even better rates to prevent them from churning.

Analyzing the Success of your Free Trial

To determine the success of your free trial strategy, analyze how these free users are using your product or service. This can be done through surveys or looking at their behavior as they interact with your website. You can also look at the following data:

  • Conversion rates and churn rates – Compare the rates of those who convert to a paid subscription after the free trial period ends to see if the strategy is working.
  • Lifetime value – Analyze the value of customers who convert to a paid subscription after a free trial compared to customers who did not participate in the free trial over reasonable time periods.

Offering free trials can be an effective marketing strategy for subscription-based eCommerce businesses, but it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and determine if it’s right for your business. If you decide to offer free trials, follow the best practices and techniques outlined in this article and analyze the success of your strategy.


As a full-service web design agency Cultura Interactive specializes in eCommerce subscription; we understand the importance of Conversion Rate Optimization to get your clients to subscribe. We leverage data to optimize your online storefront so you can increase your conversion rates and drive growth for your business.

Shopify and WooCommerce have recently vetted our organization as a company that upholds their high standards for their clients. Let us take yours to the next level by contacting us today for a free consultation.


Get in touch today

Get a FREE CONSULTATION to talk about how to increase your sales

More like this