The “Free Trial” Industry. Is it Dead?
The End? Or Just the Beginning!
In order to really answer this question you have to look at the whole industry in itself. Free Trials have been around for over 20 years and have not only been a great way for a customer to try a product or service before committing to it, its a great way for companies to get customers in the door to try their product and let the customer decide if they would like to continue to buy or receive the service at the retail price until they cancel or the terms are up.
Free Trials have been used by some of the biggest names in the industry ranging from Netflix, Body Flex, Block Buster, Mcafee, Virus Protection, and Symantec , and yes even Viagra! Now this is only a short list of the big box stores that have used trials or “Free” Trials as a way to get customers to try their products.
Over the past years we all have seen the word “free” in one form or another being used in online marketing. Companies selling Vitamins and Supplements, Beauty Brands, Software, Hosting Applications and everything else, and it still continues to dominate the newer customer acquisition methods for big box stores for online sales.
However in the past years we also have seen companies take advantage of this term “Free” and the devastation it has caused to merchants, banks, processors and yes the consumers when you have a company not following some basic steps and rules.
In light of these that have taken advantage of selling the “Free” Trial methods, have left an aftermath that brought the attention and aggression of the FTC, VISA And MasterCard to take action that has literally demolished the hopes and dreams of good companies who comply with the rules and regulations that are to be followed when offering such “Free Trial” Services and Products.
Put simply those who sell under these methods only need to follow some pretty simple methods to stay compliant. For some odd reason some or rather many had chosen to not do the following.
Some basic Tips that you should comply with when running a “Free Trial”
1. Disclose the terms properly
2. You do not need to use the word “FREE” , when you could use the word “Trial” . It implies the same but gives the customer the Firm Idea that “YES” its a trial only. Consumer Responibility also must be improved. However its ultimately up to you to make this clear.
3. Having a customer service number on how the customer can call and cancel before the end of the trial.
4. Fulfillment of product and when the trial begins. If its a software thats delivered immediately at the time of the sale, then the trial starts that same day, however if its a physical product, then you should not start the trial until at least 3–4 days from the time that the product ships, turning a 14 day trial into a 18 day trial giving the customer the time allowable to try the product and ship.
5. Multiple up sells without consent! Now this is a biggie, many companies would have up-sales on their landing pages or sites that would not disclose the proper terms of what they were buying. Make sure you have Check Boxes on any upsale and a check out that gives a final price and disclosure.
6. Cancelation process and how to cancel, when to cancel and the terms of canceling.
7. Refund Policy
8. “Making False Claims” Making claims like “Lose 30 pounds in one month” without a back up or clinical trials of claims would be considered or making false claims.
9 Fulfillment Process, are you using a good company to handle and ship you products and services in a timely manner.
10. Customer Service, This is one of the biggest downfalls. Companies just were not answering phones and giving refunds. Why? I do not know other than the market to acquire a customer (CPA) the costs to acquire a customer is so high it makes it impossible for a merchant to be able to issue refunds like they should due to the ROI and the loss and attrition rates. If this is the case, Then the program needs to be thought out better and how to acquire.
Therefore here we are in the era of shut down for many in the industry of selling, except the big box stores and so called “House Hold Name Brands”
Now the question has always been asked, “Why can Netflix offer free trials and we can not”
Well simply put, its because you are not BIG BOX and is it unfair? Yes It is unfair. However so many bad companies have put the good on the list of Poop box stores instead.
Getting a merchant account for continuity is now becoming extinct for independent owners of products trying to offer a Trial, unless you have some serious money in the bank, credit and solid financials to back up what your selling. And Yes you can thank those who have not complied.
Now their is another issue that over the years that have now made it even harder.
Many merchants feel that they can manage the chargebacks and ratios if they have 20 -50 merchant accounts and all running less than 50K of volume per month. Well I can assure you, it wont last long, and many Merchants in the past year have found out that. “Yes even that comes to a screeching halt” And Poof your accounts are dead. I can say that in the last few months, Our company has had over 160 accounts submitted through our online portal at Keybancard and we have only approved one of them, and that is only because he is selling hard sales and one time buys and lets the customer opt in if they want to continue with any other future shipments.
So to summarize this up I would like to say that instead of trying to beat the system, learn how to work with the system, think outside the box, test, figure out how to convert the right way, manage your customers and refunds and the industry can come back, But for now the free trial industry is about dead or at least 1/10th of what it was a few years ago!
However when their is an end, their is also a beginning. Lets just hope the beginning starts out right and follow the guidelines and if needed call your consumer protection for advice they are more than happy to help. The economy needs jobs, money needs to circulate and it can be done the right way
So in the future follow the above tips and here are some more basic tips besides the ones above, in order to run and become a real business.
1. Have a real url and website for customers to reach you and buy from.
2. Have a contact and support page
3. Do not allow anyone to host you pages, landing pages or sites.
4 Be sure to ship on time every time
5. Answer the phones and issue refunds when the customer wants one
6. Disclose terms, cancelation policies, customer service numbers, emails and your address for mail.
I hope this article helps some in the industry or those wishing to launch. I wish the best of luck to everyone in business and hope this finds you well.