Jul 19, 2022

Read Time 6 min

How to improve SaaS free trial to paid conversions


If you get excited over free samples at the grocery store, you already understand the allure of the free trial. Many businesses start their relationship with potential long-term customers with free trials for their product or services.

SaaS companies, however, have more to lose than your local grocery store if those customers don’t sign up for more. A failed conversion can be a big hit to revenue.

Use this guide on how to improve free trial-to-paid conversions to help you increase your SaaS free trial conversion rate. We’ll focus on Customer Success, process optimization, and personalization. 

How to calculate your SaaS free trial conversion rate

Your free trial conversion rate is the percentage of free trial participants who convert to your paid product, all within a specified period of time. You can use the following formula:

(Conversions ÷ Trials) x 100 = Trial Conversion Rate

For instance, if you have 50 conversions and 125 trials, your conversion rate is 40%.

That’s the broadest version of the conversion rate calculation, but you can get more granular by introducing cohorts. For example, rather than calculating conversions for all customers, you can measure conversions for a specific customer segment or subscription tier.

The latter will tell you if your basic or premium products generate more sales. You can then determine whether you should invest more effort into upselling certain product features before or during the free trial period.

Remember: your product doesn’t sell itself

You and your team are close to your product and have a deep understanding of its benefits. New users lack that same familiarity.

When a user opts in to a free trial, it doesn’t guarantee they’ll convert to a paying customer. You still need to nurture and nudge them through your sales funnel. In other words, free trial sign ups do not automatically mean a higher SaaS free trial conversion rate

Take an active versus passive role with your new prospective customers. Guide them directly to value rather than hoping they see how awesome your product is and stick around for the long haul. 

Engage your customers to help them discover product features that may be relevant to them. Use in-app product walkthroughs to provide helpful tips and point out aspects of your product or service that your customers may not have noticed yet. 

Another tactic is to connect free trial downloads with personalized email drip campaigns. Share case studies, best practices, and other relevant content. You can also have someone from your team make contact with this potential customer to solicit feedback, answer questions, and learn more about their goals.

This level of nurturing benefits your customers, who get the information they need to make full use of your product and a better understanding of how it can serve their needs. It also benefits you and your team with insights into how people use your products and which features stand out. A platform like ChurnZero delivers this data through customized reports to enhance your understanding of your customers. 

By analyzing this data, you can identify product features that resonate with specific target groups and identify the best time to push customers to convert to your paid product. Gathering and examining this information leads to better insights that help teams learn how to improve free trial to paid conversions.

Help free trial users succeed

Adoption is key to conversions and ongoing customer retention, so a good strategy for improving your SaaS free trial conversion rate is to get customers to dive deep into your product right away and see its value as soon as possible.

Start by eliminating any customer friction points you’ve been able to identify. Free users won’t convert to paying customers if they’re confused about how to use your product, or encounter other points of frustration. Make a good first impression and show users the value of your product early in the trial period.

If your business doesn’t have the resources to provide comprehensive support or assistance to customers who aren’t paying for access, consider automation to reduce customer friction and increase product understanding with less manual input. ChurnZero’s WalkThroughs provide users with in-app guidance to help them understand the product better than they would if they were left to explore on their own.

This approach combines the power of hands-on, experiential knowledge with enough guidance to help users complete more complex tasks and draw their attention to features they might miss.

Ensure that free trial users can access other learning or support resources. If they can use troubleshooting tools or ask questions in user forums, they’re more likely to solve any issues they’re having and fully adopt your product.

Create demo videos or other visual content that can help users develop a more full understanding of how to use your product. These resources can also help increase the perception that your product is easy to use.

By providing the right guidance, you can help ensure that free trial customers experience the most attractive product features and can navigate any difficulties they encounter. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that customers see the value of your product for their goals.

Optimize your free trial time period

How long should your trial period be? It depends, but the answer can impact your SaaS free trial conversion rate. Standard trial periods are usually 7, 14, or 30 days. Some brands choose up to 60 or 90 days.

The ideal time period is long enough for the user to become familiar with the product, understand its benefits, and possibly complete a beneficial task or project, but still short enough to create a sense of urgency for the customer.

Collect and analyze data to help you make this decision. Test out a few different trial periods to see which ones perform better and if there are any differences between various customer segments. You can then make adjustments based on your findings.

Create a personalized free trial experience

Using personalization can make a big impact on product adoption and customer value. Many SaaS providers take only basic personalization steps, such as addressing a user by name, but you can go beyond that to curate a truly personalized experience.

Increasing customer understanding is one way to take personalization to the next level. Create a repository of information about each of your customers, then use that data to deepen your understanding of:

  • Customer behaviors
  • Product usage patterns
  • Customer traits of those who convert vs. those who don’t

The more you understand about your users, the more you can create an experience customized to their needs at the day-to-day level.

Segmentation according to shared needs helps you create relevant, personalized experiences for these groups of customers. It also helps you see trends that you can use to build an even more informed approach to the design of your user experience.

Collect feedback from users who do and don’t convert

To understand how to improve free trial to paid conversions, you have to understand why people convert and why they don’t. Both positive and negative feedback from both groups of people — those who convert and those who don’t — can help you optimize your trial campaigns. 

What can you learn from converting users?

Ask newly-converted customers which product features pushed them to subscribe. Look for patterns in the answers you receive. It’s possible that your customers are finding value in a feature you’ve been giving less attention to, and refocusing your efforts could improve your conversion rates overall.

What can you learn from non-converting users?

Those who don’t convert can tell you what made them seek out a different solution. In many cases, your product simply didn’t align with their needs. However, their feedback can help you identify common points of friction to address moving forward.

Provide high-value prospects with a concierge

Every user signing up for your free trial should have access to a certain level of personalization and helpful resources. At the same time, you may want to offer higher-value users, such as enterprise customers, a more curated experience.

To increase your SaaS free trial conversion rate among specific user segments, create a product onboarding process that ensures an optimized experience. 

This might include time with one of your Customer Success specialists, access to live online support, or personalized walkthroughs that ensure prospective customers get the full use of the product during their trial period.

Check in with hesitant adopters

Hesitant adopters are prospective customers who sign up for your free trial offer, but only use it once or twice. Or, maybe they don’t even log in at all.

Even if the reasons for this are beyond your control, it’s still worth checking in to see what you can do to boost customer engagement.

One roadblock some customers run into is time. They intended to trial your product, but got too busy to dedicate the time to learning the ins and outs of your product features. If you get in touch, you might be able to improve your conversion rate simply by offering to extend or reset the initial trial period.

Failure to adopt is also a sign that your prospective customer has hit a snag and can’t work past it. Ideally, they would reach out to you for support or review resource materials. Some won’t, however, and your outreach could solve the problem and jumpstart your customer’s journey down the sales funnel.

Finally, a customer may have concluded that your product simply will not serve their needs. If you reach out, however, you may increase your chances of resolving the issue and contextualizing the value of your product for this particular customer’s objectives.

Putting it all together

Improving free trial to paid conversions is more than just a couple of actions taken here and there. It’s an overarching strategy built by learning more about customer behaviors, creating better-informed customer profiles, identifying product features to emphasize, developing better onboarding practices, and personalizing details of free trial offers.

You don’t have to do it all on your own. This case study details how RFP360 used ChurnZero’s Customer Success platform to gain a better understanding of their customer journey and use those insights to improve their unpaid conversions. And you can, too. 


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