Five tested ways to convert more software trials to purchases

convert software trials to salesWhat if I told you that five changes to your software could increase revenue 25-50%?

It’s possible because of two facts: most trials don’t convert, and you’re too close to your software to see its obvious flaws.

The conversion rate from visits to sales according to a study presented by Andy Brice is around 1% with specific variations.  But the abandon rate on software trials is astonishingly high.  In an informal poll of a few software company owners I know, everyone agreed that 80-90% of downloads never become real trials.

In a way, that’s good news, because it means there’s lots of room for improvement.  Think about it – if only 20% of your potential customers make the leap from download to trial, shouldn’t it be possible to squeeze out another 5-10%?  That would be 25-50% more trials even with the same number of downloads!  And more trials means more revenue.

Duh, you have to optimize for that!

But even armed with this idea, it’s hard for you to make those improvements.  Why? Because we developers are so used to our own software, it’s hard to step back and understand the experience for the new user.

Do you remember what it was like before you knew how to use Gmail?  Or Word?  (For me I’m experiencing this right now with Twitter but that’s another story…) If you’ve ever tutored someone on new software, you know how different everything looks to new eyes.

Well you certainly cannot “remember” what it’s like to be a newbie for your own software! In fact, I’ll bet you don’t even try:

How many times do you run your installer?  Or really read what’s there?  Sure, you know how to find your software in the Start menu, but would a newbie?  What about after your software launches – would a new user understand how to create a “New project”, or even that she needs a “New project”?

In this five-part series, I’ll be explaining five specific things you can do to get more of those downloads to turn into trials, and more of those trials to turn into sales.  I’ll be your “newbie” eyes.

No, I mean I really want to be your newbie eyes:). So be sure to read the next post and quickly comment with a link to your software. My honest opinion awaits you.

Here are the posts so far -  stay tuned as we add more:

Increasing software conversions Part 1: Auto-open after installation

Increasing software conversions Part 2: Ask a few questions

Increasing Software Conversion Part 3: Use a “Tips” Newsletter to Follow Up on a Trial

Increasing Software Conversion Part 4: Don’t Lose Users on the First Screen!

Increasing Software Conversion Part 5: Don’t bother the trial user with licensing stuff until the user is hooked

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This is a guest post by Jason Cohen, founder of Smart Bear Software, the makers of the peer code review tool Code Collaborator.  Jason blogs regularly about startups and marketing.

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Jason Cohen


24 Responses to “Five tested ways to convert more software trials to purchases”

  1. Rafal Says:

    A link to my software download

    Thanks! :-)

  2. Jason Cohen Says:

    Thanks Rafal! And thanks in advance to others who wish to promote their products here.

  3. Increasing software conversions Part 1: Auto-open after installation | Avangate Blog - Software Business Blog Says:

    [...] software conversions Part 1: Auto-open after installationFive tested ways to convert more software trials to purchasesSoftware Piracy – A Business Development [...]

  4. Peter Štibraný Says:

    Hello Jason,

    my software can be installed using (horror!) instructions at … now this is special in that it is plugin into Eclipse, and using Update Site as I describe at the page is a “normal” way of installing plugins into Eclipse. Unfortunately, it’s far from obvious for newcomers :-( (And using ZIP method mentioned at that page doesn’t work that well).

    Any tips for improving experience of installation plugins into other application? (Yes, my plugin opens ‘Welcome Page’ with step-by-step tutorial about how to use it on next Eclipse restart … so your first tip applies here too :-) )

  5. Dan Hite Says:

    I’m game! My download is at:

  6. Shawn Anderson Says:

  7. Shane Corellian Says:

    Thanks, Jason. I can’t wait for the rest of this series.

  8. Andy Brice Says:

    I am always interested in ways to improve my conversion rate and a fresh set of eyes is very welcome. You can download my software here:

  9. Vladimir Radmilovic Says:

    I hope I’m not too late… :)

  10. Optional fields in software trial download process for the win | Avangate Blog - Software Business Blog Says:

    [...] Welcome to the Avangate Blog, the place to hang out if you have a software business.Here’s one for you: subscribe to our RSS feed and get served immediately. Enjoy your reading!This is part 2 of a 5-part series: How to convert more software trials to purchases. [...]

  11. Brian Rasmusson Says:

    Me too – great articles so far, Jason!

    Link to my downloads:

  12. Jason Cohen Says:

    Thanks all! Keep those comments and questions coming — on any of the articles.

  13. Increasing software conversions Part 2: Ask a few questions « widaca Says:

    [...] This is part 2 of a 5-part series: How to convert more software trials to purchases. [...]

  14. Bob Boland Says:

    Thank you, this will be VERY helpful.

  15. Says:

    Thanks for your article and help.

  16. Alexander Bartz Says:

    Hello Jason,

    thank you for the great article. I’m wainting for more fresh ideas from you!

    Any comment on our scheduling software is highly welcome.

  17. Increasing software conversions part 3: Use a "Tips" newsletter to follow up on a software trial | Avangate Blog - Software Business Blog Says:

    [...] This is part 3 of a 5-part series: How to convert more software trials to purchases. [...]

  18. Don't lose users on the first screen | Increase software conversion | Avangate Blog - Software Business Blog Says:

    [...] This is part 4 of a 5-part series: How to convert more software trials to purchases. [...]

  19. Robert Says:

    One thing that I don’t see very often, but actually converts really well is doing something like a $1 trial, instead of a completely free trial. Then, you have the credit card information, and you know they are “a buyer.” Plus, you can do an automatic charge on their card after their trial period expires.

  20. David Vella Says:

    Jason, these 5 articles are the best i read on the web. Thanks! Honestly.

  21. Edward Says:

    Interesting, i think using the right trial offer is the best method to get me as a user to really feel i want to buy a software, the $1 trial is pretty annoying at time

  22. ford ranger Says:

    Useful information. Fortunate me I found your site
    unintentionally, and I am shocked why this coincidence didn’t happened earlier! I bookmarked it.

  23. Bill Meirs Says:

    Jason, this is a great article and really useful. I look forward to reading the others in the series and appreciate you taking some time to out this together for us.

  24. DDDownloads Computer software discount Says:

    Great point.. also consider adding discount to the trial download page… this will boost your sales.

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