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6 Things You Must Do To Offer Frictionless Free Trials

C&C Customer Experience (CX) Series

A goal of any online conversion event is to provide a frictionless process to get the conversion. Whether it is a lead magnet, trial, demo, subscription, or transaction, everyone benefits by eliminating every possible point of friction. That’s what good customer experience, (CX) is all about. Why then are so many conversion events fraught with unnecessary friction and barriers to conversion?

We recently addressed a particular use-case scenario from two different clients—the Free Trial with a required credit card to access the free trial. In both cases, their web traffic analytics clearly illustrated the crushing effect that roadblock had on free trial sign-ups. And worse, these were largely B2B business models not typically accustomed to that requirement.


“If it’s a free trial,

why do I have to provide my credit card number?”


There are three common reasons a business will charge for a free trial, and they’re all bad:


  1. The credit card requirement is an intentional pre-qualifier to ensure the prospect is qualified and serious.
  2. The credit card will be auto-charged at the end of the trial period, in the hopes of a less-than-transparent transaction or subscription being consummated (even if this is not the intent, expect your prospect will assume it is!).
  3. There is a technology limitation preventing a time- or feature-limited trial period, thus using a delayed auto-billing circumvents the limitation, sort of.


The Six Things You Must Do To Make Free Trials Frictionless

Regardless of the underlying reason for the requirement (more on this below), there are six things you must do to remove some of that decision friction. Because if you don’t, you’ve lost the prospect and wasted all the time and money expended to get the prospect that far down the funnel.

1. Be upfront about it; don’t hide the fact until the point of sign-up

In the worst examples we saw, the credit card requirement was sprung as a surprise at the point of trial sign-up! Yes, right there on the form page for the FREE TRIAL! The obvious question anyone would ask is, “If it is a free trial why do I have to provide my credit card number?”

2. Explain the value proposition, in advance

Before someone will pull the trigger on any trial, they must believe it will be worth their while. If that decision is further roadblocked by any additional barrier, they have to believe it will really, really be worth their while! If you haven’t told the story, laid out the compelling reasons and benefits to the prospect of how this trial will solve their problem, boost sales, or benefit their life in some way, don’t expect the conversion. There is an art to this kind of story-telling and it begins long before the sigh-up form. When done correctly, the prospect will be eager to take the next step and sign-up.

14 day free trial Customer Experience example

“This example checks off items 1,2,3,4 and 6 in our Must Do checklist. The 5th item, the Alternate Payment Options, can easily be added or included in the text link pop-up, “Why is a credit card required.”

3. Explain why and how the credit will or will not be charged

Once you’ve smacked them in the face with the credit card requirement, be clear how, when and how much they will be charged. Be clear on how the prospect can avoid the charge at all. Make that message stand out; use a graphic or some other visual disruptor to set the correct expectation and make it visible. Repeat that message in the FAQs and any other place within the buying journey where the roadblock presents itself.

4. Explain how to cancel during a trial period

If your trial offering is set up to auto-charge the prospect after some trigger point (sessions used, days elapsed, records accessed, etc.) be equally clear on how much longer the free trial is in effect. If the user is logged in to an account during the trial, have that messaging prominent on each page, “You Have XX left of your Free Trial.” And a path to continue, cancel, or other engagement option like, “Speak to Our Customer Success Team.”

5. Provide an alternate payment option

In B2B settings it may be uncommon or not feasible for a qualified prospect to use a company-issued credit card. That prospect may also be hesitant or unwilling to use a personal one. This is an opportunity! Include a link or button that reads, “No Credit Card? Alternate Ways to Start Your Trial.” 

Follow-up on that CTA with a phone number, form submit, or specifics on other payment options like a company purchase order. (We’ve seen “free Trial” offers over $1,000 requiring a credit card, so a P.O. may be viable or even necessary.) If no other payment option exists, fine. Still use this CTA as a way to continue the dialog and further qualify that prospect. What if this prospect represents a sizable piece of new business? Wouldn’t your sales rep want to know about that and perhaps grant the free trial access anyway? Don’t allow your website to make that decision. Make it a dialogue.

6. Provide alternate exit paths 

Never allow that credit card requirement to end the customer journey. Provide one or more alternate next steps to keep the prospect engaged: “Not ready for a no-risk trial yet? Download this _______ to learn more about how [your brand] can solve your problem.”, “Talk to a specialist.”, “Sign up for the free webinar (Really, no credit card required, we promise.).”

Provide easy detours and ways around the roadblock to allow your prospect to continue their decision journey at their level of comfort. Include in those alternate CTAs an email capture mechanism so you can nurture your prospect to consider the free trial in the future.

Don’t think, “We can’t eliminate the credit card requirement because [insert excuse here]…”
Ask instead,“What would we have to do to get rid of the credit card requirement?”


From the standpoint of an optimal conversion ratio, no credit card required is better than mandating one. Take a serious look at what it would take to eliminate it. Pilot it and measure it. The data will tell you if the increase in free trials and rate change in new customers acquisitions warrants the change in the process.

Do you still need an alternative payment method? Receiving payments with cryptocurrency may not be that far away.

Just ask Elon.

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