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Last post Author Topic: How long should a software time trial be?  (Read 12091 times)

KenR

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How long should a software time trial be?
« on: January 16, 2007, 06:56:59 AM »
This is an interesting question to me. I usually know within minutes to hours if I am going to buy something. I think the longest I have ever gone without buying something I eventually did was a week. I'm curious to see what others think. KR

Quote
Every once in a while, one of the forums dedicated to the business of software spits up a question regarding the proper duration for a time trial. It has become somewhat commonplace to expect a 30-day duration from a trial version. Some software shops package that up with functional limitations, some don't, but the time trial has proven to be the goto guy for use in a demo release. 

But the question remains — how long should the time trial be? Is 30 days something that is used because it has a proven track record, because it's what customers expect, or because developers, after focusing for months or years on building the actual product, simply decide to stick with the norm without giving the business side of their business a second thought?

I'm tempted to say the last one would pull the most weight. Such as the case with user interfaces, payment processing, pricing structure (don't get me started), and even customer support, thought given to the time trial seems to take a back seat…especially with shops releasing their first application.




from http://microisvjournal.wordpress.com/
Kenneth P. Reeder, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist
Jacksonville, North Carolina  28546
« Last Edit: January 16, 2007, 07:04:07 AM by mouser »

brotherS

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2007, 07:37:53 AM »
Thanks, that was a good read!

And always remember: Test, test, test!

mouser

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2007, 07:40:18 AM »
It's interesting.. but then im not sure just because a certain policy would get the most buyers means its the best thing to do..  other factors might be: how happy are people once they buy it.  how much do they regret buying it later?  the people who don't buy - what's their attitude about your company in the future?

brotherS

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2007, 08:47:15 AM »
It's interesting.. but then im not sure just because a certain policy would get the most buyers means its the best thing to do..
It's an important 'first step'.

other factors might be: how happy are people once they buy it.  how much do they regret buying it later?  the people who don't buy - what's their attitude about your company in the future?
You can combine that with a "money back" guarantee or whatever to minimize negative side-effects. :)

mouser

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2007, 02:02:51 PM »
very good point about the money back guarantee.  i think then you are getting into the territory where i am more comfortable.

when you think about it, if you have a money back guarantee, say one without an expiration, what you are basically saying is that they can have an unlimited trial period, but they have to 1) show good faith that they will buy it if they like it, and 2) you dont lose sales due to people just forgetting or losing energy, and 3) people with money to burn will probably end up keeping it while people who find themselves short of cash can always get a refund.

Lashiec

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2007, 04:43:43 AM »
So, we are talking about 'lite' software (that's what the author of the blog post wanted to say), combined with refunds? It seems like a perfect treat to me, but you have to give people a limited time of refunding, say, 6 months? If you give them unlimited time, you could, for example, buy Total Uninstall now, and in a year, ask for a refund, and use the money to buy PowerTools 2008 (that's why I considering if I should buy TU3 or stick to version 2 waiting for PowerTools...)

Anyway, that's not the point. A good (and different) approach could be something like this: lite versions of the software, with noncritical features disabled (to prevent Zaine getting bold due to crippled software usage ;D) with a money back guarantee for a couple months. Someone wants to try this approach in his/her own software?

mouser

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2007, 04:53:43 AM »
Quote
but you have to give people a limited time of refunding, say, 6 months? If you give them unlimited time, you could, for example, buy Total Uninstall now, and in a year, ask for a refund, and use the money to buy

I just want to point out an important flaw in this reasoning that i think too many people make.
It is not necesary to ensure that no user could somehow do such a thing.  It is only important that most/all don't.

Who cares if 0.01% of your customers request a refund in 20 years?  As long as it's such a small percent it's not something worth worrying about.

justice

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2007, 06:03:10 AM »
Even if you find that most of your customers can decide in 7 days whether to buy your software or not, do you really want 'to pressurize them' to do so in 7 days?  ;)

Lashiec

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2007, 05:41:47 AM »
I just want to point out an important flaw in this reasoning that i think too many people make.
It is not necesary to ensure that no user could somehow do such a thing.  It is only important that most/all don't.

Who cares if 0.01% of your customers request a refund in 20 years?  As long as it's such a small percent it's not something worth worrying about.

Agreed. But how do you find what percentage of your customers are not going to ask a refund in a couple of months? Personally, I think that way more than 0.01% of your customers are going to ask for that refund if they can find a better software, or if they simply don't need it. After all, unlimited time of refund is very close to cracking the software to obtain a 'free' license.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2007, 05:44:14 AM by Lashiec »

app103

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2007, 11:53:40 PM »
I think a 30 day free trial and then maybe 60-90 days after purchase for a refund would be good limits.

If you are still using the software after 3-4 months it's safe to say it works for you and you like it.

CodeTRUCKER

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2007, 02:03:11 AM »
App's model is pretty close to mine, besides the more people commit themselves (think: data), the more valuable the the software becomes and the less valuable the $39.95 will be to that person.  A win-win situation to be sure. 
« Last Edit: December 08, 2009, 05:59:27 PM by CodeTRUCKER »

mouser

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2007, 02:22:11 AM »
Good comments all.
Personall I am very in favor of the 100% money back no questions asked refunds - I think it makes business sense in addition to being a nice thing for everyone.  I think if you look at it in terms of percentages, as long as you arent in a business with a very high cost product and a high return rate, the increase in security you give to your customers will result in more customers who are more willing to take the plunge to purchase if they aren't worried about having a hard time getting a refund.  So to me, the unlimited no expiration, no questions asks money back guarantee it's a win-win for everyone and makes me feel better too.

CodeTRUCKER

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2007, 02:36:04 AM »
This all assumes you will have good cash flow in 20 years.  What if you are flat broke and someone asks for their lifetime refund?  Now you have to play the numbers and always keep a particular balance in the bank to cover eventual and possible refunds. 

100% Lifetime refunds are a noble gesture, but the real-world ramifications are just that, "real."
« Last Edit: December 08, 2009, 05:56:14 PM by CodeTRUCKER »

mouser

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2007, 02:42:04 AM »
keep in mind i have no real experience selling shareware so i am not the right person to ask.
and it's going to depend on the price of your product.  if you are selling a $1000 program, then you are going to get some refund requests by people who use it and no longer need it and can use the money.  I think as soon as you dip down below $100 or so, we're talking in the 1-3% range.  Then ask yourself how many new happy and safe-feeling customers you will gain who buy because they know they are not at risk if they change their mind.

this might be a nice blog author to ask questions about refund request rates, about a small shareware business:
http://microisvjournal.wordpress.com/

CodeTRUCKER

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2007, 04:19:32 AM »
This has been something i have gone over a lot.  I looked at the 100% anytime option, but didn't choose it because I thought that it lacked a potential for "weeding out" uncommitted customers.  What I mean by "uncommitted" are those people that are just toying with "some new thing" and if your site/product happens to be on their screen, "it's time to play!"  They will d/l it and install. Yes, there is certainty that a percentage of these will be real customers, but a very, very small percentage.

I might consider a 100% option for a limited time like app103 detailed above, but a liftime 100% still requires a fund to be viable if refunds come in  5 years later, much less 20.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2009, 06:04:41 PM by CodeTRUCKER »

mouser

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #15 on: January 20, 2007, 04:40:45 AM »
Let me suggest that one assumption you made is probably wrong (in my experience).

This part is exactly right:
Quote
looked at the 100% anytime option, but didn't choose it because I thought that it lacked a potential for "weeding out" uncommitted customers.  What I mean by "uncommitted" are those people that are just toying with "some new thing" and if your site/product happens to be on their screen, "it's time to play!"  They will d/l it and install. Yes, there is certainty that a percentage of these will be real customers, but a very, very small percentage.
''

By far most of the people who download your software wont keep it.

But you have to realize that these people won't be buying it and asking for a refund - they won't be buying it at all.

Very very few people will go forward with a full purchase of a low-priced software program and then bother to ask for a refund.  By the time they get to the purchase point they are almost certainly going to keep it.

And again even if your refund makes it more likely that some people who are not quite as committed will make a purchase and then change your mind - it is hard to imagine (for shareware) a case where that increased ease of buying+refunding doesnt work in your favor.  For every "uncomitted" person who is tempted into buying it because of your generous refund policy, and then returns it, 10 more fence sitters who end up satisfied will bite the bullet and be willing to make a purchase because of the extra security they feel in ordering something that they know they can return and that you stand behind.  Just my 2 cents.

mouser

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #16 on: January 20, 2007, 04:46:34 AM »
Getting back to something mentioned earlier.. I have actually considered using this AND ONLY THIS on dc as a way to differentiate people using free versions vs. supporting member donations:
Quote
TitleBar reminder
That is, I wonder if the DC policy could be simplified and be "enough" of an incentive if we simply had a "please donate" titlebar text, and no other limits or expirations, etc.  I'm not sure.  Im also not sure if the non-donators would find that too obnoxious even though all features would work without any popup nags or expiration.



Important note: I do not consider the aim of DC to be completely in line with this article or discussion about "maximizing" conversion to paying customers.  Our goal here is much more balanced - we aren't looking for policies that strictly maximize profits.  That's not to say the finances are unimportant to us - not at all.  We are very interested in figuring out policies that encourage generous donations from people who can afford them, but we are much more concerned with not excluding users than a standard business is, and we are much more concerned with figuring out a way for people to pay what they think a program is worth and not any more.  But with those caveats, the issues are still relevant for the software made on DC and so I am keenly interested in hearing people's views on these issues.  I think as a business person you also have to ask yourself if you really want money from customers who aren't happy.  There are plenty of businesses in this world that are based on making money from people who are unhappy with what you do but feel like they have no choice or made a mistake and have to live with their mistake.  Speaking personally I don't want to be involved in such a business.

« Last Edit: January 20, 2007, 04:53:41 AM by mouser »

mouser

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2007, 04:51:10 AM »
ps.
For more info on DC perspective on some of this stuff, see my article from last year:
"When Do Users Donate? Experiments with Donationware: Ethical Software, Work Equalization, Temporary Licenses, Collective Bargaining, and Microdonations"
http://www.donationc...icles/One/index.html

CodeTRUCKER

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2007, 04:54:36 AM »
Thanks for the link.  I'll give it a look-see.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2009, 06:09:40 PM by CodeTRUCKER »

CodeTRUCKER

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #19 on: January 20, 2007, 05:27:06 AM »
I have some questions, like if there is "DC Software" "who is "DC?" Actually, I am not really worried about that because I know more about you guys and I have confidence.  I would like a clarification about what is "DC Software?"
« Last Edit: December 08, 2009, 06:14:25 PM by CodeTRUCKER »

mouser

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #20 on: January 20, 2007, 05:46:19 AM »
Glad you asked the last question, I wanted to say something about that.

My comments about "DC Software" was only meant to refer to software that we consider *OFFICIAL* site software, and it is not in any way meant to say that we would impose any requirements on the individual programmers who hang out here.

There are plenty of pure traditional shareware/freelance/commercial software developers who frequent DC and I don't in any way meant to be criticizing or trying to influence their policies.  Different things work for different people, who have different aims, and we welcome everyone who isn't being evil.

Now you'll probably notice on this site that we tend to go an extra mile in terms of bringing attention to freeware/donationware we find on the web.  I think that matches our general approach here which is much more focused on bringing attention to the donationware approach and trying to help donationware authors get attention and help, since it's an unusual approach and much harder to succeed at it.

My standard advice to anyone who wants to make money on software to forget about donationware.  You just cannot (yet?) make good money on this approach in today's society.  Read my article for a lengthier discussion about why it might still be the right approach for you, if maximizing revenue is not your primary goal.

But to get back to your question: All developers are welcome on this site, and we have no intention of trying to influence anyone's decision about selling, pricing, etc.  We will have rules for any software that is part of the *official* DonationCoder software collection, because our policy is that when someone donates to DC they are currently guarunteed a lifetime license to all future versions of this *official* software collection.  But this has no bearing on any of the software written by individual users on this forum, even if the program was written as part of a request or discussion here.

We have no interest in any rights or controls over any code that people here write, we just want to be a fun place to hang out and talk about shareware - and we'd love to see you as a developer succeed, in whatever particular path of business you choose (though you can bet that most of us here will be rooting for you to choose an ethical and moral approach to your business, which takes into consideration some of the principles we think are important in terms of being good internet citizens).

CodeTRUCKER

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #21 on: January 20, 2007, 08:37:09 AM »
Does that include any s/w that is coded by any DC member and posted on DC will be under the DC policy?
« Last Edit: December 08, 2009, 06:06:54 PM by CodeTRUCKER »

mouser

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #22 on: January 20, 2007, 09:03:28 AM »
Quote
any s/w that is coded by any DC member and posted on DC will be under the DC policy?
No.

Unless you have talked to me and we've explicitly agreed that your software is now part of official DonationCoder software collection which must be guaranteed to be free for any supporting member of DC for life, then you are under no obligations of any sort wrt to DC and DC policies.

Just because someone on the DC forum writes software and posts it here or uploads it doesn't mean DC has any rights to it - we don't.  It's your software.  You wrote it, you decide how it's distributed etc.

We want coders to feel at home here and free to talk and play and share there work - we don't want to own it or restrict it.  Obviously many of us here have strong feelings about donationware and freeware and stuff like that, so you're not going to find a very receptive audience if your main interest here is about how you can milk the most amount of money out of your "customers".  Although we occasionally talk about the business end of software, it's certainly not the main focus of this site, and it never will be - there are other sites better suited for that.

Now when we have something like a NANY challenge we ask people to post software that is free.  If you want to charge for it later or future versions, thats up to you.  When we do a programming contest, the programs you submit are going to be free for anyone to download and use.  Whatever you do with it beyond that is up to you.  It's your software we just ask that the free copy you made for the contest be made available to everyone for free.  We promise not to ever try to charge for it or restrict its use.  We're happy to take care of bandwidth and hosting etc.

Lastly,
We frequenly offer some free web space for freeware/donationware coders, just as a thank you for their contribution to software scene.  It's not an amazing thing - it's just a site at like USERNAME.dcmembers.com.  And the condition is that you not abuse the space and not use it to SELL shareware, but only for freeware and donationware.  But other than that, the space is yours.  That also is *NOT* official donationcoder software - it's your software and web space to handle as you wish.  You have no obligations to use other than to not abuse the offer of space.

[ We occasionally have someone like Anderson (Mobysaurus) who works on something of very high quality and who is so close in spirit to the site that we both agree to make it part of the official DonationCoder software collection, and use the DC license key system, etc.  Youll see those programs on the official DC Software page:  http://www.donationc.../Software/index.html ]

To summarize all that:
Your software is your own to do whatever you want with it.  We're happy to help you with any hosting and web space you need, until it becomes a commercial product at which point we will be very happy for you but expect you to find your own hosting.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2007, 09:13:52 AM by mouser »

CodeTRUCKER

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #23 on: January 20, 2007, 09:08:07 AM »
Thank you for the clarification.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2009, 06:07:52 PM by CodeTRUCKER »

Lashiec

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Re: How long should a software time trial be?
« Reply #24 on: January 22, 2007, 11:43:16 AM »
Thanks for the link, mouser!

A quick look at all your opinions give me lots of ideas that I don't have time to summarize here right now. I'll post an elaborated post tomorrow, including a new look on the refund question (providing the rampant piracy we have here in Spain...)

Now, the question is: why I'm saying all of this? :D