Among your strongest marketing plays in the App Store is to offer a free trial of your game or application. Not only is the App Store designed for this, but also it’s the best way to reduce consumer risk in trying your application, with the goal of eventually getting that user to purchase the full version. Think: money. And from our data, it’s among the most effective moves you can make. Here’s a motivational example using customer data collected using Flurry’s mobile app analytics service in their iPhone apps.
In particular this strategy can favor non-branded applications. For example, instead of simply purchasing a familiar and “safe” game like Tetris, Bejeweled or Pac-Man, a consumer can explore and try your innovative, unknown game for free to decide whether or not to purchase. Simply put, free trial has leveled the playing field for independent developers who previously struggled to get consumers to even give them a try. Additionally, it rewards more established companies who innovate and leverage capabilities of the iPhone hardware to wow consumers - things like touch, the accelerometer, contact list integration for invites, and more.
To further motivate you to seriously consider a comprehensive free trial strategy, we took a look beyond the very hot and sexy iPhone App Store, observing that all major new mobile store entrants will also offer a Free Apps section. Check out a very good side-by-side app store comparison courtesy of Gizmodo that compares the iPhone App Store, Android Market, BlackBerry App World, Windows Mobile Marketplace, Palm App Catalog and Nokia Ovi Store. What this tells us is that a free trial strategy is a must-have going forward in all viable launch strategies. One could argue that uber-brands are an exception to this rule since their consumers are probably willing to buy an application or game without first trying it. However, even if you’re the proud steward of such an uber-brand, remember that free trials drive discovery your title, helping increase the adoption of your paid version and ranking in the Paid App category. And don’t forget that all the previously disadvantaged Indies now have a shot to take away you consumer with their free trial.
In an upcoming blog entry, I’ll touch on how to track and tune your free-to-paid program from a product experience standpoint to maximize your conversion, and therefore revenue generated. Also, there are some Apple policy issues you need to be aware of when designing your free experience - nothing too crazy, but that can result in failing the Apple approval process. Stay tuned.