Top Ranked – Benefiting from Trial Mode

Date : January 16, 2012

TrialKeysIn this episode of Top Ranked I explore Trial mode.  Trial mode is one of the most important features available to you as a developer if you’re building a paid app.  By implementing Trial mode in your app you give consumers the opportunity to take your app for a spin while ensuring that you’ll get paid for your hard work if a consumer sees value in it.

We know from what we see on the back end that apps which include trial mode get 70x more downloads on average.  Of those 70x more downloads about 10% will get converted into purchases so doing the math you can expect on average about 7x more sales just by doing the small amount of work required to include a trial capability into your app.

We make it very easy for your app to know whether it is running in trial mode or if the consumer has purchased a license.  What we cannot do is decide what trial mode means for your app.  In fact, I would say probably the most important part of including trial mode is deciding how trial mode should work in your app.  There are various scenarios that you could use.  You might make the trial time-based (e.g. full functionality for 10 days), launch based (e.g. full functionality the first 10 times the app is launched on a device) or partial functionality (e.g. only the first 2 levels of a 30 level game are available in trial mode).  You should be careful when allowing full functionality in a trial as a consumer could easily uninstall and re-install the app to completely reset the trial.  When you provide full functionality you may want to consider storing the info about a user or a device in the cloud so that it persists across reinstalls.

There is a performance cost related to checking for trial mode so you should be careful about how often you actually do the check.  It’s a synchronous (blocking) operation that can take 60ms or more to complete.  Note that you will not see this when in development as that 60ms penalty is not there then but you will see it when the app is published.  An easy way to avoid this issue is to perform the license check when the app is started or resumed from a dormant/tombstoned state.

Another best practice is to be absolutely sure that you close the deal.  That is, that you make it very easy for the consumer to buy your app.  You should absolutely include links to the marketplace buy page right in the app itself.  If you don’t do that then you’re relying on the end-user to make the effort of launching the marketplace app, searching for your app and buying it.  Most just won’t do that.

Although it’s strictly not related to trial mode, another important best practice is to encourage consumers to rate your app.  The best way to raise your standing in the rankings is by getting lots and lots of high ratings.  That will help you get more visibility and encourage more downloads.  If you don’t explicitly encourage consumers to rate from within the app then you are relying on them to search for the app again or find it in the app list and tap-and-hold to find the rate and review page.  Again, most consumers just won’t do that. 

And the final thing you should be sure to do within your app is to include the capability to test both the full version and the trial version of your app while you are in development.

In the video I’ll walk you through all of these topics.  I’ve also included the source code for the project I used (attached to the blog post below).  The code is not that complicated but I’m sure having it will make it that much easier for you to get started. 

View or download the video on Channel 9 (includes higher quality video).

Let me know what you think about this episode of Top Ranked.

If you have questions about any of the videos, or about problems or issues you’re hitting or if you have topics that you think would be of interest to other devs on the Windows Phone platform then drop me a note. I’d be particularly interested in hearing about some of the best practices you’ve adopted that you think have raised your quality or your ratings/ranking in the Marketplace. I’ll be sure to give full credit and link love whenever I can.

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