If you have a web app that’s not SaaS I have to say that I highly recommend setting up a hosted trial environment. It’s a bit of a pain and has some costs since a dedicated server is probably required, but so far it’s been well worth it for us.
I have the entire thing setup so I can convert a regular trial to a hosted trial in a click. I’ve thought of making it totally automated and I probably will at some point, but I wanted to make sure the system I put in place could handle the load before making it wide open.
It’s only been an option for a few months, but the numbers are great. The average HelpSpot sale is $721.46, but the average sale from a customer who did a hosted trial is $1,727.61. It’s a bit early to know if these numbers will hold up, but I think they will. The main reason I wanted the hosted trial option was for larger companies where dealing with IT can be a pain. They want to know the solution is for them before bothering with IT to setup a test environment, etc. So far it’s worked like a charm and we’re reaching the audience we wanted to reach with it.
So if you’re building a downloadable web app you should definitely keep this in mind for some point in your development. I think it’s also worth noting that a hosted trial is not the same as an online demo. Online demo’s are OK for less expensive applications, but in general customers can’t really get a good idea how it’s going to work for them in a demo. A hosted trial lets the customer really customize the entire system to get a feel for it. In HelpSpot’s case we even setup an email account for them so they can see the email integration without having to setup a test account.
The hosted trial option has really helped remove at least one big barrier to purchase from the process. Hopefully I can find a few more to remove which work this well!