From streaming platforms to food delivery apps, signing up for a paid subscription is the only way to access all the benefits of many online services these days.
Unless you have a free trial.
A temporary trial period is a company’s bait to get you hooked on its subscription service. Once you experience the offer, you have to decide whether it’s time to pull out your wallet or end your trial and give up your access to the exclusive benefits.
Or—you can sign up for another free trial using a different email address, and then another, and another.
This is known as “trial hopping,” and it’s a method some people use to continue enjoying the benefits of a paid subscription service without having to pay for it. As soon as the trial period ends, they create a new email and sign up for a new free trial. Whether or not it’s directly related to trial hopping, it is true that some services have shortened or changed their free trials, while Netflix simply ended its free trial offer altogether.
To learn more about this trend and why people do it, we surveyed 1,000 people (between the ages of 16-54+) using Pollfish to learn about their trial hopping habits. Here is what we found.
Email addresses are one of the few requirements required to sign up for a free trial. Having multiple email addresses makes it much easier to sign up for the same trial multiple times. However, most trial hoppers said they had just two personal email accounts.
Only a small percentage of people haven’t signed up for any free trials using their email, while the vast majority do it at least sometimes or often. It seems like not many people can resist the allure of a free trial.
While most people are fine with just one free trial, over a quarter of those surveyed are constantly making new email addresses just to continue their experience with a service without having to pay.
If we break down these answers by men and women, we see that men are far more likely to trial hop by making multiple new email addresses, while women primarily use their established emails.
It’s not a bad idea to be wary of products that are advertised as “free,” but that hasn’t kept consumers from signing up for free trials of the services they are interested in. Only a small percentage of survey participants had enough distrust to prevent them from signing up.
Streaming services were by far the most popular free trials in the survey, while online retailers and food delivery services took second and third place. Online gaming, mobile app, and computer software subscriptions were close behind.
Trial hoppers’ opinions are split on the ethics of signing up for multiple free trials. People in favor of trial hopping have their reasons for it, and those on the opposite side just don’t feel right about it.
There were no 16 to 17-year-old respondents who reported feeling guilty for trial hopping. The next demographic to feel the least amount of guilt about trial hopping were people over the age of 54, with only 20% reporting guilt. In every other age group, between 37% and 50% of respondents reported feeling guilty.
Most of the respondents said trial hopping was primarily a tactic for saving money. However, nearly as many people responded that they needed more time to decide if they liked a service or they just didn’t want a long-term subscription. Only a small percentage admitted that they simply didn’t want to pay.
Video and audio streaming companies dominate the world of free trial hopping, whether it’s for platform-exclusive content or an ad-free experience. Trial hoppers can’t seem to resist streaming their favorite entertainment.
The whole point of trial hopping is to avoid the price tag of a subscription. Despite that, many trial hoppers still forget to cancel their services and end up paying anyway. Oops!
It seems like free trials may be working as intended, since most trial hoppers said they often or sometimes sign up for a paid subscription afterward, if they have the money or if the service is worth the long-term commitment.
For more evidence that free trials are a valuable way to market your service, trial hoppers said that not having a free trial of a service would discourage them from signing up. They want to try before they buy!
The overwhelming majority of trial hoppers prefer to avoid sharing their credit card info when signing up for free trials, either to avoid being charged or to protect their information. If a company wants to dissuade trial hoppers from signing up for their services, this is an easy way to do it.
- When we asked respondents how many personal email accounts they had, 39% of respondents said they had two. Surprisingly, 10% of respondents said they had five or more.
- 44% of respondents said they sometimes sign up for a free trial with their email when they want to try a new service, while 8% said they never do because it is too much of a hassle to set up their account.
- 26% of respondents said they constantly create new email accounts just for free trials.
- 18% of respondents said they do not trust free trial offers because they’re scared they will get charged or that it’s a scam.
- 71% of respondents signed up for a free trial for streaming services, making this category the most popular, followed by retail at 49%, food services at 47%, and software trials at 29%.
- When we asked respondents if they felt guilty for signing up for multiple free trials on one service, 19% said yes because it feels like stealing and 22% said yes because it feels unethical.
- When we asked respondents why they signed up for free trials with different email addresses, 6% said they just didn’t want to pay.
- 55% of respondents said they’ve used different emails to sign up for free trials with YouTube TV, Acorn TV, or Apple TV. These were closely followed by 47% of respondents saying that they used different emails to sign up for free trials to Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora.
- 42% of respondents are often charged for the full service once the trial expires.
- 40% of respondents said they sometimes end up paying for the full service if their income allows them to.
- 45% of respondents said they would be very discouraged from paying for a service if there was no free trial
- 53% of respondents said they are more likely to sign up for a free trial if it doesn’t ask for a credit card, because they know they can’t be charged if they forget to cancel the service.
- According to finder.com, LiveXLive has a 4-month free trial, followed by Apple Music, SiriusXM Radio, and Spotify with a 3-month free trial. These are some of the longest free trial periods in America.
- While many companies may have trial hoppers, according to Highalpha.com, “Based on a 2017 study, B2B companies that utilized free trials saw an average of 66-percent conversions among users. The average trial was about 14 days, and the free to paid app conversion rate was higher among monthly subscribers than yearly (69 percent compared to 60 percent).”
Although trial hopping may allow some people to avoid paying for the services they enjoy, it seems that most people are glad they can save money and try out the services they are interested in without having to make long-term commitments. Besides, whether they decide to sign up for a subscription or they just forget to cancel, most of them end up paying after all.
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