Subscriptions with Free Trials

Last modified October 3, 2018

This article applies to Contextual Commerce. (Looking for Classic Commerce documentation?)

Subscription products can be configured to begin with an initial free trial period during which the customer is not charged. The subscription's first billing will take place the day after the end of the free trial period. This can be useful in case you want to let customers try your product or service before they pay for it. This article explains how to set up a subscription with a free trial period and provides details about the customer experience.

Setting Up a Subscription with a Free Trial

  1. From the Dashboard, select the Products menu and the Subscriptions tab.

    The Subscriptions menu

  2. Click the tile of an existing subscription product to which you want to add free trial days. The subscription's details page will open.

    The Subscriptions tab of the Products menu

  3. Click to edit the Pricing field. The Pricing dialog will open.

    The details of a subscription product, with the Pricing field highlighted

  4. In the Subscription Type section of the Pricing dialog, enter the desired number of trial days in the Free Trial Days field.

    For example, if you want the free trial to last one week, enter 7. If you want the free trial to last a month, enter 30.



    The Pricing dialog of a subscription, with the Free Trial Days field highlighted

  5. Configure the remainder of the Pricing dialog as per normal (for guidance, see Subscription Pricing), and then click SAVE at the bottom of the dialog.


Customer Experience

On a Web Storefront

When a customer visits your Web Storefront, subscription products with a free trial will be displayed with a price of 0 / free.

Example of a Web Storefront with a subscription including a free trial

Clicking the Subscription terms link will provide expanded details about the billing schedule.

Example of a Web Storefront with a subscription including a free trial


Customers will still be prompted to select a payment method and enter their payment account details. Since the customer is not going to be charged today (provided there are no other items selected in the order), upon selecting a payment method, the action button in the payment information dialog will be labeled Save Payment Details rather than Pay $X.

An example of the Payment Information dialog with the Save Payment Details button in place of a Pay button

Manual Renewal Subscriptions Note

If you allow customers the option to opt out of saving their payment details–creating manual renewal subscriptions–then customers who opt out will not be prompted to enter any payment details at all on your Storefront. In that case, customers will need to log on to the secure account management page prior to the end of the free trial period and provide payment account details so that the payment account can be charged when the subscription begins.


The order completion page will also have a summary of the free transaction and the future charges, with a Subscription terms link the customer can click to see more details.

Example of the completion page of a Web Storefront for an order including only a subscription with free trial days

On a Popup Storefront

When a customer checks out via the Popup Storefront for an order that includes only a subscription with a free trial period, the Popup Storefront will make it clear that the customer will not be billed at the time of the order. Also, the action button will be labeled Save Payment Details instead of Pay $X.

Example of a Popup Storefront with an order including only a subscription with free trial days

Manual Renewal Subscriptions Note

If you allow customers the option to opt out of saving their payment details–creating manual renewal subscriptions–then customers who opt out will not be prompted to enter any payment details at all on your Storefront. In that case, customers will need to log on to the secure account management page prior to the end of the free trial period and provide payment account details so that the payment account can be charged when the subscription begins.


The order completion page will also make it clear that the customer has not been charged.

Example of the completion page of a Popup Storefront for an order including only a subscription with free trial days

Pre-Authorization and Reversal

Regardless of whether order was placed via a Web Storefront or a Popup Storefront, if there were no other items in the order, customers will not be charged at the time of the order. However, FastSpring may request a temporary $1.00 authorization--and may also immediately reverse that authorization–in order to validate the customer's payment account for future charges.

Example of a customer's online credit card account activity with a pre-authorization and corresponding reversal from FastSpring

Trial Reminders

Regardless of whether order was placed via a Web Storefront or a Popup Storefront, if you have specified three or more Free Trial Days for the subscription product, FastSpring will automatically email a trial reminder message to the customer three days prior to the begin date. You cannot control the timing of the trial reminder message, but if you have a special reason to change it, FastSpring Support might be able to assist you. To see an example of the fully customizable Trial Reminder email message, please see Examples of Customer-Facing Email Messages.

Example of the Notifications section of a subscription product's Pricing dialog where the number of Free Trial Days is 3 or more

Subscriptions with Free Trials and Product Discounts or Coupons

If you configure a product discount on a subscription that has free trial days, the discount will not be applied until the first billing. For the purpose of the discount or coupon's Duration field, the first billing (not the initial, free transaction) will be billing number 1.

To illustrate this, here is an example of what customers might see on a Web Storefront when ordering an annual subscription with 15 free trial days and a 25% discount with a Duration of 1.

Note

The text beginning with "Try it free for 15 days" in the example above is from the product's Summary field; not generated automatically with the other billing details.



Subscriptions with Free Trial Days and a Fixed Number of Billings

If you configure a subscription with free trial days to have a fixed number of rebills, the initial transaction does not count as one of those rebills, but the initial charge will be the first "rebill".


Using a Limited Product Discount Rather than Free Trial Days

If for some reason you do not want to use the Free Trial Days field to configure your free trial period, there is another approach you can take. If you use the Discounted Price section of the subscription product's Pricing dialog to specify a 100% discount with a Discount Duration of 1 (as shown in the illustration below), the entire first billing period will be free.

For example, if the subscription has a Charge Interval of Monthly, then the first month would be free. If the subscription's Charge Interval is Yearly, then the first year would be free.

If you take this approach, the subscription's first billing date will be the date of the order. This means that if your subscription is configured to rebill for a fixed number of periods, the number of actual payments will be reduced by one (the very first transaction).

For example, if your subscription has a Charge Interval of Monthly and is configured Rebill for 12 periods (including the initial transaction), then the first transaction will be free, followed by 11 monthly billings.

When you use a product discount to make the initial subscription billing period free, you can optionally enter an explanation for the discount in the discount's Reason field, as pictured above. If a visitor to your Web Storefront clicks the Subscription terms link, this text will appear similarly to the example below.

Example of a section from a Web Storefront with a subscription that has its first billing period free due to a product discount