If you need to know whether a software application meets your exact needs (for example that it will interface to your current system), testing prior to sign-up is an essential activity. Many cloud-based applications use a minimalist front end listing the reasons to buy, but not fully describing the functionality provided. In the ‘Freemium’ business model the customer can play with the application and find out what it can do for themselves. I recently got a free account with a web conferencing tool to find out whether it would meet my needs.
But testing was painful. I was constantly presented with messages asking me to ‘upgrade’ and buy a monthly subscription (with great savings if I paid for a year in advance!). The navigation continually pointed me towards features that I could not use as they were unavailable in the free version. Support via online chat yielded the bare minimum in terms of answers. That company lost a prospective customer.
Computer software used to be sold to us by people, a natural person to person process. Now it is the software itself that (often covertly) sells to us, which for humans is unnatural. Instead of selling to us just once when we first buy the product, software sells to us all the time we are using it. It constantly upsells the next subscription tier, or the purchase of extras, which can leave the user feeling irritated or manipulated. Cloud-based application providers need to carefully consider the integrity of their offering if they are to establish a loyal customer base.
Andrew Keevil assists technology companies with strategy and marketing, specialising in new proposition development.