Autodesk: An Introduction
For Autodesk, the software design and service giant, promoting trial period use of its key products and applications is an important strategy for engaging potential customers and stimulating purchase decisions. In particular, the company’s 30-day software trial period is considered to be critical in their marketing strategy and represents a major portion of the website traffic.
At the recent GSummit SF 2013 Conference, in the session “Converting Free Users to Paid: Gamification at Autodesk”, Autodesk Digital Marketing Director Dawn Wolfe and Resource Interactive Managing Director Steven Burke presented the results of two recent projects designed to increase the conversion rate for two Autodesk trial programs. Surprisingly, the first effort was wildly successful, but the second was a failure. We will investigate further and see why.
The Autodesk Product Line
In general, Autodesk products are very complex, very powerful, and very expensive. Because of the complexity and sophistication, the learning curves are often quite formidable. Most users take weeks, or even months before they actually gain any true competency. They also represent a major investment, with the cheapest Autodesk product costing $1,200, while its more popular products will run $5,000 per license seat.
For prospective customers this presents a new challenge – how do they determine whether a product so sophisticated is justifiable for their needs. These are definitely not products that one would purchase without having a solid understanding of how they can help ones business.
The Autodesk In-Trial Program
To help engage prospective users (potential buyers), Autodesk offers an In-Trial program. Users can download software design programs and application suites for a 30-day trial period. During this period users can access online tutorials, documentation, and example file sets, to assist them in learning about the software and help assess the their need.
Autodesk’s In-Trial program is essential in promoting their software products, while at the same time, critical to the conversion process. In fact, trial downloads are the number one reason that visitors globally use the Autodesk website. As a result, there is a direct link between customer engagement with a trial and their propensity to make a purchase.
As an example, metrics for Autodesk’s 3DS Max product trial program shows that for prospective users who employ a trial three or more times, there is a 2x increased likelihood that they will purchase the product. (However, 80% of the trial users only open the product once.) It is therefore very important that the initial engagement with the trial users is positive.
The Autodesk In-Trial marketing team explored a new objective – how to increase the conversion rate of new prospects (the trial users) to purchasers. Based on their In-Trial data they hypothesized that by increasing the engagement level of the trial users, the likelihood of them purchasing the product would increase. (In theory, this would expose them to the most compelling aspects of the software products, creating incentives for the trial users and prospects to take the next step and purchase the products.)
Initiative 1: Gamification for the 3DS Max Trial Program
When the 2013 version of the Autodesk 3DS Max software was released, the company employed the digital marketing agency Resource Interactive to create a new, innovative way to increase the trial conversion rate. Resource actually developed an online game called “Undiscovered Territory” that took customers on an entertaining and educational journey.
The game was advertised within the 3DS Max trial software, providing an entry point into the actual game. Resource developed an entertaining storyline, which incorporated a worldwide race, numerous missions, awards, and Badgeville platform components. At the same time, they evoked social influence mechanics by connecting users with their social marketing sites and community platforms – including YouTube and Facebook. Overall it was a very robust experience for the users.
For 3DS Max, the target audience consists of special effects artists, graphics designers, and game developers. This is a pretty safe target group since most are already likely to be utilizing 3DS Max or another Autodesk development product. As such, the target market was considered to be well defined and safe- a necessary condition for engaging users in their trial program’s gamification platform.
The results were impressive.