Several months ago we announced that a new, live demo was available where you could test out AffiliateWP in a sandbox environment. This was a fun, exciting way to show off AffiliateWP to potential users, and it made it easier for users to decide whether they wanted to commit to making a purchase.

Or that’s what we thought.

The demo has not been online for a couple of months now due to some technical difficulties, but while it was running, we collected some really interesting data.

When it was first launched, we decided to run some A/B tests to see if we could accurately determine whether visitors to the site were more likely to become a paying customer if given the opportunity to test out a live demo of the product.

The results were quite interesting.

For the duration of the test, we collected statistics from about 10,000 visitors to the site. When landing on the site, each visitor was given one of two versions of the site:

  1. A version with prominent links to the live demo
  2. A version with no links to or mentions of the live demo

For each of the 10,000 visitors, we tracked several key actions across the site:

  • We tracked each time a visitor clicked on the Get Started Now buttons
  • We tracked each time a visitor clicked on any of the Buy Now buttons
  • We tracked each time a visitor clicked on the Pricing links
  • We tracked each time a visitor made a successful purchase

All three of these actions saw a distinctive increase from visitors that were given the non-demo version of the site. In other words, when not presented with the option to view a demo, visitors were far more likely to proceed to the pricing and purchase pages. How much more likely? Our results saw as much as a 39% increase for visitors that were given the non-demo version.

For each of these actions, we also tracked how many went on to make a complete purchase. Visitors without the demo were more likely to complete a purchase every single time.

The Buy Now buttons, for example, were tracked and 3.43% of visitors who were given prominent demo links made a successful purchase, but 5.06% of visitors who had no demo links made a successful purchase.

After the A/B tests were concluded, it was very clear which version of the site was better for us as a business.

So what about potential customers that are worried about the risk of purchasing software that doesn’t have a live demo available? That’s simple, actually. We have a guaranteed 30-day refund policy on all purchases. If there is any doubt on whether AffiliateWP will work for you, there’s nothing to worry about because you can purchase it 100% risk free. If it doesn’t work for you or you are unhappy with it, we will refund your purchase in full.

We believe it’s also important to tell you all of this because along with trying to build great affiliate marketing software, we also want to help you build a better, stronger business, for you and your affiliates.

We take the time to A/B test our own website so that we can not only improve our business, but so we can also better help you improve your business, and improve the success of your affiliate program.

Do you sell software? Do you have a live demo? It is possible that the presence (or lack of) a live demo is actually hurting your sales. Now, our data should in no way make you decide to suddenly close down your live demos; every software is different, but I would encourage you to test it. Collect the data and find out which option is better. Optimizely.com is a tremendously powerful tool for A/B testing websites.

Pippin Williamson

About the author: Pippin Williamson is the founder and lead developer of AffiliateWP, Easy Digital Downloads, and Restrict Content Pro. When not writing PHP, he can often be found sipping coffee or brewing beer in his home brewery.

17 comments

  1. Is there any connection between those who were refunded within the 30 days, and whether they had prominent links to try the demo first?

    The purchase percentages don’t count for much if, as an extreme example, all those who were refunded had not been able to easily play with the demo first.

    1. That’s an excellent question. I don’t have sufficient data to say exactly what the percentages were for both data sets, but I can tell you that I think it’s pretty insignificant. Looking purely at the number of refunds that have been granted, even if 80% of those came from customers that did not see a demo, it would still only be a difference of 2 to 5. In order to make a data-driven statement about that, we would need to have had hundreds or thousands of refunds, which we simply did not have 🙂

  2. Have you raised some usability data (a survey) for the time of the demo?
    It would be interested to find out the reasons why customers did less purchases. This would be great indicator to improve the software for customer needs.

    Without such data, the reason could be everything, started from lacking speed of the demo website to usability and workflow issue of affiliatewp.

    However, thanks for sharing this extremely helpful observation result.

  3. The A/B testing technique was an excellent idea, however it looks like at the end of the day “Mystery” wins!

    I was planning to create a demo website for one of my plugins, and thought of this. I am afraid that giving a demo for a potential customer to play is some how risky, it may hurt sales and business in general in some cases. I prefer refund them if they try and didn’t work for them.

    1. I think demos can be very effective for the right kind of product. AffiliateWP does not have a lot of administrator interaction and mostly runs itself in the background of your site, so it is not a great plugin to demo. If you have a form builder, however, where potential customers can get in and see exactly how your for builder works, a demo could be an exceptionally powerful sales tool.

      Every kind of product will have different results.

  4. Very interesting study, Pippin.

    Did you also the activity on your site of those without the demo. Did they spend more time on viewing the features, looking at other pages, reading the documentation etc etc etc.

    It also doesn’t surprise me.

    As you’d know yourself, five minutes testing a plugin is not enough. And we’ve all had those “I want a refund – I couldn’t get your plugin working after 5 minutes” type requests.

    What’s more, you’re testing in a foreign environment that has none of your own test content.

    I’ve tried many demo sites of software, and not sure how it’s affected my purchasing, but they’ve rarely been comprehensively helpful in me making a decision.

    And the great risk, if your particular plugin does have a steeper learning curve, folks will be scared off in those 5 minutes.

    Sizzle sells. Spiffy videos, gushing feature lists, have sizzle. Demo sites don’t have sizzle, and if anything they kill the sizzle.

    Thanks for your effort, this info certainly helped me.

    1. Yep we did! The level of activity on the site was dramatically higher (so more activity taking place) for those visitors that did not receive the demo.

      1. Which I guess means if one was to do a demo tryout site, one should make it so the user can hit the ground running. e.g. have quality content for testing (not leave it to the user to create those “This is a test” or “fgfgfg jdslsl ghoidsklf” posts); and if the plugin does create content itself, have existing examples.

        For me, the thing I really like before I buy is the 1 to 2 min demo video. Because then its shown off by someone who knows how to get the best out of it and make it look good. (Demo sites are trusting me to immediately know how to do that for myself!)

    1. Just remember that every situation is different. It’s possible that a demo will work really, really well for you. Each plugin is different and so you can only know if a demo is good or bad for you by putting one up and A/B testing the results.

  5. Hi Pippin, thanks for these insights. Great reading. At the moment I’m in the search of an affiliate system for wordpress myself. I like your product and style. Thanks for these insights about live demo vs refund policy.
    Maybe you can A/B test “tutorial video’s” as well. I kinda miss a sight at your product.
    Thnx!

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