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Study on free trial decision-making of IT products and services from an IT company's perspective

Jiaqing Xu (Yangzhou University, Yangzhou, China)
Weiling Jiao (Yancheng Institute of Technology, Yancheng, China)
Hao Chen (Qingdao University, Qingdao, China)
Yufei Yuan (McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)

Journal of Enterprise Information Management

ISSN: 1741-0398

Article publication date: 29 September 2020



Free trial is an effective strategy to gaining users’ data so as to strengthen and optimize product design. The purpose of this paper is to understand the IT companies' dynamic decision-making behavior in the free trial of IT products and services context based on a three-stage theoretical framework and users' decision-making behavior in the respective stage.


A three-stage methodology is proposed to clarify relevant decision problems and actions in each stage from IT companies' and users' perspectives, respectively. It then investigates relating variables on IT companies' decision-making based on extant research and users' decision-making.


In this study, the authors argue that the IT companies have to make the offering, implementation and retention decision in different stage during the whole free trial process. Each decision is determined by several variables from their own and users, namely the offering decision is determined by product characteristics, network effects, product life cycle and WOM (word of mouth); the implementation decision is determined by the quality of products and services, trial type, incentive measures on user's usage and communication strategy; and the retention decision is determined by the product and price strategy.

Practical implications

The results are practical and can be used by IT companies as a decision basis or reference to make reliable decisions so that IT companies can take target measures to ensure the effectiveness of their free trial strategy so as to meet their users' needs based on products designed by data driven. Thus, the ultimate goal of supply chain management is achieved.


In this study, the decision-making process in the free trial of IT products and services context is investigated as a whole for the first time. From the IT companies' perspective, the process includes offering, implementation and retention decision stages, which are continuous and inseparable. The variables that determine IT companies' decision-making are identified based on users' decision and action. Hence, it represents a brand-new whole process perception to clearly understand the dynamic of the IT companies' decision-making. Considering users' decision and action, the final decisions of the IT companies will be more practical in respect of motivating, retaining and upgrading users.



Xu, J., Jiao, W., Chen, H. and Yuan, Y. (2020), "Study on free trial decision-making of IT products and services from an IT company's perspective", Journal of Enterprise Information Management, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 543-558.



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