'Freemium' model allows consumers to sample new services like tech support and energy savings before they buy

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Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 8:00 pm

Taking a cue from those little sample scoops at the ice cream shop, or the free samples at the grocery store, many companies are allowing you to try out their product before you commit to buying. Whether it's a music service or tech support, consumers have many opportunities to get a sample of the product before deciding whether to open their wallets.

In what's becoming widely known as "freemium" service, businesses are giving consumers access to a basic product and letting them choose if they want to upgrade and pay for expanded service options.

Freemium models are becoming increasingly popular when it comes to music, TV shows and movies. Music services like Spotify allow users to access everything for free, but offer the option to pay if they want to forgo ads and take their music with them on their mobile devices. Video streaming services like Hulu offer a portion of their libraries for free and allow greater access for paying customers.

Smartphone applications also often allow users free access for the basic app. If you want to upgrade the app or get rid of ads within the app, you can pay for the premium version.

The freemium model goes beyond entertainment; it extends to computer repair, counseling, energy savings and even health care. A recent survey by tech repair site iYogi found that 39 percent of respondents had taken advantage of free one-on-one consultations with experts for various services, including career or life coaching, energy savings, nutrition and fitness, tech support and Lasik surgery.

For example, a home energy expert might offer a free in-home consultation where the expert would walk through a customer's home and identify areas where efficiency could be improved. The consumer would then have the option to use the expert's services to fix these problems, or pursue other means to conduct the repairs.

Through iYogi's freemium consultation services, customers can connect with tech experts and work with them to diagnose a computer problem. The iYogi technician will check for problems like operating system errors, viruses and malware, outdated drivers and other common problems that cause your computer to work slowly or stop working altogether.

Customers may be able to fix the problem themselves after receiving this consultation, but if it's something that requires additional expertise, a technician is already available to fix the problem. The goal is to give customers a diagnosis and allow them to make their own decision on how to fix the problem without charging an up-front fee.

With the help of freemium services and other free one-on-one consultations, consumers have the power to sample the services that a business has to offer and then decide if it's worth paying for a higher level of service. This allows consumers to make a more informed decision before putting their money on the table.

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