For the launch, we're thinking of including all the eventual premium features at no cost, referring to the launch as a public beta. Eventually, once traffic picks up, we would put up a notice saying that the beta is coming to an end, and that a number of the features will be reserved for the full version. The core functionality will remain in the free version.
What I'm concerned about is that this may anger some people. Instead of adding additional features, the beta's end would remove the premium features that some people may have come to rely on.
Have there been examples of this executed successfully or otherwise? Is this a bad idea?
This is a bad idea - it's not freemium, it's ransom.
Instead of adding additional features, the beta's end would remove the premium features that some people may have come to rely on.Yes, this is a bad idea.
The core problem is that you're wasting your users time. If you have a service that is valuable to a user, then the user is putting in effort to enter all of their data.
I know it's easy to think "hey I'm paying for hosting this user's data", but from the user's perspective, they too have been paying with their time.
Have there been examples of this executed successfully or otherwise?The only reasonable way to implement this is to mark the future Premium features as premium during the beta. You can remove features if you tell your users that they will be going away in advance. Also, you will want to set a hard date on the feature "expiry", otherwise users will just avoid the feature because they won't want to lock themselves in.
Honestly, even then you will be getting some complaints, but at least those complaints can provide a reasonable ground for selling the user on the upgrade.
Is this a bad idea?However, even if you warn users about things "going premium" in advance, you will still get some backlash.
For example, if you beta a premium feature but don't set a price in advance, users will be really angry if they feel the price is too high. Of course, if you set the price too high in advance, they you may destroy uptake of the feature. Conversely dropping that price will require refunding early users who may be angry. And a history of dropping prices will cause users to become skeptical that you are not just yanking their chain.
Other users will be annoyed that they gave you free testing only to be locked out of the feature they tested for you. So you'll need to consider "grand-fathering in" your beta users.
In any case, you can already see the mess developing here.
So honestly, I would avoid this approach as much as possible.
I'm using Google Apps as an example as I didn't feel wronged by them. The offered a core set of features that were not premium from the beginning. I adopted them. They later wanted a per user fee for the premium version. I was not obligated to pay them and could retain my existing functionality. I was not wronged.
I did end up signing several customers on to the service later and many of them opted for the paid version.
What I'm trying to say is its better to offer what you are willing to give away for free, forever and then have the upsell in the full version.
People won't feel wronged this way and they will have loyalty to your service in recommending to others at a later time. I do feel good about Google Apps and feel its a great value to customers, not necessarily because it is intrinsically good but I feel very comfortable with it after using it so long. That kind of advertising is great as long as it doesn't cost you too much to hold on to the freebies.