There is no question that lifetime deals can be a good value and help to keep us out from under the weight of recurring subscriptions. It is common for subscriptions to software and services to stack up over time until you feel like you are on a renewal treadmill. Also, with annual subscriptions you need to reevaluate the purchase on each renewal, but a one time purchase provides peach of mind. However, all lifetime deals are not the same. We need to consider pricing, included features, issues of support and updates, as well as any other terms of the offer.
This guide provides tips and suggestions to help in the purchase process.
What does it mean to be “lifetime”
There are two dimensions that make the deal a “lifetime” deal. First, is lifetime usage. Under a subscription model, you often loose the right to use the software without an active subscription. Under a lifetime model you retain the right to use the software indefinitely. Secondly, is the issue of software updates and new versions. It is important to get bug fixes, security updates, and updates in support of server or operating system changes. Otherwise the value of the software quickly diminishes and becomes useless. Receiving updates is critical, and this is the minimum requirement, in my opinion, for a true “lifetime deal.” Beware of purchase terms that just say “lifetime usage” as this is sometimes confusing and falsely gives the impression of a lifetime deal. Note that “lifetime” is the lifetime of the product, not your lifetime.
Number of Websites, Number of Installs, or Number of Users
If you are purchasing a product that is meant to be used on your website then check how many sites it can be used on. Do you have a development or staging site? Or, if it is installed on your computer, can you install it on both your desktop and your laptop? Is the software just meant for one user, or is there a “team” feature?
Most companies have a policy against transferring your license or account to another party. If you are purchasing for someone else then you may want to set up an account for them rather than tie the account to your name and email.
Versions and features
Are all of the current features included? Sometimes a product will have addons or extensions that provide extra functionality. Be sure that these are included in the purchase, or evaluate if they will be needed and consider the additional cost.
Do the terms of the offer include new features and versions? It sometimes happens that companies will put a product on sale a few months before a new version is released. They hope to get users that will pay for an upgrade. It can be unsettling if you purchase software only to find that a new version is released with new features that are unavailable to you. On the other hand, sometimes the current version is more than adequate and this is the way to get a discount. If new versions or features are not included then be sure that the current version or features are sufficient to meet your needs.
Once in a while there will be a lifetime deal with only limited support. For some products once you know how to use it you rarely need support. Other products are “mission critical” or complex and support is essential.
Guarantee and Refund Period
Before purchasing, check the guarantee and refund period. Most vendors will offer a no questions asked refund period. Other vendors will only refund if the product is defective and they cannot fix it. A few vendors offer no refunds, or no refunds on discounted sales.
A few vendors fill their sales funnel with upsells. Sometimes an upsell makes sense, but be wary of upsell chains that are tricks to get you to spend more than you intend.
Pricing and Deal Changes
We expect that the lifetime option will cost more than the annual option, but how much more is reasonable? Each business should know the average customer lifetime and can use the lifetime option to get a bit more from the buyer. Some studies have shown that the average life of a software subscription is around three years, so something just beyond that makes sense, depending on the product.
Pricing changes are not uncommon in business. A reputable business will honor your lifetime license if they change the license terms, but it is a good practice to look at reviews and ask other users about their experiences. When you are checking out the deal, try to get a sense of how long the business has been active and if the product is a “version one” or a mature product.
In the final analysis, it is up to each business to decide their own offerings and pricing based on their needs and market assessment. When you are evaluating for purchase, remember that the business decides the pricing and the customers decide if the item and price make sense for them.
A mature product may not have a public road map, but a new product often does. This is because the company wants to show the promise and intentions, even if the features are not ready yet. Beware of buying the road map and not the product. Ideally, the product has enough features that matter to you that you can start using it immediately.
If you cannot find information about the terms of the deal then it is a good idea to ask for clarification. The response or lack there of may be a way to gauge support responsiveness.