Hi Graham. Sorry for the late reply - it’s a fair question to ask, and I’ve been following up with some of the teams that use the free files as I wanted to give more information.
Free items serve a few purposes on the Envato Market sites. Broadly speaking, those relate to customer acquisition, conversion, and retention. Initiatives like the Free WordPress Themes landing page are primarily aimed at acquisition, getting new customers in by targeting high-volume search engine traffic. Most of the regular Market free files help with conversion and retention, though.
On the conversion front, a free file is often the first real item experience a new visitor has. Before they’re confident enough to make a purchase, they download a free item to see what it’s like and check out things like the download experience (what’s in the ZIP file, how easy is it to use in that format, etc). People who’ve downloaded a free item are more likely to make a purchase, and more likely to purchase from that author. That’s why we try to set a high bar for the quality of free file nominations.
Customer retention is the other big role for free items. Many customers only ever buy one item, but there’s obviously a lot of value in getting more people to return and make additional purchases. Email is the biggest channel for this, with free files being presented to customers in multiple places.
One regular email series promotes the “Free File of the Month” items at the start and end of each month, to a large list of engaged customers (currently ~1.2M for each email). We can see from our data that customers who return to the site to check out the free items often buy more items during that visit.
Specifically for AudioJungle, there’s another series of emails that highlights new items. The Audio and Video versions both include any current audio free files. These go to a highly segmented list of customers interested in those item categories, so there’s another opportunity to reach the customers most likely to purchase on AJ.
More generally, all new Envato customers who subscribe to Market Mail receive a welcome email. These have just been redesigned to include a free files link in the top navigation area. Unlike the “Free File of the Month” emails, the welcome series is always active, and so it sends a steady amount of customer traffic to the free files throughout the month.
I hope that’s useful context on where the free files are used, and the types of customers they’re presented to in each case.