How to know if “Try Before You Buy” is right for your online store

The landscape of online commerce is changing rapidly. Long gone are the days when customers had to wait over a week to receive their boxes from Amazon, one of the few online stores in existence back in the day. 

Now, customers expect many challenging things from their online retailers: fast delivery, an accurate product description, and an easy-to-follow return policy are some of the most relevant ones. 

A Brightpearl survey from 2019, showed customers already had the intention to return some items when they made their purchases. This is one of the factors contributing to the increase of returns to online sellers, growing rapidly by 95% over a 5-year period. 

With half of the customers both actively checking for a return policy before purchasing and having returned at least one item in the last year, it is obvious this is a problem that will not sort itself out, as young shoppers make up most of these returns, they will constantly return items, causing an impact on small and medium size online stores due to handling them. 

With the bleak panorama ahead of themselves, online stores wish they could have the minimal returns rate of brick-and-mortar stores, and they may have found it in the “Try Before You Buy” model. 

The “Try Before You Buy” model 

“Try Before You Buy” is a model of sales currently being used by big names in e-commerce that allows the customer to recreate the brick-and-mortar experience through a trial period and a “Pay Later” approach. 

It works like this:  

  1. The customer adds products to their cart as they normally would. 
  2.  They are presented with the “Try Before You Buy” option at checkout.  
  3.  They click this option and then they check out without paying anything.  
  4.  The items are shipped normally to them. 
  5.  The customer receives the items and has a predetermined period to try out the product. 
  6.  The customer chooses which products to keep and which to return. 
  7.  If they choose to return something, it is processed normally. 
  8.  The customer is charged for the products they keep.

You can get a better idea of how the model works by Booking a Demo with Stage Try and going through the process with our team. 

This very simple change, giving the customer a chance to touch and try the products before paying for them as they would in a brick-and-mortar store, proves to be very impactful as several studies and surveys show over 70% of customers would prefer retailers with this option and purchase more items and more frequently when given the opportunity to try the products before paying for them. Also, customers have said they find the “Try Before You Buy” option feels like a VIP option. 

But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. The “Try Before You Buy” model alone cannot solve all the e-commerce problems and needs to be reinforced with good inventory management, fluid shipping and return processes, a good knowledge of the earning margins, and a uniform approach to the model from all areas of the company. 

Besides this, the system can (and does) get abused, increase the cost of returns shipping, and create inventory confusion. “Try Before You Buy” can indeed be very dangerous for the unprepared store. 

Before offering a “Try Before You Buy” option: 

Before you implement a “Try Before You Buy” option, you must be clear on the following aspects: 

  • Your products must make sense with the “Try Before You Buy” model. 

This model is better suited for products like clothes and accessories. Naturally, there are some products for which it is less suitable. Keep in mind the customers will open, touch and try on the products, so if any of these actions damage your products permanently, then maybe this isn’t the solution for your store. 

Ask yourself if this model makes sense with your products. 

  • Have a good and cost-effective shipping solution to handle the returns. 

If your store doesn’t have a cost-effective return shipping solution then that may be something to look into before offering “Try Before You Buy” as an option in your store. 

  • Your products must be very good quality and durable. 

For “Try Before You Buy” to work properly, your products must have excellent quality, since this is the most important thing to convince people to keep them. 

You also need durable products that will withstand the hypothetical two-way shipping and handling. Neither you nor your customers benefit from products that get damaged in the mail. 

  • Prepare your store 

Before implementing “Try Before You Buy”, make sure to have the operations, logistics, IT, customer service, and merchandising areas of your business well implemented and capable of dealing with an increased number of customers.  

You want to make sure the option will not cause confusion and delays in your processes, creating more headaches and costs for you. 

Now that you know this, you can start making the necessary arrangements for your store to handle “Try Before You Buy” as an option for your customers. The consensus is that this model is a great option to reduce cart abandonment, increase sales and improve customer loyalty, but there are some cons that may be coming to your mind right now. We will talk about these questions next week, but for now, don’t hesitate to book a demo and talk to the Stage Try team about our solution and get answers to these questions and more. 

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