E-commerce Tools & Best Practices

Is The “Try Before You Buy” Trend Right for Your Business?

By: Michelle McNamara | May 9, 2018

Is the "Try Before You Buy" Trend Right for Your Business?

The traditional fitting room has moved out of brick-and-mortar stores and into our very own bedrooms. Given how easy it is to make a return, consumers are buying items online and treating their purchase like a tryout. For example, a consumer might purchase a few different sizes and styles of jeans to try on at home, then return the jeans he or she doesn’t want. Omnichannel retail management software Bright Pearl calls this trend, “Try Before You Buy.”

According to Bright Pearl, 25 percent of consumers have bought multiple items with the intention of returning them. A recent report from the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) mentioned one of the four major reasons why ecommerce purchases are returned is that there was no intention to buy: “Consumers may order items to use once or just try out, knowing that they can return the item for free afterward.”

This trend poses quite the challenge for businesses, as it’s unpredictable and costly. Return rates already range from 10 percent for the smallest retailers to over 30 percent for mid-sized companies. And whether you like it or not, your customers may be currently or soon purchasing items with the plan of only keeping some of them.

Retailers See Sales Spike from New Program

So, this begs the question: should you get in front of the trend and make it easier for consumers to test your product? ASOS, for example, launched a “Try Before You Buy” program in November 2017, allowing customers to order multiple items before deciding what they’d like to keep. There’s no upfront cost—shoppers simply pay for anything they keep after a certain number of days, usually thirty days following dispatch. This new offering has had a positive impact on its bottom line: in the UK, its sales climbed by 23 percent.

Warby Parker also has a “Home Try-on” program, where customers can choose five frames to try for five days for free. Warby Parker’s doing something right. Its growth is outpacing the retail and eyeglass market, and was recently valued at roughly $1.7 billion.

Should You Implement a “Try Before You Buy” Program?

Before you decide to make it easier for customers to test your product, you’ll want to consider how this will impact your bottom line. Here are a few questions to help you determine if a “Try Before You Buy” program is right for you.

What industry are you in?

This trend is most common with apparel companies, since consumers will be trying on your product to see if it fits. It might also become popular in the beauty industry, as users want to try different shades of foundation, eye shadow, etc. as they find what works best for them.

Other industries might not notice an effect at all. If you sell antiques or sporting equipment, it’s less likely you’ll experience someone trying to buy your product just to test it.

Will your items hold up through the return delivery and try on process?

If your products are fragile and require special packing to ensure they arrive at their destination intact, you likely won’t want to encourage your participants to ship those items back to you without a detailed policy in place. Make sure you provide clear, easy-to-find instructions about how to ship those items and include reusable or new packaging materials with the shipment.

Are you using cost-effective options for return delivery?

It’s important to make sure you’re meeting customer demand, just as it’s critical that you’re meeting your bottom line. To help ease the price of return shipping, look at what cost-effective service levels are available with your carriers. If you want to adopt a program like this, you’ll need to have affordable return shipping in place.

One thing to consider is using a timely outbound shipping service, then using a slower option on the return trip, since it’s usually more affordable. If you ship with the USPS, you could send the package via Priority Mail, then offer return shipping through First-Class, if the package is light enough (up to 13 ounces).

“Try Before You Buy” can seem scary, but your customers might be adopting it whether or not there’s an official program in place. For some businesses, it might make sense to get in front of this trend and support customers in a way that helps the retailer grow its revenues and bring customers back for more.

You might also like our recent post on how to offer free return shipping, and our tips for improving the post-purchase experience with your customers in mind.


Shippo is a multi-carrier API and web app that helps retailers, marketplaces and platforms connect to a global network of carriers. Businesses use Shippo to get real-time rates, print labels, automate international paperwork, track packages and facilitate returns. Shippo provides the tools to help businesses succeed through shipping.

Michelle McNamara

Content Strategist at Shippo

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