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How ‘try before you buy’ is transforming touchless e-commerce

Illustration of a product collection page with the TryNow logo above.

This is an excerpt from our latest e-book “The brick-and-mortar arms race: Omnichannel expectations that are shaping the storefront” by Ryder Ecommerce by Whiplash partner TryNow, who enables the future of e-commerce with Try Before You Buy software for merchants.

As 2022 comes to a close, we can look back and reflect on how the re-opening of stores (and the emergence of formerly home-bound shoppers) have impacted the meteoric rise in e-commerce that we witnessed starting with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The shoppers putting down their iPads or stepping away from their laptops to visit a brick-and-mortar store isn’t the same shopper they were before the pandemic. Forced entirely online for the first time, many brands had to stretch themselves to find creative ways to still deliver a memorable customer experience. 

But that genie can’t be put back in the bottle. Shopper expectations have risen for increasingly hybrid experiences that blend technology with immersive in-person experiences.

One issue that came to the forefront when fitting rooms and showrooms were closed was try-ons. Virtual try-ons, home trial programs, and video reviews discussing fabric and fit made some headway in streamlining online purchases. But how do you get someone to confidently buy something online that they can’t fully experience?

This is where ’try before you buy’ comes into the picture—and why we think it’s here to stay even as shoppers head back to physical stores. 

Try before you buy is where shoppers fill their cart with items and go through the checkout for free, only paying for what they keep at the end of the designated trial period.

Advances in augmented reality (AR) and fit tech are making it easier than ever for consumers to shop online, but nothing is as immersive as a real-life try-on experience. The truth is, even 3D virtual try-ons or AR assistants are still pretty one-dimensional. You don’t know how the product will feel, fit, look in certain lighting, or match other items you own. The confidence that comes with an in-person evaluation of a product cannot be replaced by technology—and it’s this confidence that sees shoppers willing to part with their hard-earned money.

But what about shoppers who try multiple sizes or colors with the intent of returning some or most of the items? Aren’t they taking advantage? 

On the contrary! This is a high-intent shopper who wants to love your product and your brand. They’re just not sure what size they are, or what color will be the most flattering. 

When shoppers exhibit this behavior (termed ’bracketing’), brands only have two choices: to discourage it in a game of whack-a-mole or lean in to make it a competitive differentiator in a hybrid retail landscape. 

Brands that are confident in the quality of their products are leaning in by offering try-before-you-buy programs. In turn, their shoppers convert at higher rates, are more likely to find something that they love, and become more loyal customers because of this experience, meaning higher levels of customer lifetime value. 

Try before you buy is an incredible lever to drive revenue through customer support and other channels with personal touchpoints. 

When a customer reaches out while they’re shopping (’Is this true to size? Would this fit someone with my build? Does this fabric have a sheen to it?’) customer service can answer with the best information they have to offer, plus: ’But don’t take my word for it! We have a try before you buy program.’ 

Similarly, this boosts the success of kitting and styling programs. Recommendations from algorithms or stylists can feel like expensive upsells with a high risk to the shopper footing the bill. With try before you buy, these are truly thoughtful suggestions, and shoppers only pay for what they love.

Enjoyed this extract? Check out the rest of our eBook on how the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped consumer expectations for fluid retail journeys:

The brick and mortar arms race: omnichannel expectations that are shaping the storefront.
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