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A guide to Try Now, Buy Later in ecommerce

an illustration of a product page with the ‘try now’ option. above is the ‘try now’ logo.

Ecommerce has been around for roughly a quarter of a century. 

In this time, we’ve seen the online retail market expand in tandem with the expansion of internet access and personal devices like laptops, tablets, and cell phones. 

We’ve also seen the rise of ecommerce-adjacent technologies and services, which enhance the online shopping experience: faster, more transparent delivery; speedy checkouts that are as secure as they are convenient; returns and exchange processes designed to be simple and delightful, a far cry from the hassle they used to be.

One thing that hasn’t changed? The expectation that shoppers pay for goods at checkout, and receive those goods … later!

While this was initially necessary to ensure merchants received payment, that’s not the case anymore.

We’re here to break down the emerging ‘Try Now, Buy Later’ category: What is it, why is it a thing, and how can merchants and shoppers make this work for them? 

What is Try Now, Buy Later?

Try Now, Buy Later is a new way to shop online.  It looks a lot like the way we have always shopped in stores, or what we might call ‘try before you buy’.

In a brick and mortar store you don’t have to pay to enter the fitting room, or to sit down and try on a pair of running shoes, or kick your feet up on that leather sofa and ottoman. 

But if you were ordering those things online? You’d pay first, and then wait days or even weeks before you tried on the clothes, took a few steps in the sneakers, or sank back into those couch cushions.

The Try Now, Buy Later category has emerged as the remedy to the classic pay-first, try-later, send-it-back-and-wait-for-your-refund setup.

Shoppers who choose to try before they buy will:

  • select their items
  • pay nothing upfront
  • evaluate the products over a fixed-length trial period
  • return anything they don’t want
  • only pay for what they choose to keep when the trial has ended

Why do shoppers love Try Now, Buy Later?

Newsflash: Shoppers love trying new things! Trying new things presents the chance to find new items (and brands) to love and incorporate into your life. COVID-19 has also made consumers more willing to experiment with different brands, with 39% of respondents saying they had bought from a new brand during the pandemic. 

However, traditional online shopping can hinder this experience, because it’s hard to fall in love with a product through a screen. 

Often, shoppers end up looking at their cart and removing items or abandoning check out altogether because they aren’t convinced they’ll love the product. After all, it’s hard to part with your money for a product you may very well return later, especially those hard-to-buy items like footwear and apparel.

Presented with the option to try before they buy, shoppers are liberated. They can fill their carts with products that interest them, and then turn the living room into their own private fitting room or showroom. 

When you know you’ll only pay for what you love, you have the confidence to check out with a full cart. By bringing the store to your door, you’ll try more things than you otherwise would have – giving you more chances to fall in love.

Why do merchants love Try Now, Buy Later?

If you can create memorable shopping experiences that your customers love, they’re much more likely to shop with you again.

Telling shoppers in ads and on-site messaging that they can try-before-they-buy is a very compelling offer. It increases click-through and conversion rates, making your marketing spend more efficient.

Offering Try Now, Buy Later means more people will experience your product, in turn expanding your brand reach.

Knowing they only have to pay for what they decide to keep changes shopper behavior: consumers will explore more, and opt to try items they otherwise may have avoided – either because of price point, or because it’s a product, style, or color they don’t normally opt for. 

TryNow gives them the confidence to check these items out, and with more items at home, shoppers actually keep more. Higher cart values translate to higher net average order values, with AOV increasing by 25-60% even after returns are taken into account, according to TryNow studies.

How do Try Now, Buy Later programs work?

While the benefits to shoppers and merchants are compelling, most merchants immediately raise questions about the execution of Try Now, Buy Later:

  • How do you handle ecommerce fulfillment of both standard orders and trial orders?
  • How do you prevent fraud and ensure you can capture funds for those trial items that are not returned?
  • How do you manage inventory for both products that are on trial and products that were purchased?

…and the list goes on.

Until recently, try before you buy programs were only offered by large companies like Amazon and StitchFix that had the resources to take on the complexity.  Alternatively, they were managed manually by small ecommerce brands offering them to select VIP shoppers. These merchants often saw the value of a trial program but lacked the resources to scale the program efficiently to include all products and all customers.

 With the emergence of software providers like TryNow, all the operational complexities of a try before you buy program can be automated and managed. By integrating seamlessly with ecommerce fulfillment partners like Whiplash, as well as RMS providers, TryNow enables merchants to expand their value proposition and begin offering a trial program without disrupting their current fulfillment or return processes.

Given this massive shift in the accessibility of try before you buy program and the benefits to both shoppers and merchants, we expect to see the Try Now, Buy Later commerce category continue to expand rapidly in 2022.

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