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5 Brands That Let You Try a Product Before Buying It [What Marketers Can Learn]

Recently, I took a leap of faith, and bought leggings online.

I was nervous because of the obvious: I couldn’t see the leggings in person or try them on in-store, and I wasn’t sure how the sizing worked. I didn’t want to pay for shipping and item tax without even knowing if I was going to love my purchase.

During the checkout process, I kept thinking about how much I wanted to try the leggings on before I bought them, just to make sure I was making a good choice. The fear of not knowing made me hesitant to spend money online.

Even though ecommerce is a booming industry, projected to earn $6 trillion in 2022, there’s still some anxiety for consumers when buying products through a screen.

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Fortunately, some brands have taken that into consideration, and have come up with a way to let consumers try products and services before purchasing them.

You may be wondering how try-before-you-buy services work online. Additionally, you might question why businesses would send prospective customers products with no commitment, or how to start a business that offers a similar service.

To answer your questions and offer some inspiration, we’ve made a list of five brands that offer unique try-before-you-buy models and takeaways marketers can gain from them.

Who knows — maybe you’ll find the model you can emulate for your business.

Let’s take a look.

1. BlackCart

BlackCart was created to make try-before-you-buy shopping less of a painful guessing game for merchants. They offer a service for merchants that want to implement a try-before-you-buy option within their online store.

With BlackCart, merchants can enjoy integrations with Shopify, Magneto, and WooCommerce, customization options to fit their branding, and no fulfillment charges, all on a fully automated platform.

Merchants can use multiple settings to personalize the sale and shopping experience on their website. These settings include choices such as placing the trial period, exclusions, minimums, a deposit requirement, price, and refunds.

BlackCart shopping example

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On the consumer side, shoppers can select items to try from the merchant’s website and pay a fee set by the merchant (shown in the photo above). From there, the items are shipped to try on at home for the time period set by the merchant. After the customer sends unwanted items back, the kept items are charged automatically.

Online business owners will appreciate that BlackCart fits in as part of a merchant’s online store. BlackCart is an example of B2B having a place with try-before-you-buy services as well. They make sure the merchant experience is seamless so they can focus on delighting the consumer.

2. Warby Parker

As someone who wears glasses, I was especially interested to dive into how Warby Parker works. Here’s the low-down: consumers try five pairs of frames at home for free, prescription-ready, pick and pay for the frame(s) they like, and send the rest back.

Warby Parker glasses box

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Let’s expand on that.

Warby Parker’s shopping experience can start a few different ways: consumers can either begin shopping for glasses right away or take a quiz for suggested pairs. All consumers need to do is upload their prescription to get started.

If you don’t have an updated prescription, you can receive one from Warby Parker by booking a comprehensive eye exam at a physical store location. After about 20 minutes, you’ll receive a prescription on the spot. This option shows the business’s commitment to being a full-service eyewear company.

Marketers can learn from the no-hassle way Warby Parker is run. The site is very straight-forward, and answers all the questions a glasses-wearer might have. For selection, the site organizes choices by frame type, color, fit, and material. The user-friendliness and simple process takes the pain out of setting appointments and waiting weeks for new glasses.

3. Casper

Casper is a mattress company that provides consumers with 100 nights of trying out their new bed before they commit to buying it. Additionally, the company offers free shipping, returns, and a 10-year limited warranty on all mattresses.

Casper offers six different mattress types and sizes, like ‘The Wave,’ pictured below.

Caspers's The Wave mattress

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On the website, consumers can also purchase other bedding items, such as sheets, glow lights, or pillows, to complete a shopper’s bedroom experience. After a consumer picks their mattress, extras, and finishes their trial, they make the decision.

If the consumer does not fall in love with their mattress, they can enjoy a full refund of the mattress and ship it back for free. If they do love their mattress, they get to keep it and enjoy night 101 with their new bed.

Casper’s extended free trial is something unique to their service. The idea is that customers can take the time to get used to their new mattress and incorporate it into their nightly routine. After a couple of months with a new mattress, it would be a culture shock to go back to a different one.

Best of all, customers can feel peace-of-mind knowing that even if they make a huge purchase such as a mattress, they can receive a full refund and free return if they’re not happy — but if they are, their job is done.

4. Stitch Fix

Stitch Fix is an online clothing company that lets customers create a personalized shopping experience using collections made by real stylists. Customers can take a style quiz, set their budget, and pay a $20 styling fee.

Then, after paying the styling fee, customers get sent five pieces based on their quiz answers and budget, which they can try on at home before they commit to a purchase. They keep their favorites, send back the others with the company’s free shipping policy, and that’s it.

Stitch Fix navigation

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Stitch Fix’s wardrobe options include a variety of brands. A customer, depending on their budget, can receive clothes from retailers including The North Face, Free People, Calvin Klein, Nike, Bonobos, Toms, and O’Neil.

The company’s model is appealing to customers who don’t want to leave their house to find an outfit they’d love. The style quiz, with questions about sizing, shopping behavior, and personal preference, is built to ensure that customers will receive choices they like.

The company also doesn’t run on a subscription, so there’s no set commitment. Customers also can enjoy free shipping and returns using Stitch Fix, and the $20 styling fee is a credit towards the items kept, so the customer will always have $20 off their purchase.

Stitch Fix’s service gives the power to the customer and delivers the most personalized shopping experience possible to the shopper, from the style quiz to the curated collections by real stylists. They take the worries out of commitments to online shopping, such as shipping prices, incorrect sizing, and receiving items you might not like.

5. Prime Wardrobe

Amazon Prime offers a try-before-you-buy service through their clothing service, Prime Wardrobe. The model is very similar to the previous examples — customers get to shop on the website and choose up to eight items to enjoy for seven days, and they’re only charged for what they decide to keep.

Members can enjoy a full-service shopping experience, with options sorted by style, occasion, or fit, shown below. For consumers that want even more help, Prime Wardrobe offers a Personal Styling tool that chooses items based on customer preferences.

Prime Wardrobe example

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A customer might choose Prime Wardrobe if they are already a Prime member for the ease of the process. It can feel like an exclusive membership because Wardrobe is only available to Prime members.

Prime Wardrobe customers can enjoy free shipping and returns, as well as the speedy delivery process of being a Prime member. Marketers can take note of the fact that even though Amazon didn’t start as a try-before-you-buy service, they fit one into their business model to delight customers even further.

Try-before-you-buy programs are so versatile, and marketers can definitely take note of the unique ways these programs delight customers and personalize the shopping experience. As a consumer, I’d be more drawn to a business so confident in their product that they offer it for free before commitment.

As a marketer, I see the value in assuring consumers that their experience will be top-notch. Did you see a service that persuaded you to try-before-you-buy?

Product Marketing Kit

Originally published Mar 16, 2020 4:00:00 AM, updated March 16 2020

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Product Marketing

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