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From Skeptic to Customer: The 'Try Before You Buy' Journey

Learn how “try before you buy” programs work and how to leverage them to boost sales and improve customer engagement.

While online shopping has dramatically altered the retail industry, there remain aspects of the shopping experience that e-commerce can't replicate.

You can't hold the item in your hands to analyze the texture and feel. You aren't able to try on clothing to see how it fits on your body. Instead, you rely on product images, videos, and sometimes augmented reality (AR). Online shopping is convenient and time-saving but can lead to disappointment when items you purchase don't look or feel as you expected.

Enter: "Try before you buy" programs. The online version of a changing room.

A proven method for increasing engagement, product testing programs give shoppers more time to decide on which items to purchase. From clothing items to electronics to beauty products and beyond, "try before you buy" offers instill confidence and provide reassurance. Let's dive deeper into how "try before you buy" works and how you can leverage this strategy to boost sales.

"Try before you buy" is an innovative marketing and sales strategy that gives customers the opportunity to experience a product before committing to it.

This approach aims to reduce the perceived risk of buying items online. Trying a product before you buy it can boost confidence in the product's quality, leading to higher sales and increased satisfaction.

Examples of try before you buy brands

Many popular brands have successfully implemented "try before you buy" programs to enhance the overall shopping experience and build customer trust. Here are a few companies offering various programs:

  • Amazon Prime: The Prime Try Before You Buy program, formerly known as Prime Wardrobe, allows Amazon Prime members to try on clothing, shoes, and accessories before buying. Shoppers can select various fashion items that Amazon will ship without charging them. Customers have a set trial period, typically seven days, to try on the items at home before deciding which to keep and which to send back. They are only charged for items they keep.
  • Warby Parker: The Home Try-On program from Warby Parker allows customers to select up to five pairs of glasses or sunglasses to try on at home, free of charge. After trying on different frames, they can purchase the eyewear with their prescription lenses.
  • Stitch Fix: Another "try before you buy" clothes program comes from Stitch Fix. After completing a style profile online, personal stylists curate clothing and accessories referred to as a "Fix" for customers to try on at home. As with the programs listed above, shoppers can try everything on, choose which articles to keep, and return unwanted items.
  • Birchbox: This subscription box service delivers beauty and grooming samples monthly so customers can try out products before purchasing full-sized products.
  • Casper: Customers can purchase a Casper mattress and try it out for 100 nights before making a final decision. This 100-night risk-free trial reduces the risk of purchasing a new mattress online without trying it first.

How does try before you buy work?

"Try before you buy" programs are not limited to trying on items at home before choosing which to keep. In fact, there are a variety of methods used by businesses to enable customers to experience services or products before making a purchase.

A free trial period allows customers to sign up for a trial of a service for a set amount of time (i.e. two weeks, one month, etc.) before being charged. Many software platforms and digital services employ this approach to encourage people to subscribe.

Sharing product samples is another common method used by food, cosmetic, and consumer goods companies. Providing small samples lets customers test products before purchasing the full-sized version.

Similarly, subscription boxes provide individuals with a curated selection of items on a monthly basis. If they like the products in their box, they can continue their subscription or purchase more products.

Another approach is a try-on box. Fashion brands often deploy curated collections of clothing items in a try-on box to give a customer the dressing room experience in their own home.

Rentals or leases also provide the opportunity to use a product for a specific time frame without committing to a full purchase. This method is often used for expensive products such as cars, appliances, or electronics. These industries also often offer trade-in programs allowing customers to exchange old products for store credit.

So, how do "try before you buy" programs benefit your business?

Offering "try before you buy" programs can benefit your growing business in many ways. From reducing risks to increasing conversion rates, specific trial programs can help you drive sales and reach your business goals.

Reduces risk

These programs give customers the opportunity to assess product quality and suitability before committing to them. It provides a hands-on experience similar to the one customers would get in-store.

Online shopping is often associated with the risk of uncertainty and disappointment. "Try before you buy" programs help eliminate this risk, giving customers a try-on period to increase the chances of satisfaction.

Increases brand confidence

When customers have a positive experience during a trial period, it builds trust and increases confidence in the brand. A two-week trial period gives individuals the opportunity to interact with your products or services and develop a relationship with your brand. Enhanced brand confidence can lead to repeat business, referrals, and a better brand reputation.

Promotes informed decision-making

The better informed your customers are, the more likely they will be satisfied with their purchases. When operating an online store, offering trial programs helps customers evaluate products through firsthand experience. Customers are more inclined to select products that align with their expectations.

Higher conversion rates

By reducing barriers to purchase and instilling confidence, "try before you buy" offers lead to higher conversion rates.

When given the opportunity to test a product or service risk-free, customers will be more inclined to take the first step and give it a try. If they have a positive trial period, they will be more likely to make a purchase than they would be without that firsthand experience.

Improves customer engagement

Product trial programs actively involve customers in the evaluation process. Through direct interaction with a product or service, customers can provide valuable feedback while also developing stronger brand loyalty following positive experiences.

Following the example of successful programs like Prime Try Before You Buy, you can deliver a personalized shopping experience to help you grow your customer base.

Here are a few key steps to help you create an effective "try before you buy" program tailored to your business needs.

Define your goals

To start, clearly define your main objectives, such as increased sales, reduced returns, etc. Outlining goals will guide your overall strategy for creating a successful program.

Select your products or services

Identify suitable products or services for your program. Not all products will work for a trial program, so consider factors such as cost, ease of use, and customer demand to determine which products or services to offer.

Determine the trial period and trial method

Some common trial periods include "five business days", " up to seven days", or "30 days". Choose your time period based on the nature of your offerings, considering how customers will access the program (i.e. free samples, rental service, subscriptions, etc.).

Market your program

Once you've established the framework of your program, it's time to market it through various channels. Promote your program on your website and social media, and use email marketing and advertising channels. Focus on showcasing the main benefits of trying your products or services.

Set up logistics

Next, develop the operational aspects of your program, including inventory management, customer support, and shipping and return policies to ensure a hassle-free customer experience.

Determining pricing methods ranging from promotional pricing to dynamic pricing and everything in between is an imperative step at this stage.

Monitor and measure results

Continuously collect data on engagement, conversion rates, and return rates. Gathering customer feedback is another way to monitor the effectiveness of your program.

Launch and iterate

After developing a thorough plan, you're ready to launch your program. Look for areas of improvement and success to make informed decisions and necessary adjustments. You may learn that customers prefer receiving a prepaid return label or a full refund option. Analyze what your target audience values most, then decide how to improve your program.

Embrace try before you buy to drive customer satisfaction

E-commerce brands and online stores should embrace "try before you buy" to drive customer satisfaction. Start by understanding the market and analyzing your customers' needs and pain points.

Targeting specific preferences ensures that the trial experience provides value. Whether you implement a personal shopper program, a subscription trial, or a free return with a full refund, focus on providing clear instructions and a quality experience.

Ultimately, a "try before you buy" program should be viewed as the first step in developing long-lasting relationships with customers. Building and maintaining client relationships is key to long-term success. Offering trial services is just one way of engaging customers.

Learn more about how to leverage customer relationship management (CRM) with Mailchimp to keep your business thriving.

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