When it comes to the ‘brick versus click’ debate, the one thing brick-and-mortar stores still hold over the heads of online merchants is the ability to try on or test your purchase before you buy it.

What if that dress doesn’t fit right? What if the shoes pinch? What if the color was lighter than it appeared on the screen? This is where brick-and-mortar stores always won. You could interact with your product physically in-store before deciding to purchase it.

Well…not anymore.

The “try before you buy” model has been around for a while, and it’s gaining momentum among ecommerce retailers across the board. Depending on the product, retailers are willing to create and distribute product samples, trial sizes, test-and-return packages, or a personalized consultation session before purchase. Some even offer trial periods before a purchase!


Try before you buy is as close to an in-store experience as it gets.

When your contact center interacts with a customer on a personalized level through consultations, trial fittings, and customization, you get to know their specific likes, dislikes, and tastes. It also saves the time and hassle of returning products when a customer is unsatisfied.

These services are an added perk for customers who may be new to your brand or wary of buying your product offering online. It helps build an emotional connection and gives the customer a chance to get involved with your brand more profoundly. Plus, it’s also an incentive for them to make a (bigger) purchase.

Some companies send trial packs with multiple pieces that customers can try, keep what suits them, and return the rest.

  • Eyewear brand Warby Parker has championed this idea, allowing customers to choose five pairs of glasses to try on and test for five days before returning any unwanted pairs. Did we mention that the trials are shipped to the customer for free, too?! Once the customer has tested out and worn the pairs, they can return them and order the ones they liked online.
  • Casper Mattresses offers a 100-day trial period before the purchase is final and free shipping to boot – cutting out the hassle of going to a store, sitting on different mattresses, and making a decision in-store.

What To Keep In Mind

While it is an excellent investment for the long term, the try-before-buying trend isn’t without obstacles.

The process of sending out samples and shipping them back creates extra costs for handling the products, staffing the areas where trials and samples are prepared and sent, etc. And let’s not forget that the samples have to be shipped too, which costs money, packaging materials, and lead time.

Companies need to look at products with a high margin, travel well, and are not too heavy or perishable (like Warby Parker’s frames). You also need a streamlined return and shipping process. You will be processing a higher volume of orders (the trial orders and the actual ones,) so order management, invoicing, inventory tracking, and management need to be highly sophisticated.

That’s why, if you’re willing to go this route, investing in a good fulfillment company with the right kind of technology and an adequately equipped warehouse facility to handle the try-before-you-buy model is critical.

Why It’s Important

We all know happy customers become brand advocates that recruit their friends, and nothing can beat good old word-of-mouth marketing. In the digital shopping age, when online reviews are a significant source of confidence among shoppers (especially first-time buyers), then try and buy model can work for you. Statistics show that the percentage of shoppers who look at reviews before a purchase is increasing. Ratings and reviews are the reasons behind pricing that drive a purchase decision.