When it comes to the ‘brick versus click’ debate, the one thing that 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 store 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 what the product is, 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 such a personalized level, through consultations, trial fittings, and customization, you get to know her specific likes, dislikes and tastes. It also saves the time and hassle of having to return products when a customer is not satisfied.

Plus, 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 in a deeper way. Plus, it’s an incentive for them to make a (bigger) purchase as well.

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

  • Eyewear brand Warby Parker has championed this idea, offering customers a chance to choose 5 pairs of glasses to try on and test for 5 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, he can send those pairs back and order the ones he liked online.
  • Casper Mattresses offers a 100-day trial period before the purchase is final, and offers 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 a great investment for the long-term, the ‘try before you buy’ trend isn’t without its obstacles.

The process of sending out samples and shipping them back creates extra costs of 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 that have a high margin, and products which can travel well, are not too heavy or perishable (like Warby Parker’s frames). You also need a streamlined returns 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 needs to be highly sophisticated.

That’s why, if you’re willing to go this route, it’s critical to invest in a good fulfillment company with the right kind of technology and properly equipped warehouse facility to handle the ‘try before you buy’ model.

Why It’s Important

We all know that 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 serve as a major source of confidence among shoppers (especially first-time buyers), the try and buy model can work for you. Statistics show that the percentage of shoppers who look at reviews before a purchase is increasing. In fact, ratings and reviews are the number two reason, behind pricing, that drive a purchase decision.

Does your company have a try and buy policy? Share your thoughts with us.