Is 2019 the year “try before you buy” goes mainstream?

Source: Trunk Club

Source: Trunk Club

By Tricia McKinnon

To reduce the friction that exists in online shopping, retailers are offering customers a “try before you buy” service.  The service allows customers to try on items at home and keep the items they are interested in while returning the items they do not want.  This offering is still in its infancy as an eMarketer report released last year found that only 18% of US and UK retailers have adopted a try before you buy program. 

While this type of service is not likely to go mainstream this year, a few industry heavy weights as well as newcomers are offering the service. See how the programs offered by Nordstrom’s Trunk Club, ThirdLove, Amazon and Warby Parker are paving the way for innovation in the way we shop.

  1. Nordstrom owned Trunk Club is a personal styling service.  To use this service customers have to answer a number of questions about their fit, budget and style online.  Stylists use this information along with conversations with the customer (over the phone or via messenger on an app) to select a curated set of clothing items for each customer.  When ready, customers are sent a digital preview of the selected items.  Once they have received the digital preview customers have up to 48 hours to make any edits to the clothing items before they are shipped.  Once received, for five days customers can try everything on.  Returns are either picked up or mailed back to Trunk Club for free.  There is a $25 styling fee which is waived for Nordstrom card holders. For non-Nordstrom card holders the fee is credited against any purchases.

  2. Customers shopping with ThirdLove, an online bra and underwear retailer, start the try before you buy shopping process by taking a fit finder quiz.  The quiz provides a bra recommendation in as little as 60 seconds.  Afterwards customers can choose a bra from one of three styles.  They must pay a shipping free to have the bra sent to them. Once they receive the bra, ThirdLove says customers should: “Wear it. Wash it. Live in the bra for 30 days”. Bras that customers try on but don’t keep are cleaned then donated by ThirdLove to charities that focus on women in need.  Returns and exchanges are free within a 30-day period. If a customer decides to keep the bra they are charged $68.00.

  3. Amazon launched Prime Wardrobe a “try before you buy” service for clothing, accessories and shoes in June of 2017.  Customer can order between three and eight items with free shipping, receive the items and then try them on before purchasing anything.  Customers can schedule a pick-up for the items they do not want, for free, of course. The service is free to use with a Prime membership.  Customers have seven days to try on the items and are only charged for the items they keep. Customers must be members of Amazon Prime to be eligible for this service.  

  4. Warby Parker offers a program where customers can select five frames and have those frames sent to the customer’s home free of charge. An online quiz can also be taken to help customers select which frames they are interested in.  Customers have five days to try on their frames and decide which one(s) they like. At the end of the five days customers can send the frames back to Warby Parker using a free return label.


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Tricia McKinnonTrends, eCommerce