Should Your Brand Be Offering A Try Before You Buy Scheme?

by Caity Dalby, Figaro Digital

There appears to be a sweeping trend towards online try before you buy schemes, a la Glasses Direct, here in the UK and across the pond in the US. And it makes sense that most consumers prefer to try out products before they buy them, with many finding the returns processes when buying products online overly-complicated, inconvenient, or expensive. But is implementing a scheme worth it for your brand?

What Is A Try Before You Buy Scheme?

In the last year, major brands such as ASOS, Topman, and Schuh, all introduced ‘try before you buy’ initiatives which allow shoppers to order multiple items and only pay if they decide to keep any. The benefits of schemes like this are tenfold; there are no up-front costs for the customer and no obligation to buy, meaning people are likely to order more and more often.

According to a study of 4000 people by Brightpearl, 76 per cent of consumers would maybe or definitely  buy more items if they were offered to try before purchasing. In fact, on average, with brands that offer try before you try schemes consumers order three times as many items each month and return the majority at no cost.

Plus, this innovative scheme means that the online purchasing process more closely mimics the traditional in-store, brick and mortar shop purchasing methods and, most significantly, customers don’t have to wait for reimbursement for returned products.

ASOS have implemented a try before you buy scheme exclusively for their customers purchasing through the ASOS retail app, in partnership with payment service Klarna Pay Later. The technology and finance comapny are supporting the ASOS app with their try it first, pay it 30 days after delivery service (Cosmopolitan).

This daring move has paid off for ASOS, with the retailer’s UK sales climbing 23 per cent towards the end of 2017 with the under 30s of Britain flocking to the retailer’s mobile app for party season outfits and presents (The Guardian).

So, try before you buy schemes are proven to work for some retailers, but will it work for you? There are some possible drawbacks to implementing a try before you buy scheme, the question is whether they outweigh the positive impact the schemes have on customer experiences with a brand.

What Are The Possible Drawbacks?

Although highly – and understandably – popular among customers, for some brands the popularity of try before you buy schemes is resulting in a ‘returns tsunami’. The Brightpearl study found that 40 per cent of retailers saw a ‘marked increase in intentional returns’ after the scheme was introduced, as customers were actively over-ordering knowing that they can simply return unwanted items for free and they would only ever pay for what they kept.

Fifty-one per cent of participants in the study said their margins were significantly affected as a result of the extra processing, whereas 72 per cent think this will only get worse as try before you buy schemes become a staple int he retail industry.

“For consumers, try-before-you-buy is a positive trend, removing another barrier to purchase.

The good news for retailers is that this will almost certainly lead to an uplift in sales. Our study indicates that shoppers want the option to order items such as clothes online but only pay once they decide to keep them, so it’s something that all retailers will need to consider to remain competitive.

However, this trend could spell disaster for retail business owners if they do not prepare by having the right framework and solutions in place to manage returns. And, they’ll need to do so quickly as the trend becomes more widely adopted over the next year.

Consumers will buy more, but retailers must be ready for a potential flood of returns. With shoppers indicating that they could return an extra three items a month on average, it could spell an unmanageable tsunami of returns for some merchants.

It is not all bad news; the fact that two thirds of retailers are still processing returns ‘by hand’ shows that with the right preparation, and by exploiting the relevant technology, forward-thinking merchants should be able to turn the tsunami into a tide of fresh profits.” Derek O’Carroll, CEO of Brightpearl

Want To Get Ahead Of The Trend?

If you’re looking for new and engaging ways to market a brand’s products, like try before you buy schemes, then check out our digital marketing magazine where we discuss the latest trends, innovations, and provide insider insights. If you are looking for ways to boost your brand in the retail industry, then sign up to attend our Retail & Ecommerce: Digital Marketing Spotlight on 23 August 2018, at The Hospital Club in Covent Garden.


(main image: Glasses Direct)