Delivery and fulfilment methods are an effective way for brands to differentiate themselves from the competition.

ASOS’s success can be attributed in part to its offer of free delivery and returns on all orders, and many retailers are now seeing the benefits of offering a fast click and collect service.

Another fulfilment method I only recently became aware of is try-before-you-buy, which allows customers to test out products for free at home before deciding whether they want to pay for them.

It would appear to be an ill-judged idea for ecommerce retailers as they have to assume all the costs and risk. However there are a number of benefits:

  • Attracts new customers. It may be hard to believe, but some people still don’t like buying stuff online. Allowing these people to try before they buy might be the incentive they need to get involved with ecommerce.
  • Impression of better customer service. Giving people clothes to try on for free will definitely help to improve the brand image.
  • It’s not really that risky. If a business offers free delivery and returns then it’s likely that a high proportion of people will be over-ordering to try on different clothes anyway. This way you avoid the admin costs of refunding for returned items.
  • People are lazy. If people can’t be bothered to go to the shop then try-before-you-buy is the next best thing. That laziness might also mean they forget to send items back, and end up paying for them by accident...

So, here are four examples of brands with different try-before-you-buy services. 

Warby Parker

Warby Parker was the brand that initially caught my attention in this space.

The spectacles retailer allows shoppers to try on the frames at home for free – it’s labelled as a ‘Home Try-On’ option on the product page.

In order to save on postage Warby Parker sends up to five sets of frames in each package. You can either choose them all yourself or rely on the retailer’s recommendations.

Customers then have five days to decide whether they like the frames before deciding to buy a pair or send them all back.

All shipping is free of charge, which is probably relatively cheap for Warby Parker as glasses frames are lightweight.

It’s worth noting here that aside from a tiny ‘Shopping cart’ link, the UX on Warby Parker’s site is quite excellent, particularly at the single-page checkout.

Warby Parker also has a fun ‘virtual try-on’ tool that uses the shopper’s webcam to superimpose glasses onto their face.

I’d question how useful it is but it provided me with a few moments of entertainment, which I was then able to spam my followers with.

True&Co

I’ve never been bra shopping, but I have it on good authority that it’s difficult to find one that’s comfortable.

To overcome women’s anxieties about finding a bra that fits True&Co has a Try-On Program that allows customers to try five bras at home for free.

They have five days to decide whether they want to buy any of the products.

True&Co encourages customers to first take the ‘Fit Quiz’ which recommends bras based on your size and preferences.

This data is combined with future purchase decisions so product recommendations become more accurate, which should ultimately mean fewer products get returned in the long run.

Though customised recommendations are a a good idea in theory, the quiz is quite long and just when you think it’s over you’re forced to create an account before you can start shopping.

Furthermore, the home try-on option isn’t immediately obvious. It’s presented as a text link at the bottom of the shopping cart dropdown menu.

 

On the plus side, the checkout is another great example of a single-page design.

Rocksbox

This differs from the other examples in that Rocksbox works on a subscription model, so users effectively borrow jewellery.

After signing up to a $19 monthly membership customers are sent three pieces of jewellery which they can keep and wear for as long as they want.

Once they’re bored of the pieces they can send them back to trade them in for different items.

However if they particularly like an item of jewellery they can buy it at 20% off the retail price.

Like True&Co, Rocksbox asks users to answer a quiz about their jewellery preferences so it can then select relevant items.

Clearly there’s something in this personalisation lark...

Trunk Club

Trunk Club’s USP is that it provides premium clothes and personal, professional style advice through a digital platform.

Users have to first complete a survey before being matched with a stylist who provides them with clothes based on their preferences.

They are then sent a trunk of clothes which they are only billed for if they fail to return it within 10 days.

Every trunk is supposedly unique and can be tailored based on particular events, such as a wedding or formal occasion. Shipping is of course free.

It’s a really interesting business model as it seeks to provide a luxury shopping experience within the comfort of your own home.

For me, the in-store experience is a big part of buying luxury goods (as I don’t do it very often) so I’m not sure I’d be won over by Trunk Club’s way of working, but it’s interesting to see a brand trying to revolutionise the shopping experience.

David Moth

Published 27 October, 2014 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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