3 of the Advantages and Downsides of Try Before You Buy Models. Watch Out for #3!

As someone who’s worked with online retailers in developing their websites, I’ve noticed that some of them are starting to adopt the “try before you buy” approach. If you’re an online retailer, or someone who’s just starting on the business, you might wonder what it is about.

The problem with online retailers nowadays is that they face a lot of pain points which they’ll have to endure or else they’ll end up facing bankruptcy, reduced revnue, or even zero sales. One of these pain points is the continued rise of e-Commerce.

try before you buy sample

As competition gets stiffer in the e-commerce industry, online businesses keep on pushing new trends that will help them exert an even wider influence over the market. One of these trends is the so-called “try before you buy” model, something that can be deemed dangerous for the unprepared retailer but beneficial for the prepared one.

In this article, we’ll try to talk about the advantages of the try before you buy model along with its drawbacks. But first, let’s first have an overview of what it is.

What is Try Before You Buy?

One of the common issues that retailers face is getting customers who’ll buy their products. If you’re a retailer yourself, you’ll easily understand that getting even a customer or two to buy what you offer can be a bit difficult.

It is for this reason why retailers apply the “try before you buy” model. Try before you buy is a method you can use to give your customers a chance to test your product before they proceed to the shopping cart.

This can be done either through a sample delivery or perhaps a consultation with a product specialist. The idea behind using this is to try to minimize, if not remove, the gaps between how your product works and looks online compared to when it’s received by your customer in person.

Amazon prime wardrobe
Amazon Prime Wardrobe taking the initiative of implementing the try before you buy approach.

But what are the try before you buy model’s strong points and drawbacks? Let’s find out.

Advantage #1: It can reduce customer return rates

Returns are among the major hassles that you, as an online retailer, normally face. Most customers return items that are outside of the allocated timeframe, while some even do it just to exploit the system. How? By creating a new account and entering different information to avail of your free trial once their previous trial is over.

If you suffer from a high return rate, it can only lead to a lot of headaches, and this often affects your relationship with your customers.

By letting your customers try your product and have them pay later if they’re satisfied with it, you will be able to lower your return rates, even if it’s just a little. With the try before you buy model now a reality, your customers will have fewer reasons to return your product, unless of course if they’re trying to game the system.

This also helps make returns a lot easier and convenient compared to the traditional method employed by brick-and-mortar establishments.

Advantage #2: You can collect feedback from your trialers

As a retailer, you should be placing emphasis on customer feedback. By allowing people to try your product for free, you’ll be able to gain their feedback and use them to develop your products even further. Even those who didn’t convert to sales might be able to provide some useful insights which you can use in the future.

This can also trigger word-of-mouth marketing, especially if your testers were satisfied with your offer. Word will then start spreading, and you’ll be able to find new customers who are interested in your offer. If you can make sure everything goes smoothly, you’ll have a higher chance of converting them into sales.

Tmall try before you buy sample
Tmall, a Chinese online retailer who’s implemented the try-before-you-buy model on their garments and other products.

Advantage #3: It’s a great opportunity to increase your sales and profit

Let’s face it. A great product is no doubt the best marketing tool. If you offer a great product to your customers, they’ll see that during their free trial. After they’re able to ascertain that your product/service is indeed reliable, they’ll most likely convert from a trialer to a paying customer.

With a free trial, you’ll be able to gain a competitive edge within your niche. If a try-before-you-buy approach is a common trend in your industry, customers will likely expect to try out your product for free first before they even buy it, and not giving them such will certainly affect your business. On the other hand, if it’s not the standard, then offering one might just place you ahead of your competitors.

Also, customers can be quite lazy. As much as possible, they’d prefer not to do any guessing when it comes to buying something. Therefore, the easier you make it for them to buy your product, the more comfortable they’ll get when they finally purchase it.

That said, the try-before-you-buy approach can also be rife with a number of downsides, and here are the 3 main downsides you’d want to know:

Downside #1: It’ll cost you time and money

Offering free trials of your product even for a short time normally involves cash. However, this process also demands careful preparation. In essence, it will require a lot of your resources – time and money in particular. You’ll have to invest time and money in creating products which you’ll be giving out as a free trial. The problem is, if not done right, it can lead to a downward spiral for your business.

The model costs time and money

Fortunately, you can prevent this from happening by carefully considering the associated cost of creating products for a free trial and the projected time it takes to plan everything – from planning which products to offer as a free sample down to shipping them to your trialers – then gauging if the potential benefits can possibly outweigh them .

Downside #2: There will be people who’ll try to cheat the system

A hidden danger that the try before you buy model entails is the possibility of consumers who’ll try to take advantage of your free product without any plan of buying it. In some cases, they’ll even try to sign up for the trial several times using different information to keep using your product again and again for free.

There can also be companies who’ll use their competitor’s trials so they can get inside information on the products and use that information to improve theirs. Unfortunately, there’s no clear solution to this dilemma. A temporary measure would be to offer product trials to a limited number of individuals.

Downside #3: It may increase international returns

Though directly opposite to advantage #1, an increase in international returns could be caused by offering poor products, resulting in a backfire. Although the TBYB trend seems to be spreading as what a BrightPearl study reported (https://www.brightpearl.com/company/press-and-media-1/2018/3/29/retailers-face-returns-tsunami-as-try-before-you-buy-trend-intensifies), consumers on average ended up ordering up to thrice as many items every month and returned most of those without even paying a cent.

According to BrightPearl, around 17% of retailers are using the try before you buy model. However, 69% of the retailers are not taking advantage of tech solutions to deal with the growing number of returns.

Although there’s some sort of a “returns tsunami” happening, it’s not all bad news. In fact, two-thirds of the retailers still process the returns “by hand”, thereby showing that with proper planning (e.g. knowing which audience to target, deciding on the products you’d want to offer for a free trial, and estimating the total production costs), you’ll be able to turn those returns into profits.


Were you able to gain some useful insights which you can use as an online retailer? As someone who’s worked with e-commerce retailers, I can’t help but stress the importance of the “try before you buy” model. However, creating a foolproof strategy can be easier said than done. That said, it’s always better that you weigh the pros and cons first before you start diving.

Do you have other thoughts you’d like to share? Don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below. Kindly share this article with your friends as well. Thanks for reading!



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