How try before you buy is going to revolutionize retail

Shopping often feels like a gamble; an item on a beautifully branded website or on display in a store often fails to live up to expectations in real life. This can be especially disappointing given the hours we now spend hunting, researching, watching reviews and tracking down an item found on social. In the past, we’ve had to accept the loss of money spent on shipping, the inconvenience of having to return it or the lines in stores but with expectations rising and new behaviors spurred by the maturing sharing economy, innovative companies and new technologies now enable us to experience a new range of products before we buy. 

Try.com is a nifty service and chrome extension button that has partnered up with major retailers to allow you to try clothes on at home. Instead of having to buy clothes up front, you can try them at home for free at the click of a button. You get seven days from when you receive your clothes to decide what you want to keep or return. Of course you can’t go out wearing the clothes but you can try on five items from different retailers in one shipping. 

Scotch & Soda recently partnered with Airbnb to offer a capsule wardrobe to wear for the duration of your stay before purchasing. All you have to do is submit your clothing size when booking and upon arrival you are greeted by a wardrobe of garments that you can choose to purchase and take home or leave them. This style of partnership has been repeated by The Westin and New Balance providing a gym kit for your stay.

Lumoid, a startup consumer tech retailer, gives consumers an opportunity to test the latest tech without any obligation to purchase. Overwhelmed by which wearable to buy? Lumoid, for a $30 fee, allows you to choose up to five items to try at home for two weeks including the Apple Watch and the Samsung Gear S2. At the end of the period you can either purchase one of them or simply return. Recognizing that tech changes so quickly, it also have a simple rental service of all the latest gadgets, like Zipcars for tech. 

For me where 'try before you buy' really gets exciting is when it stays purely digital. Some live examples of this are L’Oreal’s MakeUp Genius app and Uniqlo’s magic mirrors. In L’Oreal’s case, its app allows you to virtually try on make-up, swapping out colors and shades all while teaching you how to better apply. Uniqlo’s imaging machines superimpose different outfits onto your body in front of magic mirrors removing the need to take different colors of the same garment into the changing room.

But imagine what we’ll be able to do through virtual reality or even body mapping tech? Snapchat has already established usage of facemapping tech among its Gen Z audience, swapping their faces for dogs or distorting them into crazy shapes – if it set its sights on retail and applied this tech to apparel or the beauty industry it would change the way a whole generation shops overnight. Innovative apps are just starting to do this but in very small scale. One, Pictofit, maps any item of clothing captured in a photo or image onto a photo of you, creating a virtual dressing room and essentially allowing you to try on anything. 

Another tech that could potentially revolutionize the trying experience is the oPhone – a scent based mobile messaging system. Scent aromas are sent via app and received via an oPhone device allowing you to smell and share a sensory experience with anyone anywhere. This could transform the fragrance category, finally allowing you to smell the perfume without having to visit the store or sniff a page in a magazine and think of the possibilities for food delivery. 

The more retailers and brands that foray into Try before you Buy, the higher consumer expectations will become. If you’re a marketer, you need to make Try Before you Buy a part of your strategy or risk being left behind. 

 

First published in The Drum 6/13/16