How to Sell More With a Try Before You Buy Strategy

Learn the pros and cons of a try before you buy strategy before you decide if it's right for your business.

The Moast Team

April 25, 2022

Try before you buy is exactly what it sounds like. Customers get to try your products before they purchase them.

Many consumers are hesitant about purchasing products from an unfamiliar store. They may be nervous the product won't look like the picture, the sizing may be different, or a number of other reasons. While online shopping (and its explosive growth) has so many benefits, the inability to experience products before purchasing them has been a constant pain point.

However, these online shopping concerns can be easily addressed when using a “try before you buy” strategy.

Build A Personalized Shopping Experience

People are unique and they experience a product differently. Some people have the confidence to add to cart and checkout with ease and others are a little more hesitant, looking for more physical and interactive experiences with the product beforehand. Shopping online removes that ability to physically experience a product.

Implementing a try before you buy strategy can increase customer confidence and customer loyalty as well as make people much more likely to refer others to your online shop. Studies have shown that customers are over 90% more likely to purchase a product if it's been recommended by a friend or family member. If you want to grow, then it's time to incorporate this strategy into your brand to build a more personalized shopping experience.

Try Before You Buy

There are four common methods of a try before you buy model to help your customer decide. All of these methods leverage different technologies and have different implementation roadmaps. The right method for your business is very much dependent on the type of product you sell and what the purchasing journey looks like for your customer. These include: 

  • Virtual reality
  • Free trial
  • Virtual shopping
  • Ship and return
  • Bonus: Experience products through existing customers

But, what exactly do these methods mean and how can you incorporate them into your business to increase sales?

1. Virtual Reality

Virtual reality and augmented reality try before you buy options have become increasingly popular since there are no costs to physically ship products.

For example, a makeup or clothing service can use virtual reality to help customers see exactly how the product will look when wearing it. Furniture retailers use apps that allow customers to create a virtual replica of a room and then decorate it with their products.

The Swedish furniture giant, IKEA was one of the first to incorporate this try before you buy technique into their shopping experience. While the technical challenges are quite high, this strategy could help your potential customer and have a big impact on your bottom line.

2. Free Trial

Offering a free trial is a good way to draw in customers who otherwise wouldn't purchase from you. This method is most often used by software companies. However, it can be useful for physical products as well.

For example, if you sell food products, you could offer a free taste test kit. Include just a taste of your most popular flavors, etc. If you sell makeup or hygiene supplies, then you can offer free one-time use samples. 

Many cosmetic brands offer free samples through third parties such as subscription boxes or department stores. Aveda is one brand that is known for offering free samples directly to their customers to help boost product sales. Offering some sort of free trial to the customer can be extremely effective to help them make a purchasing decision but the practice in itself can add significant costs and eat up margins fairly quickly.

3. Virtual Shopping

Virtual shopping allows customers to "virtually" walk through a traditional store environment. Some even allow the consumer to connect with a real person via chat or video.

This method combines the online shopping experience with the feeling of being in store. The consumer is able to visualize the product in a real environment, getting a better view of size, shape, and textures. 

World Market and Ralph Lauren have both successfully used a version of this virtual shopping strategy during the global pandemic lockdowns. Similar to virtual reality, implementing a virtual shopping experience can be a costly initiative. The great thing with virtual shopping is that the option for what the experience would look like for your customers is endless. What would virtual shopping look like for your company?

4. Ship and Return

With a ship and return option, you can send several items to a customer for a pre-set trial period. This allows the customer to experience the product first-hand in the comfort of their own home. After the trial, the customer will return items they don't want.

For example, an eyewear company or fine jewelry seller could send a few items for a one week try-on period. This would allow a customer to try on three ring styles or perhaps five frames to decide their favorite option. This method is quite popular with clothing companies.

Amazon prime wardrobe and Stitch fix are two brands well known for using this try before you buy strategy. A Stitch fix subscription plan offers consumers a customized try on box. Prime wardrobe offers a trial period for up to six items for up to seven days. For most brands, implementing this program can tie up limited and valuable inventory which can increase costs and lead to logistical nightmares.

The Drawbacks of Try Before You Buy

Offering a try before you buy can be a great way to make a name for your brand online as well as draw in new customers. However, it does have significant drawbacks.

Increased Cost

If you are looking to implement one of these “try before you buy” strategies into your online store, you’ll quickly realize they end up being very costly. They can have a large impact on margins, inventory and resources for brands with limited budgets. Particularly with free trials of the product as well as shipping costs that may not be replenished.

Customer Turnover

Online shops that benefit the most from try before you buy are usually subscription-based or recurring use products. Unfortunately, statistics show that many people don't stay subscribed to a subscription service for longer than a year.

Even worse, if your try before you buy strategy is poorly implemented, it can have a negative impact on your omnichannel shopping experience and cause customers to leave a poor review or simply not purchase again.


Another drawback of try before you buy is that it can be difficult to keep track of your inventory. Sending multiple products to the same customer not knowing which ones will get returned can be a logistical nightmare. To get around this problem, it's important to implement a good store inventory software system to keep track of products that are in stock, out on trial, and final purchases.

A New Try Before You Buy Strategy

Many ecommerce stores can benefit from one of these try before you buy options. However, there is another hybrid option available that can significantly reduce costs and is infinitely easier to implement and manage.

Moast uses your existing customers to create a try before you buy experience that's more affordable than shipping trial products to help potential customers decide. These existing customers are added to an interactive map that is white-labeled on a merchant’s website. Prospective customers can book meetups with real customers in their communities who own the exact product they are interested in buying and experience that product in-person before purchasing online.

The best part, this program helps to boost loyalty among your existing customers. Sounds like a great concept for your business? Then click to find out more and book your demo today.

Ready to start? Book a demo to see what Moast can do for your business