Try-Before-You-Buy, eCommerce Style

Before Ankush Sehgal co-founded, he saw the benefits of try-before-you-buy with his family’s luxury discount store that sold high-end designer brands in London. As was common for luxury retail shops, the store had a black book of VIP customers. Each time a new collection would come into the store, Sehgal’s family would send them VIP items that they might like.

“We’d basically do like a try-at-home service for our VIPs,” CEO Sehgal told PYMNTS in an interview, adding that the store sold 40 to 50 percent of its stock before reaching the floor just by allowing the VIPs to shop at home.

Years later, Sehgal took the concept and applied it to, which, as the name suggests, allows consumers to try clothes from eCommerce retailers online at home. The problem that it seeks to solve? Consumers who shop online lose one of the desirable elements of the brick-and-mortar experience: They can’t have that tactile experience with a retailer’s merchandise before committing to a purchase. The expectation of how an item might look, feel or fit based on a retailer’s website might not match reality when they take it out of the box.

Trying at Home

To use, consumers can sign up through Google Chrome or by downloading an iOS app. The site conducts a risk assessment of the shopper and comes up with a trial limit. Like a credit limit, the trial limit determines the number of items a consumer can borrow at one time – usually between three and eight.

To find items to try, consumers can browse selections through the company’s app or Chrome extension and then select different sizes and colors. Although that’s similar to a traditional checkout process, the next step in the purchasing journey is different. Instead of going through a retailer’s native shopping cart, consumers use Sehgal’s cart instead, but Sehgal doesn’t charge the card on checkout: “We basically push back the point at which you need to pay,” he said.

Sehgal gives his customers seven days to try out an item. After consumers try on the clothing, they only pay for the items they want to keep, and send the others back to the merchant through the same process they would follow for a return. But the merchant doesn’t refund the consumer: pays the merchant on behalf of the customer. This way, doesn’t handle the logistics of the physical merchandise.

Beyond, Amazon announced in June that it was rolling out Prime Wardrobe to all of its U.S. Prime customers. The service allows consumers to order items like shoes, clothing or accessories at no upfront charge. Announcing the rollout of the service on its website, Amazon said that “Prime Wardrobe is a new service that brings the fitting room to you, so you can try the latest styles and find your perfect fit before you buy.”

Reducing Checkout Friction

Sehgal noted that abandoned carts are one of biggest issues in the eCommerce space. If a customer puts an item in a shopping cart and doesn’t go through with a purchase, he noted, they are intending to buy the item but there is some factor stopping them from clicking “buy.” Sehgal sees services like as a potential solution, as customers don’t have to pay for the purchase up-front: “We can alleviate that anxiety, that unwillingness to commit.”

According to the PYMNTS Checkout Conversion Index, $236 billion in sales are forgone due to checkout process friction. One of the most remarkable differences between the best and worst performers in the Index was in the number of payment options offered. The bottom 30 in the sample only supported 4.2 payment methods on average, while the top 30 supported 8.6 and the middle supported 6.5. As one might expect, those that made the effort to accommodate a wider variety of customers enjoyed a relatively high ranking.

Options that allow consumers to try before they buy could become one more tool in a retailer’s eCommerce payment arsenal.