We all love to shop. There’s nothing quite like the in person shopping experience: browsing a store, grabbing clothes off the rack, schlepping 10+ items into a fitting room, putting on a mini fashion show, and walking away with two to five all-star items.
Online, you can’t have that kind of shopping experience without first committing money to a purchase. But, TryNow is changing that.
Founded by Benjamin Davis, TryNow enables ecommerce merchants to offer try before you buy. They’re on a mission to transform the online shopping experience and empower shoppers to find the products they love.
In March 2021, they raised a $12M series A from Shine Capital, Craft Ventures, SciFi VC, and the founders of PayPal and Plaid, among other investors. Now, they have partnerships with brands such as Cynthia Rowley, Farm Rio, Cuup, Mara Hoffman, KOIO, and more.
We sat down with Claire Hosinski, head of growth strategy at TryNow, to get the scoop on the try before you buy opportunity for Shopify (and Shopify Plus) brands, and much more.
“We’re using new technology to let you do the oldest thing in the shopping book: use all your senses to see if you like something, and then decide if you want to shell out for it.”
Is Try Before You Buy Right For You?
The try before you buy model isn’t for everyone. Hosinski thinks about it on a spectrum. On one end, there are brand verticals that are a no-brainer for TryNow, such as apparel or accessories. On the other end, there are everyday consumables (like toilet paper and paper towels) and very high-dollar, potentially custom verticals (like engagement rings and cars) that don’t typically make sense for this model.
Everything else? There’s usually a way to craft a try before you buy experience that can delight your shoppers. It depends:
- How innovative is the brand?
- What’s the consumer demand for a trial program?
TryNow won’t turn down a brand that reaches out to them directly with exciting ideas about providing a trial program in their industry—even if it’s a new vertical. In terms of the types of trial programs, it ranges. In some categories, the items are highly resellable (apparel); in others, online retailers already have sampling capacity, most notably beauty. Think about the number of times you’ve ordered from Sephora and a mini product arrives in your package.
How do you know if the consumer demand is there?
Some ecommerce brands just know that their shoppers will respond to the opportunity to try: they have a high-quality product that wins over loyal customers. Others run landing page tests, or manually facilitate a trial program with VIP online shoppers. Afterward, they’re ready to go full speed on try before you buy with TryNow. One of the best parts? TryNow makes the whole offering easy to stand up and doesn’t do long-term contracts, so you can turn on or off a trial program at any time.
“More and more brands are implementing try before you buy programs as a way to differentiate themselves and win loyal shoppers. And this is causing even more brands to reach out to us and consider a program because they’re just seeing it everywhere.”
What does a Try Before You Buy Program Look Like?
For brands that aren’t selling consumables (think: apparel, footwear, and accessories), there’s no need to change your business model. You might change your abandoned cart emails, product launches, or how you interact with returning shoppers. It’s a strategic shift.
“Most of the time you don’t have to change your operations, fulfillment, or product,” says Hosinski.
However, some brands, like those that sell consumables, choose to get creative. Snif, a candle and gender-neutral fragrance brand, launched with TryNow as a partner and a try-before-you-buy offering, totally revolutionizing the scent industry.
How does it work? Snif sends out full-sized fragrances and samplers. You use the sample during your 7-day trial, and only pay for the full-size bottles you choose to keep. When Snif launched candles in 2021, they rolled out votives for their trial program. Similar to the fragrances, customers could light and burn them during their trial and decide which scents they liked and wanted to keep—the first burn-before-you-buy experience was born!
“This trial went beyond what you can do in the store. In-store, you can only sniff a candle. Here, you can light it and experience it,” explains Hosinski.
“What you’re changing is how you talk to your customers and how you engage with different audiences.”
How Does TryNow Work?
TryNow is a simple ecommerce platform, and the functionality is incredibly simple.
On the product detail page (PDP), TryNow adds a “try before you buy” option right next to or below the “add to cart” button.
In the cart, TryNow reminds customers that they owe zero dollars upfront. And the checkout experience is nearly identical with two small exceptions. They always include that “zero dollars due today” message, so the customer remembers they don’t owe the brand anything.
And when the customer fills out their payment information, TryNow ensures their credit card doesn’t get charged until the end of the trial.
Finally, they remind customers of the trial window. It begins when their package is delivered. The customer only pays for what they want at the end of the trial.
“We make a super small copy change, reminding customers that they owe zero dollars upfront, and it’s incredibly powerful.”
How does TryNow Impact Inventory and Return Rates?
Brands often worry about inventory stock levels with TryNow—removing friction boosts conversion, and with more items out on trial, there's less on the shelf. However, TryNow explains that the impact isn’t felt the way a brand might anticipate because of the faster inventory cycles. A standard return policy—for most brands—is around 30 days. For other brands, it’s around 60-90 days. This means items come back on day 15, day 22, or day 40.TryNow orders are back in the mail by day 7—shortening the time items are out with customers.
“When you have a trial program, you’re effectively shortening your return window without making the shopper feel like you took something away,” notes Hosinski.
For instance, for a seven-day free trial, TryNow typically sees shoppers mailing back products around day four or five—assuming the customer is home to receive the package. In this case, a trial drastically reduces the time an item spends away from a warehouse.
As the number of items leaving the shelf increases, the rate at which they come back is ~50-75% faster than it is with returns. So, inventory isn’t necessarily an issue; TryNow keeps an eye on it and works with each brand to remain flexible.
Some brands set parameters. “Brands come to us and say, ‘If I drop below this inventory level, I want to disable my trial button,’” adds Hosinski. “That’s no problem at all.”
All in all, inventory isn’t an issue, as most brands prefer to get items back sooner, especially if they’re a brand with a ton of seasonal selling or unique short-run products.
Plus, TryNow always reminds brands that trial orders might only make up for 10,15, or 20% of the business. Shoppers are still buying items the normal way.
It’s normal to go from, say, a 20% return rate to a 26% return rate for the business overall when you’re running a trial program. This is because the trial orders have a considerably higher return rate. As a brand, you have to be okay with more returns if it means acquiring more customers and providing a better experience in getting your product out there.
“The extra conversion and revenue you’re driving offsets the incremental return cost you’re experiencing,” says Hosinski. Those incremental returns are an investment in the shopper experience and shopper acquisition.
“If you have a 7-day return window, people would find that outrageous. But, if you have a 7-day free trial, people are excited to try, and are still willing to get those products back to you within 7 days.”
Try Before You Buy Best Practices
Running an effective try before you buy program boils down to how you craft and message it for your brand to your unique shoppers, and target shoppers.
To get started, TryNow dives into
- The brand
- The shoppers
- The business goals
Then, TryNow asks
- What channels do you want to focus on?
- What shopper audiences are you trying to reach?
- What products or campaigns do you want to push?
- What actions do you want your customers to take?
They take a look at the creative that’s already been planned, and then TryNow layers trial and risk-free messaging on top. They a/b test that creative against what already exists to see how it performs.
“We don’t over-index on the free trial. We lean on your product and brand. At the end of the day, to bring in high-intent shoppers, your message has to be about building trust.”
What’s the Impact of Try Before You Buy?
Different brands have different goals for their trial programs, and will therefore focus on and see improvement in different KPIs.
In general, brands are focused on one or more of the following: Conversion—which TryNow can help boost by eliminating uncertainty; Acquisition costs—which can come down with more effective marketing, leveraging TryNow messaging; Net Average order value—which can increase as shoppers try more items, especially in categories like apparel; and lifetime value—which can increase as you help guide shoppers who are either new to your brand or new to certain product lines through a delightful shopping experience.
Jack Mason—a premium men’s watch brand—is a TryNow partner who’s found great success using their platform. “TryNow ads produced a ROAS 2.43x larger than other ads. These ads have broken convention by delivering from the start! The CTR for TryNow is almost 2x compared to our other ads in the same period,” said Peter Cho, director of creative and marketing at Jack Mason.
SHEFIT is another TryNow partner. “Two goals for our TBYB program were improved conversions and increased share of wallet and that’s exactly what we’ve seen,” says Michelle Zeller, CMO at SHEFIT. “TryNow conversions are >2x better than our standard 2.9x conversion. Additionally, we’re experiencing a greater share of wallet with our shoppers trying – and keeping – more apparel beyond our hero products. An added bonus is the exceedingly competent Trynow team. Outstanding service!”
Additionally, trial programs lower CAC and increase the potential of a higher average order value (AOV) for new customers. They increase the potential of a higher LTV because TryNow makes it easier for customers to discover new products, buy more, and deepen their relationship with the brand.
“At its core, try before you buy works well for new shoppers because it reduces friction and uncertainty,” says Hosinski.
“When people can try more, they can experience more, and they will find more to love. They’ll have a good experience with your brand. They’ll come back time and time again.”
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