'Try before you buy': Unboxing the latest trend

There's a new trend sweeping its way into the fashion world, and I'm not talking shades of salmon or swathes of linen. What I'm talking about is 'Try Before You Buy'. As far as things go, it quite literally is what it sounds like - retailers are now letting their shoppers order items online that they can try on at their own convenience before they've parted ways with their money

 Try before you buy (Pay after Delivery PAD) - (Shutterstock)

This new way of shopping started out with humble origins, but with the rise of fintech payment solutions, such as Klarna, it has now been adopted by titans, such as Asos, Amazon, and TopShop. With the influence these retailers hold in the design of the fashion industry as a whole, it will not be long before this policy is rolled out wider. 

At first, such a policy sounds odd. Shoppers can have clothes delivered to their doors, hanging up in their bedrooms waiting to be tried on, and they wouldn't have needed to part with a single pound. But before you think this all sounds like retailers have lost the plot, consider it's elegance. By letting you get things delivered without paying for them, it brings that incredible experience of store shopping to online retail - that moment where you charge to the changing rooms with your arms completely full, now possible without stepping a foot out of your house. 

But surely if you don't like any of it and return it all, that would be a huge waste of money for a retailer? And you'd be correct - it would be. But we all know how much more likely we are to keep clothing once it's in our homes, near our cupboards, and we all know how much more we will order if we don't have to front the money to try it all on. Yes, it's a a gamble. But you might have said the same thing when retailers first started offering free returns, and we don't need to tell you how popular that particular policy has become. 

So how would it really work? All retailers will do it in their own unique ways, but the principles are always the same. You order the clothes you want - or might want - they get delivered, and then you have a short period to return the ones you don't want to keep (normally around a week, but always double check). You are charged for all the clothing that you don't return, and you still have the normal returns policy for things that you keep. And it's that simple.

 Try-before-you-buy became popular with the arrival of stylish pre-picked clothing boxes, such as Trunk Company (see above) and Enclothed. 

Try-before-you-buy became popular with the arrival of stylish pre-picked clothing boxes, such as Trunk Company (see above) and Enclothed. 

But the obvious thing here is that this whole process relies heavily on returns - in fact, try-before-you-buy as a concept puts returns in the position that deliveries are in now. Current online shopping is about getting things to you quickly, otherwise we could be too tempted to just go to stores instead. And although this would also be the case with try before you buy, the emphasis of a great service will be less on whether it arrives within an hour or a day, but whether it can be taken away within an hour, or within a day. After all, having the clothes you don't want taken away quickly and efficiently is crucial - you cant afford to miss courier pick-ups when potentially huge sums of money are riding on you returning something within a very short timeframe. 

There is not much doubt that this is something that shoppers have a huge desire for. But desires are often dangerous and irrational. It is not a shopper's job to think of the logistics around making this a smooth, easy experience. Retailers must make sure that this service is ready to be adopted quickly and widely, or risk the experience being so bad that it will never take-off.