- Menswear seller Bonobos has been testing a try-before-you-buy apparel service called "Ship. Try. Buy." in three Boston-area retail locations and is considering an expansion of the program, according to a company spokesperson. One possible area under consideration is the West Coast, but there is not yet "a firm timeline in place for rolling the program out to other locations," the spokesperson told Retail Dive in an email.
- The option allows customers to order up to 12 items to a Bonobos location (which it calls "guideshops"), and buy and take home the products they want, according to the Walmart-owned brand. The showroom handles the returns of any items the customer does not want.
- Digiday first reported the expansion on Wednesday. About 35% of customers using the service so far are new customers and the remaining 65% are repeat shoppers, a spokesperson told Digiday. The publication also reported that customers of the service have higher than average orders and conversion rates.
Bonobos' try-before-you-buy service expands the functions for its guideshops, which historically have functioned as a showroom allowing customers to try on clothing, find their fit, and then order product to be sent to their home.
So far, the model has worked for Bonobos, which has grown to more than 60 locations and attracted the largest retailer in the world, Walmart, as a suitor and eventually owner.
The brand has grown under Walmart. A November analysis of consumer purchases by Edison Trends found that Bonobos revenue was up 74% from August 2017, and up 34% from the year prior.
Bonobos is growing in other ways, too. In March, it debuted its first women's collection that includes two shirts, two shirt dresses and a jumpsuit all modeled after its popular Riviera print. Last year it launched plus-size lines.
The try-before-you-buy service is aimed at keeping existing shoppers returning to the guideshops. It also gets to some fundamental issues with modern retail: different customers want different options from the expanding set of shopping channels available. Some customers still like to walk away from stores with products they want, instead of waiting for it to ship to their home.
And despite the explosion of e-commerce, most customers still want to try apparel on before they make purchases. About 70% of consumers said they would choose a try-before-you-buy retail offering over one that didn't offer the option, according to a 2018 survey. A 2017 A.T. Kearney survey found that two-thirds of shoppers who prefer online still rely on a physical store either before or after their purchase.
The desire to try products before committing has fueled mountains of returns — as well as a variety of box, subscription, rental and try-before-you buy services. Bonobos' model runs through its stores and spares customers the need to return online purchases.