Since the dawn of ecommerce, clothing and fashion brands have been losing sales to one simple but meaningful question — “But how will it look on me?” Now, with some new updates on an old feature, Amazon Prime Try Before You Buy aims to overcome that obstacle once and for all.
Originally called “Amazon Prime Wardrobe,” the Prime Try Before You Buy feature lets Prime members try out clothing in person for up to 7 days, paying only for what they choose to keep. This seems like a clear solution to the lack of a fitting room in online stores, but how does it work and, more to the point, what does it mean for Amazon sellers?
The Problem with Clothes Shopping Online
All ecommerce is at a disadvantage when it comes to interacting with a product before you buy it, but no industry suffers more than apparel. Clothing has the greatest need to be tried in person so the shopper can know how it fits.
It’s hard to gauge the proportions and sizing from online pictures and videos. There’s always an inherent risk that any clothes you buy online won’t look right when you actually try them on. Then there are the other details you can’t decipher from a picture, such as the fabric, texture, transparency, etc.
That’s why, according to Shopify, in 2021 apparel had the second-highest ecommerce return rate of any industry (first was auto-parts). Of the clothing returns, over half (52%) were because the fit was either too small or too big.
Amazon Prime Try Before You Buy seems to have found a way around this conundrum — let shoppers try on the items at home risk-free before committing. That’s one effective way to prevent returns.
What is Amazon Try Before Your Buy?
If you’re familiar with Amazon Prime Wardrobe, Prime Try Before You Buy is the same exact feature, just rebranded with a new name. Here’s how it works:
- Only certain clothing items are eligible; shoppers can identify them with the Prime Try Before You Buy header bar at the top of the screen. Alternatively, people can shop exclusively for eligible items by starting their search at Amazon’s Try Before You Buy home page.
- Prime members (and only Prime members) can add up to 8 items into their Try Before You Buy shopping cart. This feature is included as part of Prime membership with no additional charge.
- The items are sent to the recipient’s home with free shipping. Each package arrives in a resealable box with a pre-printed return label.
- Shoppers have up to 7 days to try out the clothes. Whatever they don’t want to keep, they put back into the resealable package and return it to the seller, again with no extra charge. Shoppers also indicate what they’re returning and keeping on the Your Orders tab in Amazon.
Prime Try Before You Buy applies to a wide range of clothing: women’s, men’s, kids’, and babies’ clothing, including shoes, jewelry, and accessories. Some A-list fashion brands are already participating: Calvin Klein, Adidas, UGG, Levi’s, Under Armour, New Balance, and Clarks, to name a few.
What is Personal Shopper by Prime Try Before You Buy?
A separate but related feature is Personal Shopper, or its full name, Personal Shopper by Prime Try Before You Buy. This is distinct from Try Before You Buy, and requires an additional payment of $4.99/month.
Just like the original Personal Shopper from Amazon Prime Wardrobe, the newer update pairs you with a professional Amazon stylist who sends you clothing recommendations every month based on your style and budget. Users are asked to fill in a profile and complete a survey so the stylists can better understand their tastes.
Although the two services operate independently, they go together hand-in-hand. Personal Shoppers can recommend only Try Before You Buy items so that customers don’t have to buy anything in the dark.
How Does Prime Try Before You Buy Affect Sellers?
Many sellers are nervous about the program because, as mentioned above, clothing returns are already excessive. Regular clothes sellers are already up to their V-necks in returns, and there are fears that Prime Try Before You Buy will become a free clothing rental service out of sellers’ pockets.
It’s worth noting that Amazon charges shoppers for each of the items they request, and only cancels the charge after they receive the return intact. Amazon Try Before You Buy customers must still adhere to the Amazon Fashion Returns Policies for all Prime members — including the provision, “any product(s) that have been resized, damaged or otherwise altered after delivery will not be accepted for return.”
Of course, not all sellers can participate in Prime Try Before You Buy. First and foremost you must be eligible to sell on Amazon Prime, either through Seller-Fulfilled Prime (SFP) or Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA).
It now seems Amazon Prime Wardrobe was just the practice field for Prime Try Before You Buy. Ostensibly, Amazon has already ironed out all the wrinkles and fixed the behind-the-scenes problems before rolling out the more polished Try Before You Buy.
Still, Try Before You Buy is not yet fully complete. As time goes on, we’ll see more and more brands participating, including more high-end names. If all continues to go well, other marketplaces might adopt similar policies until this becomes the new ecommerce norm.
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published July 2018 and was updated in November 2021 to reflect more accurate and relevant information.