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Bonobos Expands Business Model to Include Try-Before-You-Buy Option

Bonobos is revolutionizing its “guideshops” with a new program that allows consumers to try on their custom-measured wares before buying.

Since last August, Bonobos has been testing a new model with Boston-area consumers, which it’s calling “Ship. Try. Buy.” The program allows shoppers to pick up to 12 garments in their desired sizes and styles and have them delivered to their local guideshop. They are then able to purchase any of the pieces that work for them, and take them home that day.

The brand, which opened its first retail space in 2012, made waves because of its unorthodox business model. Bonobos’ guideshops don’t actually sell product—they’re more like showrooms, where consumers can peruse the latest collection and get fitted for garments that are sent directly to their homes. The setup allows consumers to see the shirts, pants and blazers in person before committing to order the custom-measured pieces.

However, after realizing consumers were having their clothes sent to Bonobos guideshops instead of home addresses, the company began quietly testing the new iteration of its service last August. After successful tests in the Boston region, Bonobos is planning to expand the program to its West Coast stores, the company told Digiday this week.

A spokesperson told the publication that average order values and conversion rates were higher among Boston consumers using the program than those following the traditional Bonobos retail model.

Of those who have used the service since last August, 35 percent have been new customers, and 65 percent have been repeat shoppers.

Under the leadership of CEO Micky Onvural, who joined the brand in fall of 2018, Bonobos has been exploring new ways to service consumers with different shopping habits and preferences—like leaving a store with their purchases in hand.

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The rise of e-commerce has undeniably altered the retail landscape, and more consumers are feeling confident about making purchases without the ability to try on first. But there’s a sizable contingent who still prefer to test a product’s fit before laying down their credit cards.

According to 2018 consumer research from Swedish payment provider Klarna, nearly two-thirds of respondents (71 percent) said they would be “moderately, very or completely” likely to choose a retailer offering a “try-before-you-buy” option over one that didn’t.

The new program isn’t the only way that the Walmart-owned business is diversifying its revenue stream. Last year, Bonobos opened up its sizing to include plus sizes, and launched its first women’s capsule collection.

A company representative said that the extended sizes will be covered by the service, while the women’s capsule will not.