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This is How Shoppers Want to Pay for Clothing Online

How can you get shoppers to buy more apparel online? Be more like Amazon.

Not exactly, of course, but it turns out Amazon really was onto something when it launched Prime Wardrobe last year. No one knows just how that service is performing with customers, but new research supports Prime Wardrobe’s core concept: try before you buy.

Purchasing clothing online always has been a risky affair. Photos are great, and videos can show even more detail but there’s nothing like experiencing the real thing, confirming how the fabric feels and falls and seeing for yourself whether that green really is emerald or actually skews more hunter. When you factor in the sizing disparities across brands, there’s another big reason not to roll the dice on fashion that looks great online but could be a failure in real life.

That inherent risk and uncertainty prevent some shoppers from taking the plunge when it comes to buying clothes through e-commerce. Among the worst? Returns: the annoyance of packing up and shipping items back, possibly having to pony up for that return shipping and then enduring the seemingly interminable wait to be refunded. It’s not a great process or experience.

While many startups have been disrupting e-commerce returns, there hasn’t been as much movement on the front end of the purchasing process. However, research from Klarna North America shows that online shopping sites offering a “try before you buy” service would likely attract significant business.

Consumers, it would seem, don’t want to be the ones shouldering all of the risk up front, shelling out for clothing and crossing their fingers that their purchase lives up to expectations. Nearly three quarters (74 percent) of shoppers surveyed by Klarna said a method to try on clothing before being billed for it would eliminate their biggest pain point when shopping for apparel online. What’s more, 37 percent of consumers said a “try before you buy” payment method would be their preferred way to purchase garments online, ahead of credit cards (20 percent), debit cards (16 percent), PayPal or store credit cards (11 percent apiece), and financing options such as three evenly split payments once monthly or four evenly split payments biweekly (2 percent apiece).

“These results show that the ‘Try Before You Buy’ concept would bolster consumer confidence in purchasing goods online and enable retailers to experience significantly improved average order values,” Elizabeth Bramlage, head of U.S. marketing for Klarna, said. “As we’ve learned previously from our studies of instant financing options, merchants that go the extra mile to remove friction in online shopping, will find they are rewarded with more business and converted sales.”

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A “try before you buy” payment offering could influence consumer behavior to the tune of spending more, and more freely. Most (71 percent) said they would use this option if offered; the same percentage said this offering would motivate them to buy from one retailer versus another; and 69 percent would purchase even more items if this payment option is available, the research found.

With “try before you buy,” online fashion retailers could narrow the gap with one of brick-and-mortar’s biggest advantages: physically fitting clothing prior to purchasing. “Fashion fit and look can be difficult to judge from product descriptions, digital photos and videos alone,” Bramlage said. “By offering a ‘pay later’ option, consumers are finally able to bring the fitting room into their own homes and have the peace of mind that they will only ever be responsible to pay for the items they love.”

Bramlage said this approach to payment is a win-win for shoppers and for e-commerce fashion companies. “For merchants, benefits include a greater likelihood that additional items will be purchased and kept,” she explained. “Consumers don’t have to tie up their credit line to try additional apparel pieces and aren’t left with the hassle of reconciling their card statements at the end of the month to ensure they received credit for items returned.”