intent of choosing the variant they like best, and returning the rest.

Why do shoppers bracket?

It’s no mystery why bracketing can be such a pain point for merchants – the most obvious “side effect” is increased returns. Shipping and / or returning may be free for customers, but it’s never free for merchants. It’s understandable, then, that many merchants’ first reaction is to try to reduce bracketing at all costs!

But we know shoppers aren’t sitting at home thinking up new ways to pester merchants – so rather than trying to eliminate the behavior, it’s better to start by understanding what drives it.

Revisiting our wedding shoe story from above tells us the answer: uncertainty.

Uncertain of their size, a shopper orders more than one…

Uncertain of which color or pattern they’ll prefer, or which will better match their outfit, they order a few just to be sure …

And this isn’t just happening with shoes or apparel. If a shopper is uncertain whether a rug will look silly if it only covers the middle of the floor between the couch and the TV.. you guessed, more bracketing. They may order the 5’ x 7’ and the 8’ x 10’… just to be sure.

How can a merchant turn bracketing from a woe to a win?

We know the problem our shopper is facing is uncertainty.

It’s natural to be uncertain when shopping online, but it’s not natural to pay in the face of this uncertainty. 

This is why we see many shoppers choosing to bracket. And while these shoppers may be attracting all the energy (and vexation) of merchants, there’s a larger group of shoppers who, when faced with uncertainty, opt not to make a purchase at all. 

If a merchant truly wants to improve revenue and profitability, they need to focus on resolving this underlying uncertainty, not the bracketing that it sometimes invites.

Depending on your product type, a fit finder or AR visualization tool may be enough to reduce bracketing and encourage more shoppers to check out with confidence.

But the most effective solution we’ve observed in the ecommerce market is letting shoppers try before they buy. (If you’re not familiar with try before you buy commerce, check out this quick guide from our partners at Whiplash).

Allowing shoppers to try a product before they buy it lets them check out with confidence. More browsers of your site convert, and carts are larger as people get excited to bring the store to their door.

It’s important to note that the “try before you buy” model does not eliminate bracketing – rather, it embraces it as a natural behavior for some customers; a behavior that loyal customers will engage in less as they develop trust and comfort with your brand.

That said, a “try before you buy” model does not sacrifice profitability. Rather, it relentlessly focuses on profitability, without sacrificing customer experience.

Years ago, brands feared a frictionless returns process would lead only to more returns while tanking profitability. Now, we know the reality is that returns are one of many customer touch points with your brand, and making the experience delightful is an excellent way to win and retain customers.

Similarly with “try before you buy,” if a merchant focuses on building trust with shoppers and creating experiences that foster brand loyalty, the benefits to revenue, conversion, customer lifetime value, and other metrics more than offset the cost of returns.

If you have questions about a “try before you buy” model, check out our partners over at TryNow. TryNow’s software makes it simple for merchants to offer a trial experience to their shoppers.