We would never imagine buying a car without a test drive, but there are so many other purchases that we must make by reading product descriptions and reviews I think companies can be more successful if they leverage a try-before-you-buy model. My favorite Scotch is Arbourlor which I was introduced to by tasking it in a duty-free shop at the airport nearly 20 years ago.
Last week I was in Roatan Honduras as part of a group of underwater photographers. We were there to dive and enhance our photo skills but also to try out a lot of new equipment.
My son had a problem with his mask. This is one of the most critical pieces of equipment for divers after their breathing source. I always bring an extra mask with me but I was using it since mine broke after a diver crushed it in rough seas. Bill went to the dive shop, tried a few, and found one he thought might fit. Given we are in a remote area with a smaller selection not sure he found the best one. While on land you can simulate the fit but until you dive you cannot be sure. In 20 years of diving, I have never been offered the opportunity to try a mask in water. Every dive shop where I have bought the mask required me to buy it. This dive shop let him take a sample mask diving that morning. After the two dives, he loved it. The mask was so comfortable he not only bought one but bought two. Other than the cost of the “demo mask” there is no reason why others cannot do this.
I experience another “brilliant marketing moment” in Roatan with the demo gear. During the day you dive then each afternoon submit photos from the day to have them reviewed by the group and photo pros. On the second night, one of the submissions was for one of the demo cameras. The Olympus TG4 is one of the new Tough cameras that is waterproof to 50′ This one was in a housing with external strobes. The pictures looked great on the big screen. Berkley White, the photo pro commented they were great for a compact point-and-shoot camera and this camera would make a great backup camera to the more complex and expensive rig. The next day we went into the demo room to try a new lens for a different Olympus camera and get on the list to try the TG4. We waited in line behind 5 people who wanted to try the TG4 camera. Carlos from Olympus told them that the 4 he brought were already checked out. That is 10 people who were excited to try the camera the next morning. Not only did they see the photos, and have an influencer make a comment but they would get a chance to try it. I tried the camera and it was great and it is not my backup!
For me, I dive with the Canon 7D in an Aquatica housing. I have been loyal to Aquatica for seven years – more than anything, the service and support are unmatched. They make a great product. I wanted to upgrade to the Canon 5d, but after my demo, I have decided to go with the 7D Mk II, which is an upgrade. I tried this camera in 4 different housings on at least two dives each. In the end I loved a different housing from Subal and passed my housing down to my son. It was more compact and easier to hold, especially for macro shots. I took it on 4 additional dives and loved it placing an order on the spot.
The outcome of this try-and-buy event will be significant. Over 80 people saw the quality of the photos and at least 20 people tried the TG4 camera. Not sure how many went to buy it but once they do and people see it on the dive boats they will want it too. In rough estimates, they should be able to sell at least 100 units from this event alone and that would be over $35,000 in revenue far more than the cost to have someone there to make it easy for people to try the product. The same is true with the other housings – many people want to move to the higher level of photography but would do so if they could try the equipment. Maybe larger dive-friendly locations like Roatan, Bonaire, and Grand Cayman can create a rental program enabling people to move beyond the point-and-shoot.
So why is try and buy a big deal – in the past some of the housing and camera makers did not attend this event and felt the opportunity was too small but they are not seeing the power of influencers and social media expansion. I have shared my pictures with my network as have others that attended. I have seen a few posts of people asking what camera they used to do it. In the day of social media and even moderate influencers creating a situation where you can try and buy a product may be a great move for you.