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Best Buy hopes its try-before-you-buy scheme will drive gadget sales

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It can be tricky buying a new gadget. You might read pages of online reviews about a new piece of equipment or watch lots of YouTubers taking it for a spin. If you finally decide to hit the buy button, it can be a few weeks before you know for sure that you made the right decision.

Best Buy hopes to make buying gadgets a whole lot easier by offering customers the chance to rent them for a while before making a final decision.

The scheme will start later this month, according to Recode, and focus on a range of popular consumer electronics devices, including cameras, fitness trackers, and audio equipment.

Rental options will show up alongside devices on Best Buy’s shopping website, though the actual scheme will be operated by San Francisco-based startup Lumoid, which has been running a similar kind of service via its own website since 2014.

Instead of using brand-new devices, Best Buy plans to send out products that have been bought and returned. The company reportedly sees this as a good way of making use of such products, as they can’t be resold at full price.

As Recode notes, rival online retailer Amazon doesn’t currently offer any kind of rental system, and so Best Buy sees its new scheme as a chance to attract new customers who like the idea of spending a decent amount of time with a product before deciding if it’s a good fit. Customers who go on to make a purchase will be able reduce its cost by about 20 percent of the final rental fee.

While it’s true that Best Buy already lets you return a product within 15 days for a full refund (though you could be charged a restocking fee), some customers may feel they want more time with something like a camera or fitness tracker as it can take a while to get a true feel of it. Also, it’s safe to assume that most customers who hit the buy button have little intention of returning it, whereas those of two minds are more likely to pull back from a purchase. A rental scheme therefore lowers the psychological barrier for undecided customers and could potentially lead to more sales.

Details on rental prices have yet to be revealed. Oh, and just in case you’re already making plans to use the scheme to try out DJI’s new Spark quadcopter, then you’ll be disappointed to learn that drones will not be offered. Best Buy probably realizes that that kind of rental has a good chance of coming back in bits so isn’t worth the hassle.

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