×

Lumoid pioneers a 'try before you buy' model of buying gadgets

For audiophiles, trying to choose from the wide universe of gadgets can be a frustrating process. Many of the brands don't come cheap, and buyers are skeptical about investing in a product that may not fit their needs — or may not live up to its hype.

Former Microsoft Program Manager and Netflix Product Manager Aarthi Ramamurthy recognized this problem when she launched Lumoid in 2013. For a small rental fee, the start-up gives consumers an opportunity to test the latest technology, without any obligation for purchasing it. If you like it, then you can buy it.

Recently, Lumoid expanded its "try-before-you-buy" services beyond wearable technology, photo and video equipment, and drones. It now has offerings that include more than 50 different audio products, which include 30 different headphones that include brands such as Audio Technica, Beats, Bose, Sony and Sennheiser — all of which can be rented.

Audio "was just one of those areas where there's a lot of momentum, a lot of options," Ramamurthy, Lumoid's founder and CEO, told CNBC in an interview. "Everybody wants to test-drive them, especially when it comes to headphones."

According to Lumoid's data, some of the most popular among pre-Christmas shoppers include the Devialet Phantom — a $2,000 wireless speaker that churns out 99 decibels of sound; the Master & Dynamic headset that retails for $399; and the Beats by Dre Pill+, a wireless speaker that costs less than some of the brand's headphones.

Given the steep prices attached to quality audio brands, Lumoid's business model can help save consumers from buyer's remorse. And there's a model for every individual need, Ramamurthy told CNBC.

"You might want it for a commute or for working out and I might want it because I work in an open office, and want to wear a pair of headphones so I can block out all the noise," Ramamurthy said. "Somebody else might want it because they are flying a lot and they want noise-canceling headphones they can use on flights."


In some cases, three devices can be tested over a two-week period for just $30. The most popular line of headphones, according to the company, is the Master & Dynamic headphones in Lumoid's Fashion Forward kit, which are available on the site as part of a 3-for-$45 offer.

The Devialet Phantom, one of Lumoid's most popular products, has a two-week trial that costs $50.

According to Ramamurthy, Lumoid has seen a boost in traffic since the launch of its new suite of audio products in mid-November, but said it might be attributed to seasonal factors.

"We are seeing a jump in traffic overall, but that could also just be because of the holiday season," Ramamurthy said. "In general, November and December are really good months for traffic. It's just a little too early to say if it's just because of audio or if it's because of the seasonality."

Eventually, Lumoid hopes to expand its product offerings into mobile technology.

"We eventually see this happening for things like tablets and phones and laptops," Ramamurthy said. "But at this point we don't really know yet which one that'll be, because it really depends on the market, what the customers are asking next year. But for now, we just launched audio, so we have to focus on that."