Product sampling is now mainstream.
PRODUCT SAMPLING is becoming a normal and effective way for larger manufacturers and retailers to attract and keep customers. While sampling is nothing new to the direct selling channel, it’s shifting the customer experience in mainstream commerce.
The Product Sampling Study by Arbitron and Edison Media Research reveals the impact of sampling on purchasing decisions. One third of customers make a purchase of a sampled product in the same shopping trip, and 47 percent are willing to buy a sampled product in the future. The Event Marketing Institute reveals that 81 percent of consumers approach a brand’s display for a free product, surpassing the 54 percent drawn in by a special discount. This highlights the significance of free product offerings in attracting consumer interest and increasing conversion likelihood.
As consumer behavior shifts, companies are adjusting their product sampling strategies. Leveraging digital and at-home channels, including click-and-collect QR codes, digital kiosks, mobile apps and direct-to-consumer sites, has become pivotal for driving brand awareness. Despite a rise in online shopping, the majority still make in-store purchases, necessitating new approaches to product sampling that encourage discovery and impulse purchases.
Coca-Cola’s transition from in-store experiential sampling to inserting energy drinks into online grocery pick-up orders exemplifies an innovative strategy. Major retailers like Walmart, Kroger and Giant Eagle offer curbside sampling programs, while third-party on-demand delivery services like Instacart integrate sampling into customer orders. Walmart has gone even further by hosting drive-through sampling events, such as a Mother’s Day event with goody bags and QR code interactions for deeper engagement.
QR codes have emerged as a flexible tool for product sampling, serving as an educational medium. Customers can scan codes for additional information, discounts and virtual assistance. Shelf-tag technology, tested by retailers like Native Sun and Raisin Rack, allows for touchless aisle browsing through QR codes, enriching the customer experience with content like educational videos and documents.
In the beauty industry, sampling is a major part of the decision-making process, with 50 percent of shoppers stating that complimentary samples inspire purchases. Arcade Beauty’s Abeo digital sampling platform targets qualified customers through social media ads, allowing them to select samples for direct delivery.
Direct-to-consumer channels enable companies to establish direct relationships; personalize experiences; and run their own sampling programs. Pipcorn offered the option for customers to send a free sample to a friend when purchasing directly from their website. KIND Healthy Snacks and Heinz utilize their websites to offer free samples as part of subscription sign-ups, showcasing innovative strategies to deepen customer relationships, engender goodwill and foster brand loyalty.
The evolving landscape of consumer behavior necessitates a combination of digital and in-person sampling strategies, emphasizing free product offerings to inspire purchases and build lasting connections with customers.
From the December 2023 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.