Product Sampling is a marketing tactic where companies offer free samples of their products to potential customers. This helps to generate interest and increase awareness about the product before purchase.
Most people prefer to try something before buying it. They often react positively and may still decide not to make a purchase immediately. Sampling can significantly impact brand awareness, customer education, sales, and brand loyalty positively.
What is Product Sampling?
Product sampling is a marketing practice where customers can test small versions of a product without having to purchase it first.
An example would be a skincare brand that provides free product samples of its moisturizer to customers. This enables them to experience the benefits of the product before purchasing it at full price.
Product samples can be a reliable way to gain customer trust, as seeing other people use the product, backing up with statistics, and collecting endorsements might not always be enough. Marketers can offer the samples for free, allowing potential customers to try the product themselves.
Types of Product Sampling
There are two methods for sampling products available –
- The indirect product sampling strategy refers to offering free samples of a product to consumers without any physical interaction between you and the clients. This is commonly done by providing samples when the consumer buys another product.
- A direct product sampling strategy focuses on building and maintaining a relationship with your consumers by offering free samples delivered to their homes.
What are Product Sampling Methods?
1. Traditional product sampling
This marketing method can frequently be found in stores like Costco or beauty stores. They provide customers with samples of the products they already have in stock, hoping that customers will end up purchasing more items than they had originally intended.
Placing the sampling counter in a strategic location within a store has been known to increase sales through traditional product marketing methods, though there are drawbacks to consider as well.
- Traditional product marketing allows you to distribute samples to a large number of consumers without conducting prior research. Sending samples to all recipients may not be efficient because some may not be interested in the product.
- Although this method allows for in-person interaction with your customers, once they leave your store, you have no further control over them.
- Product sampling only provides limited insights based on what is observed at that moment and recorded accurately.
- Hence, this method is not appropriate for products that require a day or a week to try and review such as shampoos or skincare products.
2. Digital Product Sampling
The advancements in technology have simplified the interaction between businesses and consumers. Digital product sampling is a contemporary adaptation of the conventional practice of product sampling, modified for current times. A digital product sampling program is effective in creating user generated content.
- Digital product sampling is a way for businesses to offer samples to customers without the need for physical distribution.
- This also lets them use social media platforms and other digital marketing channels to reach more people.
- Additionally, businesses can now track customer behavior through their interactions, thanks to technology.
- Conducting research, creating content, and coordinating samples for the digital product sampling method involves a significant amount of time, effort, and cost.
- Additionally, businesses need to purchase the required technology to manage a successful campaign.
What does effective Product Sampling look like?
A product sampling process goes through the following steps –
1) Know your goals and objectives.
Ask yourself these questions to clarify your goals for the campaign:
- What is your desired outcome for the product sampling?
- Why did you choose these specific sample products?
- Do you aim to receive pre-launch coverage?
It will help to establish clear objectives and measurable goals.
2) Identify your Target Audience
Ensure that your target audience is the right fit for your product or service. To achieve this, research and understand your audience more thoroughly.
Additionally, studying your competitors’ consumer base can help you identify the right target market for your product or service.
3) Set a budget
Consider the influence of your budget on the scale of your goals and what you can accomplish. You may need to make decisions about where to allocate your funds, such as for location, personnel, or the number of samples.
4) Identify which products to sample
Choose the product that you want to present to them and determine the format in which you will promote it when distributing.
- Would you be offering the full-sized product, a mini-version, or a small sample?
- Will the customers be consuming it immediately or taking it home to try later?
Determining this will impact your budget, particularly if you are a food brand doing product sampling in a retail store, as your main goal should be on-the-spot trials.
5) Identify how you’ll sample them
When thinking about sampling, take into account the overall experience for the customer, not just the product. You could choose a simple approach or go for a more immersive experience by partnering with an external agency.
Consider the delivery method for the sample when choosing from the various sampling techniques available, including in-store sampling, pop-up shops or tents, recipe demonstrations, and product launch events.
6) Set up a feedback system
When you’re planning how to engage with your customers, consider ways to simplify the process for them to provide feedback on your product and share it with others.
To enhance participation, you could consider incorporating a QR code, assigning a hashtag for social media interaction, or setting up an in-person survey or website form.
You can ask your staff or brand ambassadors to prepare a report with feedback that includes examples of asked questions or the most popular flavor.
7) Manage the logistics – and who’ll do what
To put your plans into action, you may need to do tasks such as reaching out to suitable venues or businesses, scheduling appointments, purchasing and dispatching products, finalizing contracts, putting together a team to oversee the sampling, and other related activities.
Collaborating with brand ambassadors is a good option if you won’t personally manage the sampling process.
8) Create supporting materials
Consider ordering promotional materials such as a banner or business cards if you are running a direct sampling campaign.
It might be beneficial for you to consider investing in advertising content and developing a social media strategy that includes pre- and post-event messaging.
9) Time your sampling campaign right
To generate reviews and allow consumers to get familiar with your product, it’s best to start promoting it weeks or even months before the launch.
Also, make sure to choose the appropriate launch date. A suggestion would be to release your school supply product a few weeks ahead of the new semester’s start.
10) Run the campaign
Start moving now, but keep track of your inventory levels and remember to log all sales.
To properly gauge the impact of sampling, it’s important to be aware of the previous sales record at the retail venue.
11) Follow post-purchase updates after customers receive their samples
There are different ways to gather feedback from customers after they purchase a product. You can send them emails or questionnaires.
But some companies offer services where they take care of product sampling and follow-up communication with customers, which can be difficult to do on your own.
12) Review and repeat
Product sampling is important not only for creating a good initial perception but also for leaving a lasting impact.
It’s crucial to stay updated on reviews and address consumer issues in a timely and effective manner to make a positive impression.
The Psychology of Product Sampling
Marketing strategy can be more effective using product sampling due to three key psychological concepts –
1) Rrisk Aversion Concept
It’s important to remember that our brains sometimes make irrational decisions. This is because if our brains were to thoroughly analyze every decision, it would require too much energy. To conserve energy, we often make quick decisions without much thought.
We tend to choose products that we are already familiar with rather than trying out new ones, even if those new products are more sustainable, environmentally friendly, and better suited to our lifestyle. Product sampling is a way for consumers to try a product without paying for it, which reduces their risks.
2) Reciprocity Concept
Product sampling can be an effective method to encourage consumer generosity, as per the findings of recent social psychology studies that indicate people are more likely to reciprocate when a favor is done for them first.
It is worth noting that these customer service workers are not requesting any compensation in exchange for their services, yet they still receive recognition for it.
Reciprocity can also be utilized in product sampling by offering free samples to consumers, which may lead to future purchases of the product.
3) Inclination toward a brand
Finally, after making a positive impact on consumers, they are more likely to have a favorable opinion of you and your products.
Product sampling can help customers determine if your products are good, which can lead to brand loyalty if they have a positive experience.
Understanding these three psychological concepts and using them in your product sampling strategy can help you increase customer engagement in both the short and long term.
When should you launch a product sampling campaign?
- Before offering the product for sampling, it’s crucial to ensure that it’s of high quality and efficacy. A poorly made product will receive harsh criticism from those who try it out, emphasizing the importance of delivering a good one.
- You can afford the cost of samples, which includes the cost of the samples themselves as well as expenses for shipping, handling, staffing, and marketing. Using CashBack Sampling can help reduce these costs.
- To promote an existing product, it’s important to increase brand awareness. If your brand is not well-established, rely on positive word-of-mouth to generate awareness and drive more sales. However, make sure to assess whether expansion is possible within your current business model.
- To successfully launch your new product, consider offering product samples. Sampling will aid in product development and generate excitement. Individuals who try your product and enjoy it are more inclined to make purchases, spread the word, and potentially create shareable content.
Benefits of Product Sampling
1) Help customers make purchasing decisions
Before seeking information about a potential solution, customers need to become aware of a need or desire or recognize a problem that needs to be solved.
Next, when considering a product, customers evaluate various options and their specifications. Numerous factors such as price, availability, personal preferences, and biases impact shoppers’ decisions.
2) Play on reciprocity
Reciprocity is a phenomenon where when someone does something nice for you, you feel a strong urge to do something kind for them in return. This is why businesses often offer free samples to customers.
If someone receives something from you, they may feel obligated to do something kind in return, such as buying a product as a way of thanking you for providing a sample.
3) Increase the brand exposure and affinity
Providing current customers with new samples as a special offer can also enhance brand loyalty in addition to attracting new customers.
Although product samples were a factor in the outcomes, they were not the only aspect. It was crucial to offer excellent service and a pleasant environment along with the samples, as simply providing free items may not be sufficient to satisfy every customer.
4) Improve consumer confidence
Allowing customers to try a product can build their trust in your brand and products, as well as help them establish realistic expectations and foster a lasting relationship.
5) Test new products
Although the high street is not completely shut down, it’s unwise to overlook the growing number of people who favor online shopping.
The comfort of searching for a product, comparing alternatives, and receiving it at your doorstep the very next day is unparalleled.
6) Increase sales at the point of purchase
We often turn to discounts as a way to increase the chances of store visitors making a purchase. Even a small discount of 5% can be quite irresistible for customers.
Relying solely on discounts to convert visitors into buyers can be detrimental to the business in the long term, especially if customers begin to perceive the products as always being sold at a heavily discounted price.
7) Increase customer loyalty
Repeat customers are a major source of revenue for most direct-to-consumer brands, with a major chunk of a company’s business coming from them.
According to research, more than ninety percent of customers become more loyal to a company when they trust it. Offering free samples is a strategy that leverages this trend. Customers can test the value of the product and decide if it’s worth buying at its retail price by using and interacting with it.
Product Sampling Tips
1) Define your target audience first
When providing free samples in your retail store, it’s important to keep your target audience in mind. Think about what your ideal customer would like and choose a product based on that. The same principle applies to all aspects of your store.
2) Establish clear goals
Before giving out your product samples, it’s important to have a clear plan. Ask yourself the following questions: What’s the reason for offering free samples? Who’s your target audience for these samples? How will you determine if offering free samples is successful?
3) Be mindful of the timing
When you offer product samples, give people enough time to experience the benefits firsthand. If you wait too long to repurchase the product after receiving sample reminders, you may forget about it and the purchase may slip your mind. To encourage them to buy the full version at the regular price, you can convince them or provide them with another free sample to refresh their memory of the product’s excellence.
4) Be strategic about sampling location
The placement of free samples in your retail store is heavily influenced by the store’s layout. Select locations that have high customer traffic and avoid areas that are rarely visited, such as the back of the store.
To increase visibility and attract more customers, consider placing your sampling station in strategic locations such as by the store entrance, in the window, or at the checkout desk to entice shoppers to try a free sample.
5) Leverage social media
When we receive something for free, it’s a bonus – an unexpected but appreciated addition. When we’re pleasantly surprised, we tend to share our gratitude with others.
Although it may seem obvious, please keep in mind that we would appreciate it if you could share a positive tweet or Instagram Story about our product in return for receiving it for free. This aligns with the principle of reciprocity that we previously discussed.
6) Solicit feedback
Providing free samples is a great way to obtain feedback from people who have tried a small version of your product, even if they don’t become paying customers.
After a few days of sending the reminder email, send another email asking why the full-size item wasn’t purchased. This will help you to fine-tune your product sampling campaigns in the future, as you can learn if it was the price, lack of results, or unavailability in-store that prevented them from buying.
Product Sampling Ideas
1) Include sampling in loyalty programs
As we said before, offering product samples can increase customer loyalty, leading to steady revenue. To enhance this effect, consider using small samples to encourage customers to join your loyalty program.
2) Encourage customers to try your new products
One way to use product sampling is to introduce a new product or flavor. You can offer a free sample of the newest flavor to customers who have purchased the original version. This can help boost sales by encouraging customers to try something new.
3) Cross-promote with other products
Collaborating with another business can effectively promote both businesses’ products by exchanging product samples. This strategy can enhance visibility and boost the likelihood of customers buying products from both businesses.
4) Leverage product sampling for customer reviews
How much more inclined are you to buy a product when somebody impartial can recommend it? Most probably, your response is “highly inclined.”
Offering a free product sample is an effective way for brands to engage potential customers and increase brand awareness.
It also helps establish relationships with customers and obtain valuable feedback, making it an important part of a comprehensive marketing strategy.
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