What happened to sample marketing?

A man holding a megaphone - Free samples

THE SHORT OF IT: Amazon.com, with its millions of shoppers, knows a lot about us, as do other e-commerce sites. Why aren’t these sites using this information to recommend product samples to brands when over 70% of consumers say they are likely to buy a product after first trying it. Less than 25% say the same thing after seeing a commercial on TV?

Product sampling helps consumers better understand a company’s product or service and thus increases the likelihood of a purchase. 81% of passersby who engage in a company’s display or pop-up activation mention that they visited because they wanted a product sample.

In the food and beverage industry, evoking your products taste and smell as a means of marketing is irreplaceable. Sampling remains the most important way of reaching consumers in a taste-driven market. After all, sampling allows consumers to trial a product without obligation – future or current. While product sampling is a key ingredient in any balanced business marketing strategy, it also remains important for consumers. It allows consumers to indulge in a product without capital. For many consumers, this means that they can explore if the taste of a product is right for them. Food sampling toes a fine line between customer acquisition (via reaching new customers) and customer retention (via increasing brand value and awareness).

Today online retailers know a lot about you via your browser and shopping history. It seems a perfect match for products sampling yet it’s estimated that less than 10% of online retailers use product sampling.

The effects of short-term purchase behavior in relation to sampling has beenshown consistently in research. When consumers are offered free samples, their short-term purchasing behavior (i.e. the day of the sampling promotion) is significantly increased. So, remember, sampling doesn’t only spread a product to consumers quickly, it also urges consumers to make purchases the day of the product sampling. In a way, product sampling is like getting paid to market a product. Beyond short-term purchasing behavior, having a consistent sampling program as part of your marketing strategy has boosted the sales of some grocersas much as 2,000%.

  • Researchers found that free samples increased consumers purchasing behavior towards the brand for as long as 12-months post-sampling.
  • Researchers found that including sampling increased sales towards a brand significantly as opposed to coupons, which had no effect.
  • Belch & Belch showed that product sampling had a significant effect on consumer purchasing behavior towards the sampled brand.
  • In 2011 the British Food Journal reported a study showing that free sampling significantly increased the likelihood of purchased products.

Of course, product sampling could slow down Amazon deliveries but with the money, Amazon devotes to R&D one wonders why they haven’t figured out that product sampling could be a win-win for both consumers and their Amazon.

If I have a new product to launch, product sampling will be in my mix, whether via e-commerce sites or included with Sunday paper deliveries. There is a reason why Costco charges brands for sampling on weekends. It works, and it’s effective.

What happened to sample marketing?