In-store sampling is a powerful way to convert consumers into customers. Many brands already know this from their own research and experiences. If it didn’t work, you wouldn’t be able to spot sampling stations in stores up and down the nation.

When used as part of an overarching marketing strategy, in-store sampling becomes a very potent (and trackable) tool to convert potential customers not only into actual customers but also independent brand ambassadors. Word of mouth ambassadors who will spread your brand through their passion for your product alone.

Furthermore, when executed correctly, with marketing built into your product (it’s unique, innovative, fixes a problem, excels in its category, people want to talk about it etc), in-store sampling can be part of an exponential growth strategy.

Why is in-store sampling so effective?

Showcasing the unique selling points of your product through a hands-on experience convinces customers if your product is for them or not, at zero cost to them.

National sampling for Cartwright & Butlers complimentary line of products.

If they decide not to buy immediately, they will remember how your product looked, tasted, and made them feel. If you stand behind your product as good quality at a good price, those who sampled are much more likely to convert into paying customers.

Independent research by the Journal of Retailing states that:

  •  In-store product sampling produces both an immediate and sustained increase in product sales.
  • The use of repeated sampling events for a single product yields a multiplicative increase in sales.
  • In-store sampling increase total category sales, not the just sales for the focal product.
  • The effect of in-store sampling is more intense (short-term) and more sustained (long-term) than a product feature.

Towards the summary/conclusion of the article, a valuable rule of thumb is that:

if the incremental cost of a sampling event exceeds 15 times the unit price of the product, the event ceases to be profitable

So, if your unit price is £10, a sampling event reaching up to £150 would typically break even. Similarly, if your unit price is £1, it probably isn’t worth sampling, as it becomes very easy to hit the 15x number through wages alone.

From this, we can deduce that sampling becomes more effective as the price of your product increases (ever wonder why car dealers allow so many test drives of a brand new car, despite the negative impact on the value of said car? The unit price is high, so the loss in value of the test car is more than made up for by the increase in sales).

National Curry Sampling Event Staffed by CFM

How can it be made more effective?

Sampling levels can be impacted by the efforts put in by the sampler.

If a field marketer doesn’t begin a conversation with every person who walks past, they are losing potential customers.

The effectiveness of parallels a lot with leaflet distribution. A proactive, friendly, approachable member of staff will give out more samples/leaflets. Similarly a low foot-fall area always results in less distribution.

The Journal of Retailing advises the following for maximising the effectiveness of in-store sampling:

  • Set time limited discounts.
  • Award discounts for following on social media (improves brand loyalty, repeat sales, more online exposure).
  • Offer discounts for multi-buys.
  • Hand out leaflets with your samples.
  • Make your sampling stand more memorable.
  • Sample in the same place regularly (once a month, once a week etc).

Even without extra effort put into your sampling campaign, you can be fairly sure that you will see an uptick in sales as a direct result of the choices you make for your products.

So here are some tips from us to help you when doing in-store sampling:

1 – Pick your location VERY carefully. Ideally, your sampler will be stood right next to the stock they are sampling. This hugely increases the likelihood of customers buying due to ease of accessing the product right there and then. Festivals, street markets, music events, food festivals, beer festivals are all great areas to consider.

2 – Keep the work consistent. We cannot stress this enough and there are multiple benefits of this. It’s easier to keep the same member of staff, who will learn your products well and be a better ambassador for your brand. In addition, customers may sample your product over time rather than once, long term memory of your products flavours, textures, feel etc.

3 – Experiment sampling in different stores. Each supermarket attracts customers for different reasons. Waitrose attracts people looking to spend a bit more on higher quality foods, Lidl/Aldi both attract those looking for cheap staples.

4 – Build and maintain relationships with the supermarkets. Supermarkets are your best friend, being on good terms with them gives you more flexibility with your sampling. Furthermore, they are more likely to give you the best sampling spots in-store.

5 – Use some form of online analytics tracking (google analytics, telephone analytics etc) to track traffic from your in-store sampling campaigns. Using digital analytics for real world marketing can greatly enhance your perspective for your next move. Data is invaluable.

Lastly, to wrap this up, our best advice to you would be to work from your product up. Yes, marketing can make any business venture viable when done well enough. But, starting with a solid product with mass or niche appeal is the best place to start.


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