Product sampling has a long history in the beauty industry. It’s a sector where the physical experience of a product is everything: how it feels to apply, whether it suits or matches the skin and whether it causes any sensitivity are all crucial features. Committing to a full-size product can be costly and wasteful for consumers if one of these isn’t right and beauty samples save them from this frustrating experience.

But sampling isn’t just of benefit to consumers.

There are many product sampling benefits for beauty brands. Tester sizes and sampling campaigns can entice hesitant customers, generate conversation around a brand and give vital user feedback about a product to inform future development and business growth. 

The great advantages of beauty sampling mean that even in an increasingly digital world this marketing strategy is here to stay. And the new technology that’s emerged has enhanced, not erased, product sampling campaigns. Smart brands of every size are embracing these new product sampling methods to drive sales and put the right products in the right hands.

A brief history of beauty product sampling

Beauty sampling has been around for years and has been behind the growth of some of the world’s biggest cosmetics brands. When Estée Lauder first started selling skin care and makeup, she demonstrated her products on women while they were sitting under hair dryers! In 1946, Lauder officially launched her business and her tactic of using brand ambassadors to conduct extensive sampling led to her product selling out - demonstrating the power that samples and first-hand experiences hold in winning over consumers. She also helped pioneer the ‘gift with purchase’ strategy (giving customers a free sample of a different product when they buy something) that has become standard practice in beauty marketing.

Beauty sampling was taken to another level with the introduction of magazine sampling, which enabled brands to reach a large number of consumers at once with tester products. Such campaigns were and are fantastic at raising brand awareness and, depending on the magazine they accompany, reaching a variety of different demographics. However, the challenge here is that targeting, reporting and attribution are incredibly difficult to achieve through magazine sampling campaigns. The cost of such a strategy also makes it inaccessible to smaller brands.

Then the internet was born and changed the game again. The expansion of online services and growth of ecommerce has transformed the beauty industry and it’s created new opportunities within sampling specifically. Pioneered by the likes of Birchbox, launched in 2010, subscription boxes quickly gained popularity, giving consumers the chance to regularly receive a box of personalised beauty products (typically samples) for a small monthly fee. This new strategy has allowed beauty brands to court ‘casual’ consumers who want a fun, inexpensive way to discover and learn about new beauty products.

The advance of technology also set the stage for the growth of digital product sampling. This allows brands to manage and monitor the sampling process online, whether through a company website or a kiosk in a shopping centre or store. Digital product sampling allows for hyper-targeted sampling campaigns, tailored to the unique needs and preferences of individual consumers and lets brands track campaigns against a large number of metrics.


Discover how digital product sampling can help your brand. Request an Odore demo.

Sampling and monitoring in the 21st century

Beauty sampling has come a long way since Estée Lauder’s inspired marketing over 70 years ago, although the principle of establishing a personal connection with consumers has remained the same. 

In the 21st century, beauty brands have many different sampling strategies to choose between, from subscription boxes and free gifts at checkout to influencer sampling and digital product sampling. Sampling has become so popular that many skin care and cosmetics brands are even selling their sample and trial kits online, along with their regular products. This tactic is especially effective for growing and emerging brands to drive product trials and help overcome consumers’ reticence to purchase products from a name they haven’t previously encountered.

But when choosing their sampling strategy, businesses must remember that one size doesn’t fit all. A sampling campaign needs to be unique for each brand’s specific requirements. For example, if you’re a global player you need to be able to sample effectively at scale but if you’re a high-end, ultra luxury company then you won’t get a good ROI with a large campaign, as only a specific demographic is suited to your product. What’s needed instead is a hyper-targeted campaign that allows you to reach the right consumers and win less frequent but more valuable sales.

And it’s data that makes the difference and turns marketing investment into results. Using data to tailor product campaigns gets products to the customers who will convert and strengthens relationships by showing consumers that a brand understands what they need. Monitoring the outcome generates crucial insights to guide future business decisions and strategies.

For example, using our platform, Guerlain was able to optimise their sample distribution and enhance their CRM with customer insights. We helped them promote their new Eau de Parfum Intense and our post-campaign analysis found that 92% of surveyed customers loved the sample they received and 82% said they were very likely to purchase a Guerlain product. These high intent to purchase statistics clearly show how measured sampling is an extremely effective beauty marketing tool. 

Product sampling will continue to be a mainstay of beauty marketing but brands need to ensure they’re getting maximum return from their campaigns. Carefully choosing a strategy that aligns with their goals, making the most of innovative technology and tailoring campaigns to target specific customers will mean brands’ budgets aren’t wasted and samples lead to sales. Beauty sampling may have a long history but businesses need to be looking to the future if they’re to win customer loyalty in a fiercely competitive space.


Read the latest beauty industry insights with Odore. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media: