A guide to sample marketing in 2023
Who doesn’t enjoy trying a new product in a supermarket? We love to see a stall serving a recently launched flavour of crackers, a delicious spread, or a new brand of cheese. If we are being completely honest, just the experience of getting free food – especially when shopping for food is already making you hungry – is great.
Offering samples is not a strategy that is exclusive to the food industry, though. Getting “freebies” when buying – or considering buying – cosmetics, getting discount coupons for services you would like to try, or receiving a small version of a new cleaning product can considerably increase your interest in certain brands.
For businesses, creating a sample marketing strategy can be a great way of introducing your products to new customers and getting them hooked early. Combining sampling with influencer marketing will improve your chances of getting noticed by the right people.
If you would like to start developing your own strategy and have no idea where to begin, we’ve developed this guide to help your marketing endeavours in 2023.
What is Sample Marketing?
Sample marketing is the strategy of offering free versions of your product or service to potential customers. In sectors with highly consumable, fast-moving products – such as beauty products or food and beverages – this strategy can be extremely beneficial. It can raise awareness about a launch, introduce your product to a larger audience, and significantly increase sales.
By distributing samples, customers can try your product or service prior to buying, which can generate positive results through word-of-mouth. After all, people are more likely to try something different if they do not have to spend money to do so.
The practice is nothing new. It has been used since the 1800s when salesmen and manufacturers would encourage people to try their products for themselves before making a purchase. Soap manufacturers, for example, would make special versions of their products to distribute to potential new customers.
You can offer samples at supermarkets, stores, create partnerships with other brands, mail samples to customers, and even create a subscription service for your clients to try new releases before making a purchasing decision. There are many different ways of developing a sample marketing campaign and many opportunities to try different methods.
Why is Sample Marketing important?
Introducing your product or service to potential customers can be a challenge. People are loyal to the brands and products they have already tried and tested. These preferred products have often been used for generations. As a result, launching new versions or flavours of products can be a daunting prospect.
Sample marketing allows you to place your product in customers’ hands faster, giving them an opportunity to try it before making a purchase. This way, they will be more inclined to buy your product during that same shopping trip or in the future.
According to a report by Arbitron and Edison Media Research, sample marketing encourages people who never heard bought a product or brand to make a purchase in the future. The study shows that 47% of people who are new to the product when they are offered a sample eventually buy the item. For people who have previously bought the product, this rate is even higher, at 85%.
A NEOSOL research also shows the strategy can result in positive outcomes. When offered a sample, 92% of people will try the product and 53% of people will buy the brand they sampled. Being introduced to a new brand or product led 42% of people to change their brand to the one they sampled, with 77% of people saying it was the sampling strategy that led them to make the purchase.
With Return of Investment (ROI) being such an important KPI for businesses of all sectors, sample marketing also offers great results. A campaign for the tonic and mixers brand Franklin & Sons, which sent a coupon to UK clients, resulted in a conversion rate 2300% higher. A campaign for JJ Whitley, which sent a miniature bottle to encourage the purchase of full-sized bottles led to an increase in sales.
In an increasingly digital world, in which word-of-mouth and influencer marketing play huge roles in getting people interested in buying new or different items, offering freebies can make a major difference in the success of your launch.
Sample marketing strategies
If you have decided that sample marketing is the right strategy for your business and for what you are trying to achieve, there are different ways of approaching it.
Sample marketing can be done directly or indirectly. Here’s what you should know about each style:
Direct sample marketing
When sales representatives have an opportunity to directly approach a customer with a sample, this is an example of direct sample marketing.
This is the style that is most common in stores and supermarkets. You can have trained personnel explaining the new product and encouraging people to try it.
Direct sample marketing is a great way of not only introducing a new product to potential customers but also educating them about what makes it different, special, or worth purchasing. It can also be an opportunity to get some feedback from the people you are trying to reach.
Although effective, direct sample marketing can be costly. You’ll need to train and prepare sales representatives. The practice is also more effective when combined with visually appealing stalls and packaging, which can require renting a space and investing in attractive designs for your product.
Indirect Sample Marketing
As the name suggests, indirect sample marketing is the strategy in which samples are offered to customers indirectly, often as a gift when they purchase something else.
This is a common practice in the cosmetics industry. Shops will offer perfume samples, for example, to customers buying specific products or spending a certain amount of money. This will increase the chance of customers buying the perfume later.
Although cheaper, this strategy means you won’t get feedback from your customers and have no guarantee that they will actually try it. People might throw it away when they get home or completely forget about what they got when buying what they really wanted.
If your product requires an explanation – either because of the price, different ingredients, or new features – indirect sample marketing can also be a challenge. It will be up to the customer to look for the answers to their questions.
Digital Sample Marketing
Another effective way of creating a sample marketing campaign is through digital product sampling. With a digital campaign, you invite your customers to claim a sample from a website, an ad or an email. This means your company will target people who are already more likely to buy your products.
With a digital sample marketing campaign, your business can encourage customers to give feedback. Often, people access the company’s social media channels and offer praise for the product they received, generating instant and organic feedback.
This strategy also allows you to create a database of people interested in your business, which can be extremely valuable for future marketing campaigns.
How effective are sample marketing campaigns?
Think back to an experience you had with samples as a customer and what you thought at the time. Did trying a new product make you more interested in buying it? Were the samples at least useful in introducing you to a new item?
This is part of the psychology of sample marketing. There is a process in making a purchasing decision: customers will first understand that they have a need or a desire for something. They can also be thinking about a problem and how to solve it with a specific item. All of this will make them weigh their options, leading to a decision based on price, availability, personal preference, or even just their willingness to spend time looking for a product.
Offering a free sample can create a connection with a customer at a special point in this process. It can foster a desire for your product, meet a need they didn’t know they had, or present them with a solution to a problem.
This strategy can also encourage reciprocity. If the salesperson offering you a sample is extremely nice and friendly, you are more likely to buy that product just to be nice in return.
A sample marketing strategy can be extremely effective when dealing with the psychology of consumers.
Sample Marketing Data
According to a report by Arbitron and Edison Media Research, 35% of customers who try a sample of a product will buy that product in the same shopping trip. Getting a sample also increases brand loyalty and awareness, with 58% of customers saying they would buy the product again.
The data shows that sample marketing is highly effective and strengthens the relationship between brands and consumers. The study also shows that more than half of the people who are offered samples accept them. Around 20% of the people who received samples also stated that the item they received came at the right time, replacing something they needed or wanted.
Keep these numbers in mind when considering if a sample marketing strategy is the right call for your business.
How to create a successful sample marketing strategy
If you believe offering samples to your potential customers will improve your business and raise awareness of your products, it is time to design the strategy that best fits your needs and goals.
Designing and distributing samples can be costly, so making sure your campaign has the best chances of success is crucial. Here’s what you should keep in mind when creating your strategy:
Your client’s path to purchase
We have already discussed the psychology of the purchasing decision process, but each business category has its own characteristics and path of purchase. People might buy your product more often if they find it in the supermarket than if they find it at a pharmacy, for instance.
In order to create a successful sample marketing strategy, you need to have detailed knowledge about your existing customers, their habits, and how potential future customers can be reached.
At what point during their path to purchase might your audience come in contact with what you are offering? Will they find your product when doing grocery shopping or when searching for something online? When will they make the decision to buy what you are offering?
What are your customer's needs and habits? If you know this, you might be able to meet them halfway and offer exactly what they are looking for at just the right time.
What products to sample?
Knowing your customers and their needs will help you decide which products you should sample and in what way.
This will also help you set goals. Every marketing campaign needs a clear goal, which can include increasing sales, launching new products, or even getting feedback about a certain feature. The way you present samples can change depending on your goals. You may even realise that the best sample to offer as a freebie is completely different than what you initially thought.
Around special dates such as mother’s day, valentine’s day and Christmas, sample marketing can provide an opportunity for your company. Your products might see an increase in sales around certain celebrations or seasons, and therefore offering samples can reach more customers looking for gift ideas. Knowing when and where to offer samples is a key aspect of your campaign.
Understand your customers, list your goals and your products, and then make an informed decision based on the information you have collected.
Once your goals are set, you can decide on your budget. As we’ve talked about in this article, sample marketing can be costly, so choosing a strategy that both meets your goals and fits your budget is vital.
Direct sample marketing can be more expensive but also more effective. Indirect marketing will reduce costs but can be a challenge depending on what you are offering. Your budget will also determine how many samples you will distribute. In the case of digital sample marketing, the cost of postage must also be accounted for, as well as the cost of producing these samples.
Like many business decisions, how much you are willing to spend will affect results, but it is important to select your priorities carefully. Having clear goals will help you make these difficult decisions.
Pick your strategy
All of these steps and decisions will lead you to the best strategy for your business.
There are currently many different approaches to sample distribution, and there are always opportunities to innovate. You can combine your sample marketing strategy with influencer marketing, increasing your chances of success and the visibility of your brand.
With online marketing, reaching potential customers has also become easier and more effective. Is this the right strategy for you? This will depend on your goals, your budget and, of course, your target audience.
Get feedback and record results
Feedback is more than asking your customers what they think of your product or encouraging them to write reviews. When creating any marketing campaign, it is important to measure and record your results so you can understand if your strategy was successful or not and how you can move forward in the future.
Recording sales and aggregating that data with your sample distribution method, as well as observing how your customers behaved with your product, can all provide you with excellent insights into designing more successful campaigns.
One easy and straightforward way to find and categorize feedback is to create a hashtag for your campaign. By encouraging people to post about your product using a unique hashtag, you’ll be able to monitor the awareness of what you are offering and identify what can be improved.
Sample marketing is not suitable for every business or product. There are many industries in which distributing samples is not the best approach, and it is up to you to make that decision for your business.
Like with any other marketing endeavour, a deep understanding of who your customers are and what they want and need is a crucial part of developing a successful strategy.
Odore can help your business build a sample marketing strategy that will meet your needs and goals. Our platform provides daily dispatches, fulfilling and mailing samples to different countries, while also allowing customers to give you valuable feedback.
Sample marketing is highly effective and can be an extremely helpful way to introduce your product to potential customers. Plan accordingly and make sure you have every aspect of your marketing initiative accounted for. Your results will show whether your choices were positive or if you have more room for improvement.