How sampling can boost retailers' sales
Something for Nothing
Free samples attract new customers and increase sales
M ore than 19,000 new food and beverage products were introduced in 2009, according to information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s a lot of manufacturers and merchants trying to capture customers’ attention and interest.
“The most difficult aspect to marketing is getting the customer to try the product, especially if they don’t know it,” says Richard George, professor and chair of the department of food marketing at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. That’s where free samples come in. Customers feel better, knowing they’re not plunking down money for something they might not like; retailers benefit as well, as offering product samples is a way to differentiate themselves. “Retailers show that they’re current and contemporary,” George says.
Moreover, customers who partake of the items offered as samples often decide to consume more overall, says a study from Stephen Nowlis, professor of marketing at Arizona State University. “Sampling any high-incentive item in a grocery store is likely to increase the subsequent desirability and purchase of that particular product,” says Nowlis, “as well as other rewarding items.”
Product sampling tends to be most effective when two criteria are met, George says. The item being offered has to be a quality product: Giving away samples of inferior goods is unlikely to persuade customers to ditch their current brand for the new one. Product sampling is also valuable when the product is difficult to describe, as it allows potential customers to actually see and taste how the item differs from its competitors.