The New Age of Sampling

“Hey Alexa, can I have a free Chobani?” Yes, said Chobani. Through a multi-channel marketing and sampling campaign, the company estimates it will give away 10 million yogurt products in honor of its 10th anniversary. That’s a lot of free yogurt, but Chobani, like a few other companies, recognizes the loyalty-driving power of trial and its ability to build customer loyalty. 

Sampling is nothing new. Beauty counters have been passing out trial sizes for years. Costco capitalizes on the psychology of sampling (mini pizza sees a 2,000% sales increase) and digitally native beauty brands like Birchbox have made a business around a monthly sample surprise box (for payment, alternatively). But, as with any smart strategy, it’s evolving and combining the increasingly high consumer demand for convenience with a product they want. 



This is what we call Just-in-time Sampling. It’s one of the most underrated but effective marketing tools. For example, a sample of a new energy bar is significantly more attractive to someone who has just worked out than someone who just finished breakfast. Marrying convenience and sampling—that’s the epitome of true value. 

Think about the consumer’s perspective: Why should I take financial risk on your product? I have my needs fulfilled; if you want me to try your product, you need to give me a taste. If you want me to change what I’m doing, you need to make it easier for me. We all have decision fatigue—people are comfortable with the status quo and are not seeking to make decisions. You have to get to the key point in the market funnel, and that’s trial. You’re putting the goods directly in the hand of the consumer and, if they like it, you’ve opened the door to a future sale. Build customer relationships from positive experience with the product and you will create brand loyalists. 

In the past, it was difficult to quantitatively prove the success of a sampling campaign. Yes, there was anecdotal data, but targeted metrics collection and conversion data was not possible. Now, the technology exists to quantify its impact. Technology—in the form of smart vending machines, voice-powered tech like Alexa, and social sampling—allows you to be more data-driven, less wasteful, and more effective. 

This is where companies’ budgets need to go: from massive in-store promotions to multi-channel, out-of-store sampling because that is where the customers are. They’re in their homes, they’re on the go. And innovative retail technology platforms will enable companies to be there, too.

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