Brands Get Creative with Product Sampling at Home

One of the oldest and most effective sales tools that marketers have is free product sampling. According to Shopify, free sample promotions have been known to boost sales by as much as 2000%. Free samples introduce a product to a new audience, help build loyal customer relationships, expand shopper knowledge about the product/brand, encourage repeat customers, and help get attention during significant brand events, such as new flavor releases.

With sampling being such an effective and crucial method for brands to connect with consumers and increase sales, marketers across all CPG categories are experimenting with ways to keep promotions going during the pandemic. These campaigns need to be safe, engaging, and cost-effective, which has resulted in some very innovative and creative solutions.


Conagra Tests Products with Employee’s Families

Before a product is ready to hit the shelves, there is a different kind of sampling that companies need to execute: taste-testing for research and development. Without product testing, how could brands know if their product tasted the way that it was supposed to? And how would they know how to describe the product as they develop packaging and messaging? Conagra faced a unique challenge when members of their internal tasting team were forced to work remotely, away from their corporate test kitchens.

To resolve this, the company began sending out kits with special themes for employees to try at home with their families. This proved to actually be a more valuable method of product sampling, since an actual family’s home is a more realistic user environment than a test kitchen. Employees were able to try out frozen meals from Healthy Choice® and Birds Eye®, baking products from Duncan Hines®, and plant-based items from Gardein™ for the first time the same way that real customers would. Conagra has been so happy with their new at-home insights that they have reported their plans to permanently integrate home testing with their R&D procedures.


Beauty Products Get Even More Curated

Marie Claire, a major women’s publication with close ties to the beauty industry, has just launched a new sampling business called Beauty Drawer. Beauty Drawer works with brands and consumers by offering super-tailored user profiles based on skin type, preferences, and needs.

This allows brands to ship out products that are targeted towards consumers that could actually use them, and the program saves shoppers the trouble of receiving products that don’t fit their look. “Sampling is a no brainer for beauty brands,” said Marie Claire’s e-commerce director Emily Ferguson when speaking with Glossy. “Beauty is so subjective, why would a brand give out 5,000 samples where three quarters don’t suit that skin tone? They’ll lose that audience at that time.”

Like Conagra’s product testing strategy, Beauty Drawer is a platform that evolved out of the pandemic that could end up having long-term staying power. This sort of at-home sampling allows users to try new products alongside their existing beauty routines, whereas in-store sampling limits them to whatever they happen to be wearing when they walk into the retailer. It also enables consumers to see how products look on them in different types of lighting, instead of the harsh fluorescents that can differ wildly from more natural lighting.


Sampling Evolves into a New Category: Toys

Toys and games drive a ton of sales around the holidays, but there haven’t been many opportunities for buyers to sample these with their children. In 2020, Walmart is looking to resolve that with their experimental new Wonder Lab. According to the company’s official press release: “Created in partnership with eko, the Walmart Wonder Lab transports kids into a choice-driven experience where kids can unbox, test and play with this holiday season’s hottest toys without leaving home.”

Once customers make a selection based on their Wonder Lab trial experience, they have the option of ordering same-day in-store pickup or next-day at-home delivery. The pandemic has only intensified Walmart’s war against Amazon and other major online competitors, and this kind of interactive experience could win them serious customer engagement as they prepare to enter a high-stakes holiday shopping season.

Product sampling may be more difficult to execute in a pandemic, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less important. While free samples are usually associated with food and beverage companies, we are seeing that brands across a wide variety of CPG categories are finding creative ways to get consumers to try their products. Many of these solutions are so creative and innovative that they will become a permanent part of product sampling, and they may even come to replace in-store samples in some cases.

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