Securing consumers’ attention is tough these days. Attention spans are shorter than ever – lower than a goldfish. Shoppers are used to the instant gratification of BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in store), and now drones are starting to deliver orders. 

It’s no wonder brands struggle to break through and reach new customers. But one of marketing’s oldest tools still works in today’s world. That’s right, we’re talking about sampling. 

A product sampling program is one of the easiest ways to start building loyalty and familiarize your audience with your brand.

Let’s dive into product sampling, the types of product sampling programs out there, and how Vesta can help.

What is Product Sampling? 

As we noted, product sampling isn’t new. Back in the 19th century, the practice of handing out free samples was popularized by a renowned soap maker, Benjamin Babbitt. He understood that most customers would stay loyal to a brand they’ve been using for years and that it would be difficult to get a new product into their hands. By offering the product for free to try, he gave them a chance to see what they were missing. 

While the methods we use today may differ, many of the benefits and reasons we use product sampling remain the same.

Product sampling tends to be most common in the world of consumer packaged goods (CPG). In fact, one CPG company found that 68% of their consumers were persuaded to make a purchase after receiving free samples.

However, other industries benefit from sampling too, such as apparel and technology. 

Why is a Product Sampling Program Important for Your Business? 

There are numerous benefits to an effective product sampling program.

Building brand awareness

As Babbitt discovered in the 19th century, when consumers are loyal to a particular brand, it can be extremely difficult to get them to try anything else. 

When you offer free samples of your product, you remove the risk for the consumer. They get the chance to try your product without any upfront investment and potential buyer’s remorse. 

Think about a customer going to a grocery store. Many of them already have a list written down of their needs. If you’re not on that list – or their radar – it won’t matter if you’re right in front of their nose. 

Conversely, handing out a sample of your product in the middle of the store instantly gets you noticed. 

Giving your customers the chance to experience your product first hand before purchase gives you a much higher chance of boosting your brand awareness. For example, Snack Factory ran a product sampling program for a brand new product: Flat pretzel crackers. They targeted both pretzel and chip lovers with their samples, and although this new product was completely unknown to their audience, they reached conversion rates of between 25 and 30 percent from the campaign. 

Produce more user-generated content

We’ve all seen the stats but it bears repeating –  90% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase. Generating more customer reviews for your product is critical. 

A product sampling program provides the perfect opportunity to generate more ratings, reviews, and additional user-generated content. By offering free products in exchange for feedback, you’ll see a massive upswing in ratings and reviews. 

Begin building a relationship 

A product sampling program is particularly helpful when launching a new brand or product within a brand. 

Every customer counts, but when you’re at this stage, they count even more. It’s vitally important to establish positive relationships with every potential customer. 

By providing potential customers with your products, you begin to build the foundation of trust and loyalty. You might not get it from everyone, but for many, the option of trying a product and getting to experience it first hand before purchase is the ultimate form of brand trust and relationship building. 

Types of Product Sampling Programs

Although many types of product sampling programs exist, they can generally be divided into two categories:

  1. Traditional product sampling
  2. Digital product sampling

Traditional product sampling

Traditional product sampling is the in-person or event-based sampling method. 

Think of when you walk through Costco and you see the vendors handing out free samples. Or when beauty brands offer free skincare samples. That’s the epitome of traditional product sampling. 

Traditional product sampling provides an immersive experience by allowing potential consumers to experience your products. It also promotes brand awareness and gets your product in front of people who may have never heard of you. 

However, with traditional product sampling, audience targeting is usually out of reach since your samples are handed out to whoever is there, rather than a targeted audience. And remarketing opportunities are largely non-existent since samples are typically handed out in passing with little chance for a follow-up. 

Digital product sampling 

Digital product sampling is far more in-depth than traditional product sampling. It starts with creating profiles for your potential customers, gathering data through questionnaires and other consumer insight-gathering tactics. This data can include everything from age and location to more targeted questions, such as dietary preferences and shopping habits, depending on the industry.

Once profiles are created, potential customers receive relevant samples or digital offers that match their profile, creating a highly personalized product sampling program.  

Digital product sampling, contrary to traditional product sampling, offers many opportunities for both laser-focused audience targeting and for remarketing. It allows you to reach customers in their homes instead of relying on in-person meetings and catching them at the right place and right time. 

One of the biggest benefits to digital product sampling is the ability to capitalize on what product sampling programs are all about—collecting more ratings and reviews. 

How Vesta Can Help With a Product Sampling Program 

Your Vesta online brand community can be used to create an effective product sampling program from start to finish. 

Digital product sampling programs require effective audience targeting. The Vesta platform creates progressive profiles of members, continually collecting and adding zero-party data and first-party data. This allows for hyper-segmentation and targeting of audiences to reach the right individual to meet the brand’s needs for each campaign. 

Once targeting is accomplished, UGC, testimonials, and reviews can be generated in real-time within the platform as community members receive their samples. 

Short on samples? Vesta can deliver free product coupons to allow members to pick up your product in store, or perform receipt verification to reimburse members for their purchase. The platform can also identify community members that have already purchased your product and reward them for posting UGC or making a review.

The platform’s robust, cloud-based reporting capabilities make it easy to access real-time sampling and review data. From there, it’s easier than ever to get the most out of your product sampling program.

Most importantly, Vesta can help you leverage your sampling efforts, making it more than a simple one-off activity to generate UGC or support product launches. It can be part of a holistic, long-term strategy for customer acquisition, loyalty-building, and generating consumer insights

Product Sampling Programs Build Lasting Loyalty and Create Connections With Consumers

For new brands or existing brands with new products, product sampling is a one-way ticket for getting your product into the hands of potential customers. 

It’s tough to build loyalty, and customers who are already loyal to other brands are unlikely to try anything new. But with a product sampling program, you eliminate the risk for them and create the ultimate form of value: A free product for them to try and to see everything you have to offer.

Questions About Product Sampling Programs?

Reach out to us with any questions you have about product sampling programs, from general questions to how Vesta can help you get more from your sampling investments. We’re here to help.

Interested in more?

Learn more about maximizing product sampling programs for your brand in our Short Guide to Digital Product Sampling 

New call-to-action