Create a Long-Lasting Impact With In-Store Sampling

Jun 27, 2022

In-store sampling has always been an effective way to introduce new products to consumers. From creating a lasting impression, building brand loyalty, converting new consumers, and introducing new products to consumers, there seems to be more than enough benefits to make this practice a no-brainer for many brands. As for consumers, there is nothing like trying something new, loving it, and being able to buy it on the spot. Although a lot has changed in these last few years, in-store sampling is as effective as ever.

For many people, grocery shopping is still one of the limited in-person things they choose to do. According to research conducted by the food industry trade group, FMI, many consumers are spending more per grocery trip while at the same time spending less time in the store per trip post-pandemic. This means that consumers are heading into grocery stores with a list of the regular products they use, and they seem to spend less time browsing new products. This creates a unique opportunity for brands to have face-to-face contact with consumers and promote their products through in-store sampling.

Sampling has always required high sanitation standards with many guidelines in place to ensure samples are handed to consumers safely. With even more new health precautions taken since COVID, people are once again comfortable, and even eager, to try new products. In fact, 8 of 10 consumers are ready for in-store sampling to return after COVID shutdowns. A study by Advantage Customer Experience, which surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. adults in July of 2021 found that 90% of consumers would try a sample of an individually packaged item and 68% would try a sample of an unwrapped food product. This statistic most likely has increased now that it has been almost a year later.

Demonstrators not only hand out a sample but offer a quick branded message with their own unique touch. They have the opportunity to show the consumer how to prepare and use a product, communicate the benefits, and show the consumer where to find it. How many times do we go to a restaurant and ask the person taking our order what their favorite dish is? That is also what happens in the grocery store. It is a real person telling another person, "try this sample, I love to eat/drink this when..." There are so many options that when someone tells you their honest opinion about a flavor or product, it creates a long-lasting impact.

Many products sell themselves, but there is always a consumer out there who has not tried a specific product and most likely will not purchase it unless they are sure they will like it or someone recommends it. Risk aversion, which is a psychological behavior, is at play here. When offering a sample to a consumer, you are removing the risk associated with purchasing the product and not enjoying it. Once the consumer is able to try the product “risk-free” they are able to make a decision about purchasing the product with the knowledge of how the product is used and how it tastes without feeling that they are risking their hard-earned money.

In-store demoing catches the consumer at a time they are actively looking to fill their baskets with products. It is not unlikely to see people take out a popular brand or product from their shopping cart and swap it out for a product they just tried. This could be due to the great interaction they have just had with the person sampling the product, they liked what they tried, or because people of the norm of reciprocity which says that people instinctively will feel obligated to give back or feel like they owe someone something when they are given something. When you take this into consideration, consumers may feel indebted to make a purchase at some time in the future due to being given a free sample. 

When we are shopping, even if we are sure of what we will purchase, there is always an opportunity to leave the store with a different product. That's why in-store demonstrations are such a powerful marketing tool. After being in quarantine, sampling and interacting with others creates a feel-good moment, and that is an excellent opportunity to, not only make a sale but create a new loyal brand customer.


This article was written by Angelica De La Rocha