Some brands will only pay for demos (in store sampling) because the retailers require them to support the "exposure" of their products. Yet many of today’s well recognized brands achieved spectacular results in a very short time by using the leverage of field marketing. Their example shows that investment into smart field marketing/experiential marketing strategy can produce return by far higher than other forms of advertising.
Introduction of In Store Sampling
Brands are always looking for ways to get closer to consumers, especially in this digital era. With the fragmented media landscape, many are turning to “shopper marketing” - delivering messages to consumers when they are in shopping mode and receptive to such content. In-store sampling is among the most effective vehicles to drive consumers towards trial and purchase.
Whilst the path of purchase can vary for different products, consumer packaged goods generally enjoy a shorter conversion path (unlike buying big ticket or discretionary items where the buyer journey may take multiple turns). That means there is a greater chance for field marketing tactics such as product sampling to influence consumer behaviour.
Product sampling effectiveness
When the sampling marketing strategy is considered as part of an overarching marketing strategy, it can deliver great results both directly and indirectly.
Many studies have proven that in-store sampling produces both an immediate and long-term lift in product sales. There is even a snowball effect in sales if repeated sampling events are organized for a single product. In addition, in-store sampling drives trial of the new product, with a well-established track record of boosting sales of new product launches.
Why is it so effective? As rational as humans think they are, we are still driven by our senses. Hence, one of the key purchase decision factors is the ability to sample the product or see a demonstration, with 83% of respondents agreeing.
Sampling also taps into the impulsivity of shoppers, with nearly 74% of respondents observed to make impulse purchases of the product being sampled. The physical proximity can make forgotten cravings more salient.
Another psychological factor is “reciprocity.” When you are given something, you are more likely to reciprocate. Especially in a high-traffic store, shoppers with a “heightened awareness of the presence of others at the sampling station may feel a level of social pressure to make a post-sample purchase.”
If brand awareness is your goal, product sampling can also be a great vehicle to assist your other marketing channels. Executed well, the in-store sampling experience can generate positive word of mouth - the most persuasive source of information for consumers.
Another indirect benefit is that running in-store demos can increase total category sales, not just sales for the sampled product.
Devising an effective sampling marketing strategy
As with any business operation, you need a clear strategy for the use of in-store sampling for brand/product activation. An important but often overlooked fact is you need to firstly know what success looks like. By having the right measurements and goals in place, you can work backwards to lay out a plan of attack.
So what are those metrics?
1. Traffic engagement - what percent of passing shoppers stop to taste the product
2. Product engagement - how much time a shopper spend by the demo station
3. T2P Conversion Rate© - what percent of shoppers who taste the product end up purchasing
If your sampling marketing strategy is focused on market test of a new product, review and analysis of captured shoppers comments, may prove the most valuable part of the exercise as they allow to tune your new product characteristics and messaging in sync with expected customer experience.
Considering the cost-benefit equation, a research paper in the Journal of Retailing advises: “If the incremental cost of a sampling event exceeds 15 times the unit price of the product, the event ceases to be profitable.”
The next step is to then work out a detailed plan by considering the following factors: place, people and process.
As the usual adage goes “location location location”, we can’t emphasize the importance of choosing the right store and right area within the store to run product sampling enough.
Essentially there are two factors: Store traffic and shopper demographics, plus other practical considerations.
And a number of questions for brands to consider:
To avoid the trap of “old school demos”, hire brand ambassadors (BA) that are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the product. Obviously, skimping on this by using minimum-wage BA would yield minimal return.
On the other hand, properly trained BA can effectively convey the product and brand image. This helps in influencing shoppers’ perception of the promoted brands positively.
Running smooth in-store demo campaigns requires coordinating several factors: product inventory, store’s timetable and BA’s availability. The conventional way which involves multiple rounds of calls to different people generates inefficiency and dramatically lowers the ROI of in-store sampling.
Thankfully, there is a better way through using software. The simplicity of demo scheduling software implementation and ease of adoption makes the tool an attractive option. Smart technology enables a smart coordination, which combines lower management overhead with market intelligence and empowers quality BA to do their job.
Like other marketing strategies, in-store sampling is not a set-and-forget thing. Continuously refining the plan based on analytics and data will help brands get the most out of it.
Q: How do I keep quality Brand Ambassadors?
A: Reduce their friction and frustration by giving them the ability to self-register availability and certainty of scheduled slots, as well as on-time payments.
Q: Do I need to hire a dedicated demo coordinator?
A: No. You can reduce overhead by deploying smart tools that allow brands to schedule and manage up to 400-500 demos/month
Q: Why aren’t a lot of brands deploying the sampling marketing strategy?
A: Many still think in-store demos are expensive and a waste of time. However, with proper planning and enabling tools, it can help brands build better relationships with stores, BA and ultimately, shoppers.
Q: Can I organize effective demos without hiring in-store sampling companies?
A: Yes. If you’re confident in recruiting BA or already have a database/relationship with promotional staffing agencies, the rest can be effectively handled by using technology to minimize cost.
Want to see what smart demo scheduling technology can do for your CPG brand? Request a free demo here.
Protect and defend the lead
For now, supermarkets are still leaders in the American food retailing landscape, both physical and online. However, the gap is narrowing.
They can’t afford to be complacent as supercenters, mass stores, and warehouse clubs are catching up, especially in the online grocery domain.
“This suggests these less food-focused channels have been able successfully to leverage the online relationship they initially established in non-grocery categories to win over grocery purchases as well” (FMI’s 2019 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report).
What about online-only retailers? The trend is upwards there as well, with around 33% of shoppers now buy from these online grocery retailers ‘at least sometimes,’ more than double the number from 2015.
Meanwhile, Amazon has also branched out to physical stores, either through the acquisition of Whole Foods, the launch of cashierless Amazon Go stores, or even a new grocery chain altogether.
The opportunities in grocery store marketing
In this digital era of Amazon, Netflix and Facebook, people still crave the human experience and connection. And quite rightly:
“Retail anchors a human experience” - The Shelby Report
This phenomenon can be true when there seems to be an unlimited number of choices on the Internet.
So whilst online wins in terms of offering broad selections, it’s not always the best for consumers. Brick-and-mortar stores can capitalize on providing customers some guidance in making purchase decisions. Some grocery store marketing ideas include offering product curation, or featuring products through in-store demos. Sometimes, less is more.
Retailers often forget that they have access to first-hand customer data when shaping grocery store marketing strategies. From the early utilization of this in the form of loyalty programs, now there are even more opportunities to leverage insights and win customer engagement.
The reason to visit a supermarket or store
Customers are increasingly looking for experiences, especially Millennials and gen Z. In fact, the so-called concept of “The Experience Economy” dated back to 1999, and has given rise to a myriad of terms like retailtainment, experiential marketing/retail.
So what is the reason someone would go to a store if online retailers are competing on price and range?
The answer is you can differentiate by customer experience. Think long and hard about what you can offer that online retailers can’t (the same way they probably have thought about you and their point of difference).
Take a look at Costco. They have become famous for “free samples,” which on the surface seems to cost the business a lot but actually results in increased sales. Subconsciously and gradually, consumers have found a very compelling reason to visit Costco, where they will end up making purchases.
Ideas to increase sales in retail stores
With the physical space and the human touch, supermarkets/retail stores can grab those opportunities to provide customers with a better tactile experience, with more curation and interactivity.
A recent Retail Store Tours study shows that “when more senses are activated during the shopping experience, higher satisfaction levels are generated, which helps foster customer loyalty.”
That is why organizing in-store demonstrations to help consumers discover, try, and sample new products is so effective. Not only can they taste, see, smell, and touch the product, they can also interact and have Q&A with the brand ambassadors.
This simple tactic also casts a wide net to help increase sales, namely:
Simplicity of implementation
The beauty of it all is that it is not as complicated to organize in-store demos as you think. There is no need to add dedicated personnel as most supermarkets do not have so-called full time demo coordinators anyway.
The streamlining and coordinating of different people and processes can be left to a technology solution that is intuitive, easy to set up and operate, such as Demo Wizard.
Proven return on investment
As a final note, let’s look at the gains from these grocery store marketing strategies.
First of all, the cost of running in-store demos is covered by vendor brands. Second, there are mutual benefits, namely the lift in sales of a brand and product.
In fact, in-store demos can result in “a 150% lift in same-day sales for a demonstrated CPG item – followed by a 90% lift for that item over the course of the next 90 days.”
This shows that operational executives of supermarkets should consider the long-term gains by thinking of in-store demos as a “network of events.” Just as how you would evaluate the effectiveness of advertising, think beyond the single instance and consider the “halo effect.”
With an integrated approach and the right tool, in-store demos can help improve the stickiness of your supermarket’s brand as you improve your customers’ experience. The time to act is now, when online-only retailers are still trying to navigate the brick-and-mortar space.
Schedule an online demonstration of Demo Wizard, or see how it helps streamline in-store demo planning here.
Before you read why you don’t get them, perhaps you want to know why you want them.
Supermarket Executives Love In Store Demos
Since you are reading this, it is relatively safe to assume that you already realize the value in store demos bring to your stores, but let me provide some numbers.
Smart grocers love demos because they draw foot traffic, sharply increase the sales of promoted products, and boost sales for an entire category of products. While Retail Industry research shows 150% boost in the same day product sales*, Food & Beverage product demos often report over 400% sales increase, and that makes it one of the most successful Grocery Store Marketing Strategies. Consider additional 90% - 120% residual boost in item sales over the quarter following demo event, all paid for by the vendors, and it becomes very easy to understand why smart grocers want more demos.
The lessons below are distilled by analyzing tens of thousands of demo reports conducted by dozens of CPG brands in thousands of US supermarkets over the last couple of years.
Why Is It So Difficult to Schedule In Store Demo?
Most supermarkets do not have dedicated demo coordinators whose prime responsibilities are to schedule and coordinate promotional events with vendors. More often than not, it is handled by a person who already have too many “hats” to wear, some with specific measurement of performance. So it is not surprising that her attention is not focused on a number or effectiveness of the vendor’s in store demos.
That leaves Vendors with a very unpleasant task of multiple calls to the same store, and pain in the neck holding the phone while waiting for a “right” person who can give them availability date for a demo event.
Since stores often use Wall Calendars and no workflows, they usually will give only one date/time slot per day for a request. They may use a Google calendar, or a generic scheduling software without workflow coordination, which won’t provide any remedial relief. The more difficult and unpleasant it is for a Vendor to setup the demos in your store, the more likely she will spend her budget funds at a store of your competitors. I do have hard data to support this statement**.
While it may not be economically attractive to add a full time, salaried employee to manage this process, specialized software for in store demo management automation is readily available for supermarkets at an affordable price. Use of such software eliminates the requirement for dedicated demo coordinator to manage scheduling process.
Sometimes the great ideas to increase sales in retail stores are fall flat facing execution challenges. Too often the problems start when a Brand Ambassador shows up in your store and reports to a manager on duty asking for a designated place for the demo table. The response “I don’t know anything about any demo today in my store” deflates the Brand Ambassador enthusiasm and undermines all preceding efforts by Vendor, product Brand Manager, Distributor and your Buyer to create a successful selling event. While the space for demo challenge can often be resolved with with tactful negotiations, the lack of product inventory on hand for a demo, is a soul crasher. At this point all is lost, the Vendor is stuck with the black hole in her demo budget and nothing to show for all the money and effort. It’s time to cut her losses and go with different, more cooperative stores.
Ask And You Shall Receive
Brand managers, who control promotional budgets, frequently have no idea what stores carry their products they would want to promote. Many products on supermarket shelves are sold to the buyers by brokers and distributors, who often do not have access to the brand’s marketing budgets.
Proactive request from the store management, communicated directly to a manufacturer or via your demo agency/partner, often brings surprising number of demos with very little effort. Most samples for in store demos are purchased in store by brand ambassadors at retail price, and reimbursed by the manufacturer. If you offer to charge wholesale price for the samples, a vendor may reciprocate with an offer of multi demo campaign.
Money, like water, flows where it meets the least resistance. The supermarkets that welcome demos in their stores, i.e. make it easy to set up and execute, receive far more promotional funding and get better profit margins than the stores that see demos as distraction and nuisance.
** Request the data. Please enter “I do have hard data to support this statement**” in a message field, and will email it to you.
One of the recurring complaints you would likely hear from Field Marketing Managers and Demo Coordinators is how unreliable are the Brand Ambassadors they have to deal with. In fact, if you ever experienced scheduling a few demos, you have probably endured a Brand Ambassador's last moment cancellation or "now show".
I would like to posit that the Brand Ambassadors' perceived lack of reliability is not necessarily caused by their mercurial personalities, but by the nature of their business and unavailability of appropriate time management tools. Consider the fact that most Brand Ambassadors are independent contractors who try to earn their living selling their personal skills in small time increments. After all, most in store demos only last 3-4 hours. As such, the Brand Ambassadors need to market their services to Demo Coordinators, Brand Managers, etc. as well as delivering these services in stores and events.
It is impossible to estimate how many hours a Brand Ambassador has to market their services to get a single demo for which she can earn $60-$140. This reality forces them to continuously work with multiple Brands, conflicting times and constantly changing dates.
Demo scheduling is a very fluid process that requires a lot of flexibility from all participants, from Brand and Field Marketing Managers to store personnel, product distributor, to Brand Ambassadors. However, the last link of this chain, the Brand Ambassador, is the least equipped to deal with the demands of flexibility. The byproduct of a flexibility is uncertainty. In the case of Brand Ambassadors it is the uncertainty of being paid for their efforts, while everyone else is paid their hourly salaries. If the changes to dates and times create a conflict with their commitment to other brands they work with, they are the only link in the demo chain who is not getting paid.
Consider the fact that most Brand Ambassadors use a phone, email, Google Calendar and spreadsheets to manage their business commitments and activities, and you will see a picture of a juggler, desperately trying to keep all the "balls" in the air. It is only a matter of time and gravity before some of these "balls", i.e. demo commitments, come down crashing to the floor and cause the last moment cancellations or "no show".
Event Management Software
There are myriads of project/task/shift/etc management services available online today. However, all of them are designed for the owners of these business processes, who are in a position to control steps, tasks and communications. Not for the last link of the process chain, Brand Ambassador, who is on the receiving end of all that "flexibility". Besides, many Demo Coordinators do not use such services either because they do not offer enough specific help for the demo management process, and are not a good fit for other demo management tasks.
Use of the right tool for intelligent scheduling and coordination of ever changing demo requirements can go a very long way to reduce the frustration and "flakiness" of Brand Ambassadors. Additional benefits include:
- increased productivity of a Demo Coordinator who can manage 400-500 demos per month
- controlled automated communications with all involved parties
- greater availability of Brand Ambassador time to you because the use of such a tool reduces the uncertainty of Brand Ambassadors being paid for their time and efforts
- automated generation of BA invoices, payment statements and BA tax preparation documentation
- online demo reporting and data collection for subsequent analysis supporting Field Marketing ROI calculations.
Field Marketing is More Effective
Field Marketing is more effective than any other form of advertising because it can measurably impact sales in a very direct and accountable way.
“Half of my advertising budget is wasted away. Unfortunately I don’t know which half” is the quote attributed to John Wanamaker, Philadelphia retailer and marketing pioneer. Even with the advent of digital advertising it is difficult to account how ads exposure and clicks translate into actual unit sales.
Difference Between Solid ROI and Lost Sales
“Per our study (Adweek), in the U.S. 39 percent decide brand choice inside the store and that decision is most frequently triggered by a product demo versus other activities. Twenty-nine percent of shoppers buy products impulsively in-store. How would you rework your marketing if you had this information about your brands?
Activating brands in-store is the single biggest investment most manufacturers should make today, and using a shopper insight-based approach will be the difference between solid ROI and lost sales.”
In Store Demo Campaign
Any field marketing manager can easily figure out the complete cost of in store demo campaign. Understanding factors that contribute to return on this investment is a little more challenging. Most brand builders realize that the product sales during in store demo are only one piece of this puzzle. While it is easy to measure it is only the tip of the proverbial value iceberg.
Another contributor to in store demo profitability is the product residual sales uplift that often lasts weeks after initial event. You need help from the grocer’s POS data or your distributor”s sales reporting to detect and measure it. Keep in mind that grocers benefit greatly from your in store demo investment, as these events lift sales of an entire product category and promote more traffic in their stores. Your demo reports data also has value to both grocers and distributors, and can be used to incentivise them to pool your information resources together as it enhance the value of this information for all.
Brand Awareness contribution of In Store Demo
Lastly, the brand awareness contribution to profitability of in store demo is often targeted, but rarely measured. We have borrowed a methodology from CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) calculations as it is commonly used in digital marketing to simplify brand awareness contribution estimates and incorporated it into the Demo ROI Calculator available free of charge.
To build this Calculator, we analyzed data collected during thousands of in store demos, including sales numbers for demonstrated products, day of the week variations of foot traffic during the events, and number of shoppers who tasted a product without purchasing it. We also looked at follow-on sales of these items for four-five weeks after the events. This data is a critical asset in your drive to secure more and better shelf space in the stores.