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.
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.