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Effective in-store sampling is within closer reach than you think

Some brands will only pay for 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 quickly by leveraging field marketing. Their example shows that investment into innovative field marketing/experiential marketing strategy can produce higher returns than other forms of advertising.

Introduction of In-Store Sampling

CPG 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 toward trial and purchase.

Whilst the purchase path 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 behavior.

Product sampling effectiveness

When the sampling marketing strategy is considered part of an overarching retail marketing strategy, it can deliver fantastic results both directly and indirectly.

Direct benefits

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 at the same retail location. In addition, in-store sampling drives the 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 fundamental purchase decision factors is the ability to sample the product or see a demonstration, with 83% of the survey respondents agreeing.

Sampling also reaches 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.”

Indirect benefits

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 essential but often overlooked fact is that you must first know what success looks like. With the right measurements and goals in place, you can work backward 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 spends at 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 a market test of a new product, review, and analysis of captured, shoppers' comments are the most valuable part of the exercise as they allow you to tune your new product characteristics and to keep the message in sync with the 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.” Unfortunately, this advice does not take into account Customer Lifetime Value which depends on the frequency of the purchases as well as the estimated length of time the customer keeps buying your product.

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:

Are low-traffic stores worth it? What if they provide a highly targeted audience that is likely to convert?

Are high-traffic stores always good? What if competitors are also known to be frequently running demos there?

Does the sampled product match the store’s clientele, e.g., value-seeking vs. quality-seeking?

Is the store's physical environment conducive to sampling, e.g., aisle not too narrow, music not too loud, etc.?


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, a 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, the 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 - in store demo management software for CPG brand builders. The simplicity of scheduling events and managing brand ambassadors makes the tool very attractive. Smart technology enables 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 allowing them 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 intelligent tools that allow a single person to schedule and manage up to 400-500 demos per month.

Q: Why aren’t a lot of brands deploying the sampling retail marketing strategy?

A: Many still think in-store demos are expensive and ineffective. However, proper planning and management tools can help CPG brands build better relationships with stores, BA, and ultimately, customers very effectively and efficiently.

Q: Can I organize effective demos without hiring in-store sampling companies?

A: Yes. If you’re confident in recruiting and training 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 intelligent demo scheduling technology can do for your CPG brand? Request a free trial here.