Tips for Creating a Great Store Sampling Event

September 22, 2022

Every company hopes their in-store sampling program catches the attention of wandering shoppers, puts their product in their hand, and converts it into a sale right at the point of purchase, ideally making them lifelong customers. But savvy managers also know that despite scrutinizing every detail of the in-store event, the retail stars must still align for freebies to have a tangible impact on sales. Will the demonstrator connect with the product and the shopper? Will it be a busy day and time? Who else is showing their wares at the same time? What are the common stumbling blocks to successful your company's in-store sampling event? What are the tips for creating a great store sampling event?

The Ideal Sampler

Your promotion is not a free for all. Therefore, do not target your effort to the lowest denominator but the shoppers with the purchasing power who feels gorging on samples are not for them. This shopper with the roomy credit card might need a little more coaxing to step up to the sample booth. Why? No desire to interact with someone offering something free is a big reason. This shopper knows nothing is ever really free. Unlike the freeloader who repeatedly hits you up every five minutes, this consumer prefers not to go through the dynamics of turning you down after sampling your free wares because it feels dishonest. This situation focuses directly on the quality of training for your representative, demonstrator, or brand ambassador handing out the samples. Often, in-store sampling can turn chaotic. One national food company merchandising manager likened an in-store sampling event to a mess hall for the starving masses. Does such an in-store demo event reflect positively on your retail marketing strategy, and is it worth your time and effort?

What is the ROI on Store Sampling?

A study from the independent market research agency Knowledge Networks-PDI demonstrates that store sampling dramatically impacts sales on the day of the sampling event. It also increases sales of established and new products for many weeks. The study also found that store sampling lifts sales of the entire brand franchise, and the sampled product, among other things. The study is among the first to utilize frequent shopper data to test the impact on sales.  

At Demo Wizard, our research indicates most (70%) in-store promotion investment is a loss. Poorly trained promotions and unmotivated demonstrators are the main reason and a red flag warning of how a proven classic moment can turn into a total waste of money. And yet, in-store sampling should be your preferred retail marketing strategy instead of one-off events.

I visited food stores and caught what I would call a remarkable performance by an overwhelmed eggroll demonstrator surrounded by a mad frenzy of shoppers. The harried lady opened boxes of products as fast as she could, heating and placing the product on a tray where they instantly disappeared without even a word of thanks. There was never a time for minimal interaction between the company representative and the shopper. I wondered if the people snapping up the samples and impatiently tapping their feet were there to purchase groceries or have a meal. On the bright side, you could point to the excitement of the high demand for the product as something to buy instantly. Unfortunately, no display or any messaging was guiding the shoppers to the point of purchase to cash in on their excitement,

How to ensure effective product sampling.

Begin with people. In-store sampling is about making a quick person-to-person connection. The right demonstrator is an outgoing, optimistic, people-pleasing human being who loves being the center of attention at a store. Think demonstrators on QVC and Home Shopping Channel. To find these, take a cue from the modeling industry and do a casting to select the most outstanding. Create a situation where you can assess them in action and invest in giving them the information and tools needed to succeed. Change their title from demonstrators to brand ambassadors. Hopefully, they will continue to work for you and develop and become more proficient. 

Five Ways to Improve Your In store Demonstrators

  1.  Invest in the Selection and Training of sales talent.  
  2. Communicate your requirements clearly to recruiters, agencies, and the corporate team, the target demographics for the product, and promotion. Cite examples: "Fashion-conscious young people purchase this product. Someone trendy in their look, hair, clothes, and language is best suited." Drive home the reason they are doing the promotion and the qualitative and quantitative outcomes you are measuring their performance. Explain the promotion and the steps to the point-of-sale purchase thoroughly. Create role-play exercises-quiz the candidates. 
  3. Image Matters: looks, grooming, dress/attire, hair, makeup, and speech are all part of an image. The demonstrator's image must complement your product's personality and connect with your product's target market. A demonstrator with a logo tee-shirt is an underdressed look, be sure that's what your target market views as attractive.
  4. Pick Your Moment. The date and time of your promotion are essential. The promoters cannot outnumber the shoppers. Make sure you select the most advantageous times to place your valuable resource and not just push them in to meet buyers' demands.
  5. Measure and pay for results. If you cannot measure the return on your investment, you should not be spending. Look into tools to help you manage all aspects of your promotion, including attendance. Measure performance to reward and retain the best store sampling brand ambassadors. Spell out your sales expectations and ensure a portion of potential wages is tied to their attainment. Explain compensation in detail providing examples of exceptions, exclusions, or deductions. Detail how you will measure performance and its compliance with what was agreed upon, including adherence to times, dates, and brand ambassador actions. Did they do and say the right things?

One-on-one selling in the retail environment by a well-trained salesperson with a great image who loves what they are doing will forever be a great way to make a lasting impression and a great way to drive sales.