Why Retail Sampling Still Works in a Digital World

Product sampling is not a new concept; the idea of giving away free items to boost brand awareness may be old, but it’s still an effective shopper marketing tactic. 

Today, you can still walk into grocery stores and usually find at least one opportunity for a free sample somewhere. The reason is simple: Shoppers who enjoy a free sample are more likely to purchase the product and remember it again later. It remains a meaningful first touchpoint in developing a retail brand experience.

Yet, despite its effectiveness, it can often seem outdated in the digital age, especially when we consider the potential costs involved in earmarking inventory for a free giveaway. Aren’t there better ways to harness digital shopper marketing to capture buyers on a different path to purchase? Of course—but sampling still has value even in today’s digital world. 

Let’s consider why and how it can be an excellent addition to your shopper marketing strategy before discussing some real-world examples.

Retail Sampling Still Brings Many Benefits to the Table

Why invest in product sampling? There are many reasons why this type of retail marketing tactic remains a favorite despite the logistics and effort that goes into executing them successfully. What are they?

  • People don’t often say “no” to free things. 
  • Sampling gives consumers a brand experience with your product.
  • Immersive, positive experiences with samples inspire the confidence to buy.
  • Product sampling can take place online as well when paired with your consumer promotion strategy.
  • Sampling is an easy in-road to unlocking bigger markets, introducing your product in spaces where it was previously unknown.

Product Sampling Personally Connects With Your Customers

Alongside the other benefits of sampling, it also provides opportunities for your brand to connect more personally with consumers. Using professional brand ambassadors to shape your sampling event and discuss the product puts a friendly human face to the brand. 

Although not everyone may want to learn more—some people just love free samples!—using ambassadors is an excellent way to reinforce the messaging of your retail product. When you’re providing sampling as retailtainment experiences, the right brand ambassador with a strong script can make a big difference to your campaign’s results.

Examples of Shopper Sampling Success in the Real World

Take a moment to consider a few brief case studies relating to sampling events supported by Cliffedge Marketing to see how these events can thrive in action.

Ice Cream Sundays with Prairie Farms Dairy and the St. Louis Cardinals

What’s more American than ice cream and baseball together on a Sunday afternoon? Prairie Farms Dairy wanted to build its image as a family-friendly brand while developing a broader, more loyal customer base in its regional market. 

Working with CEM, an Ice Cream Sundays tie-in promotion with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team was launched, providing pre-game fun and activities with thousands of free ice cream samples. Over 20 seasons of success, we’ve handed out more than half a million samples and helped Prairie Farms leverage the incredible brand equity of Major League Baseball.

Laumeier Art Fair and Grub & Groove for Red Diamond Coffee & Tea

Aiming to expand its market and reach a broader audience, Red Diamond engaged CEM to develop two sampling events in their local market. We coordinated with health and event officials to set up an iced tea sampling booth at the Laumeier Art Fair, which broke its all-time attendance. Over just one weekend, more than 160 gallons of tea were given away as free samples with incredible consumer feedback.

At Grub & Groove, another annual St. Louis-area event, CEM coordinated on behalf of Red Diamond to run a similar sampling booth. The one-day event drew 15,000 people and saw visitors enjoy 72 more gallons of complimentary tea. Red Diamond products were even used in a signature festival drink. Together, these events led to excellent brand exposure and meaningful consumer interactions.

Retail Sampling Explores Opportunities to Reach Broader Audiences

Achieving effective CPG activations today isn’t always easy, but a winning strategy is waiting for you to uncover it. By reconnecting with physical retail spaces and your target audiences through sampling opportunities and outreach, it is possible to step up to the next level and build upon your success. 

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