What’s the whole point of it all?

Well, there is a reason why organisations in the FMCG world continue to, time and time again, give away their own products as free product samples. In simple terms … product sampling works

If that is not enough to convince you, I have gone to the trouble of explaining with hard science … or at least relaying what the ‘experts’ say. Rather than throw ‘socially scientific’ facts from the 1960’s at you I have kept it recent and relevant to the complexities of today’s retail market.

We are all aware that the FMGC Market is… fast moving and often fickle. The million-dollar question is not only ‘how can we get people trying our great products?’ but ‘how can we keep consumers consuming?’ How long can we play the ‘in-store’ offer game when the discounters are all moving towards EDLP (everyday low prices)? According to Chandukala, Dotson & Liu (2017) sampling outdoes simple end-of-aisle offers, mainly because the latter loses its oomph after two weeks, whereas sampling effects not only immediate sales but can linger for weeks and even months after trial. If we are going to keep those ‘fickle’ consumers interested, we need to take a leaf out of Hodgson’s (2017) book and engage with consumers as an active and trusted partner. In short, let’s get them trying, engaging and offering us consumer-led opinion.

Here is some of the science behind it…

The Power of Experience

This may be an obvious one, but what about ‘the power of experience’? Surely you are onto a winner if you can get the right people to experience something by touch, taste, sight or smell, and do so at scale? I guess that depends on how good your product is and if there is a healthy demand out there. But then again If the product is not quite right, how can you make it right?

Pouss (2014) tells us that people are more likely to remember and engage with a product they have been able to experience than one they have read about or been told about. If it is a lasting impact you want to make then you need to stimulate the mind and senses. Maybe you want to remind people of a past experience or maybe you want to introduce them to something new and exciting. Either way there is a positive correlation between trial and success. We’ll leave ‘getting the product right’ to you and if it’s not right, only trial will give you the answers you are looking for.

gemsatwork product sampling power of experience

The Reciprocity Instinct

It’s Christmas time again and you remember your cousin Lisa got you a scarf last year and you felt obliged to get her something back? This is not only something that you feel ‘obliged’ to do, it’s ‘instinct’ that drives you to do it and there are few things more gravitating than instinct.

Birkett (2017) contends that receiving free samples makes people implicitly indebted to brands. We don’t want people to feel like they ‘have’ to get cousin Lisa something back, but when there’s a choice between uncle Bob (who likes to hold onto his pennies for himself) or your cousin Lisa, who do you think will be the lucky relative at Christmas?

Applying this to marketing, we know that part of the struggle is to get that repeat purchase. When your product is competing against ‘un-tried’ products that are on offer, we want the consumer to make the right choice. What better way to make the right choice than by going with something that you have already tried, which removes the risk out of the decision, but also from a brand that has given you something for free in the past? I know what would encourage my loyalty at that integral moment.

gemsatwork product sampling the reciprocity instinct

Commitment, Consistency and the Nudge Theory


As human beings, we view commitment and consistency as attractive, these are positive terms, right?

From a social perspective, people want to be perceived as committed and consistent since these are traits of someone that is rational, trustworthy and decisive. Cialdini (2001) suggests that we tend to stay true to our decisions and remain committed to the choices we make. Therefore, we are more likely to go through with something when we are directly asked about it. This idea, known as the ‘nudge theory’ means that in a consumer context people are statistically more likely to commit to an exchange – e.g. purchasing a product – if they have been asked whether they intend to do so. Furthermore, asking consumers how they intend to use the product makes them even more likely to use it, and do so more frequently.

Asking for feedback after providing a free sample provides allows the consumer an opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to purchase in their own minds and, with the right questions, get them thinking about how and when they will use the product in future. Nudge Theory shows that doing this will increase the likelihood and frequency of future product usage.

gemsatwork product sampling survey nudge theory

Like I said at the start, there is a reason why brands continue to sample their products: it really does work. But what if there was a better way of sampling, aside from handing out free products on the street and at train stations? What if you could target your specific audience and make sure the samples get into the hands of your ideal consumers?

Just because sampling has been done for years it doesn’t mean there’s not a better way of doing it. Contact us at hello@gemsatwork.com to find out how we are revolutionising the world of sampling.