In-store sampling is something we're all familiar with.Who hasn't rolled through the grocery store or a Costco at least once and seen the friendly sampler tables out and waiting to offer you a tasty treat of something new, special, or simply being promoted? And each time, it takes a hard shopper to say no to a free mouthful of something awesome.
Of course, sampling events don't host themselves and if you want to get the best results, your goal should be to create the ideal environment, placement, arrangement, and conversion strategy for your personal sampling event.
Here are nine great tips for hosting an excellent in-store product sampling event.
1. Prominent Location
Sampling is a practice in enabling opportunism.
This means that you want customers to come across your table in the course of their usual shopping so hiding it at the back of the store or in a distant corner makes no sense.
When choosing the location for your sampling table placement, consider your customer's journey through the store and try to select a place where they will already be considering items like your product and are more likely to be delighted to see a few free to taste examples nearby.
2. Room to Gather
Now that you're thinking about traffic patterns, remember that your table can't be set directly in the shopping path without risking hassle and traffic jams.
This becomes especially important when you consider that three more people could be gathered at the sampling table at once. This means your customers participating in the sample will need room to gather safely, outside the normal flow of traffic they were once a part of. This is why you often see samples out in the open sections of a store even if it is sometimes far from the primary stock of the product they're sampling.
3. Make the Most of Packaging
Your packaging was carefully designed and crafted to appealingly advertise your product, so why not use it as a promotional asset during your sampling project?
This serves two primary purposes, the first of which is a simple economy of assets. The more existing design you can use, the fewer unique signs will need to be made for the event.
The second is that it helps customers associate their positive experience with your packaging. This will help them find the product on the shelf later on when they decide to buy more.
4. Make the Product Look Interesting
For your sampling event, make sure to attractively arrange the aspects of whatever is being sampled and, if you can, make it unusual.
When you engage both the appetite and curiosity of passing customers, it becomes nearly impossible to resist coming over and trying one.
Most sampling events involve the product cut into little squares or dished into little cups. A great example is sushi rolls pierced on the ends of wooden skewers and set into a styrofoam base, creating the illusion of lollipops instead of fishy snacks. If you must use cups, make sure to use clear ones so the product can be seen through them and try to pour dollops and portions artfully. Consider adding a second or third ingredient just for decoration in order to draw attention and inspire ideas for use at home.
5. Beautifully Laid Table
There are dozens of ways to decorate your table from flowers to balloons, but most designs start with a table cloth.
The decor you use should reflect well on the product itself. A gingham or floral pattern matches 'home style cooking' products while something brightly colored and possibly geometric might be more complimentary to a new consumable invention. Make sure to have pristine and artfully arranged napkins somewhere in the spread. Depending on your space, you can also arrange the sample cups or plates aesthetically over the cloth to create an engaging visual effect.
6. Clear Signage
People will be more than happy to talk about the product, but only after they've decided to approach.
Before that point is a critical moment of decision making and here your signage is very important.
Customers must decide whether or not to interrupt their flow of shopping to enjoy a sample, which means assessing if the sample will be enjoyed. By placing clear signage about your product and sampling around your table, you make this decision much more simple.
7. Offer a Coupon
Sometimes price is the limiting factor for a customer who is hesitant to try and then buy something new.
A free sample gives them all the experiential proof they need to be sure that your product is genuine and enjoyable, but this still doesn't address their worries about price.
However, almost no one can resist the combination of a tasty free sample and a discount on the actual product.
With a stack of coupons to hand out, you can not only easily track your success results, that is purchases that resulted from sampling, you also seriously boost the number of customers who are able to afford your product in their pre-existing grocery budget.
8. Educate Customers
Once you've got your customers gathered around you pleasantly discussing how enjoyable the sample is, now is the time to share the true, interesting facts.
Make the sampling memorable by sharing information about the sampled product that your customers probably didn't know before. Ingredients and uses are a great place to start but your sampler may also want to have the history of the product and other contextual tidbits.
9. Provide Recipes
Our final tip to encourage customers to buy your sampled product is to give out recipe cards that teach them how to make something even more special and delicious by using the product as a recipe.
This may be easy for something like chocolate chips, but there are also amazing things that can be done with 'complete' products like cookie snacks or a flavored chip dip. This not only gives customers some interesting new opportunities to cook, it also assures them that there will be a use in their home for your product as an ingredient.
In-store product sampling is a long standing tradition in grocery stores and other food vendor locations and you can learn from the best results of the past several decades simply by following these nine tips.