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A Fresh Look at In-Store Sampling

  • Written by John Stermer, EVP, Sales & Marketing, PromoWorks

JStermer_1x1_Photo_2_colorConsumers love free samples. And while retailers and manufacturers recognize sampling as an important marketing strategy, until now few understood sampling’s effectiveness. PromoWorks commissioned an independent research study that revealed the most comprehensive understanding of sampling’s effectiveness in history. Aptly entitled R.I.S.E. (Report on In-store Sampling Effectiveness), this study provides a new framework for the ongoing evaluation of in-store sampling. As a result of the study, we now have a way to specifically measure how consumers are impacted by a PromoWorks sampling event through frequent shopper data that allows us to look well beyond the day of event (now 20 weeks post), as well as look at sales lift, trial, repeat purchase, and new buyers.

Here’s what we learned through this groundbreaking study:

In-Store Sampling Works-Driving Trial and Sales
The average cumulative trial for the sampled items was +58% over 20 weeks. Sampled items in multiple categories showed an average +475% cumulative sales lift on the day of event.

In-Store Sampling Impacts Sales in Ways Never Thought Possible
Historically in-store sampling is thought of as an effective tool for driving and accelerating trial and distribution of a new product launch, which we have once again proven is true. Our research uncovered that in-store sampling also increases sales of established products and line extensions, as well as new products, for many weeks following. The study also found in-store sampling lifts sales of the entire brand franchise in addition to the sampled brand. Specifically, the study found:

  • In-store sampling drives additional repeat purchase. The average cumulative first repeat purchase was +11% for sampled products and +6% for the brand franchise over a 20 week period.
  • In-store sampling drives sales for existing products and line extensions. The sales lift for the existing product sampled was +177% for day of event and +57% after a 20 week period. The sales lift for the line extension product sampled was +919% for day of event and +107% after a 20-week period.
  • In-store sampling drives brand franchise trial and sales. The sampling was found to have a significant impact for the parent brand of the sampled products with +107% average sales lift on the day of event and +21% average sales lift after a 20 week period. The average cumulative trial for the brand franchise was +19% over a 20 week period.
  • In-store sampling delivers new buyers - to the sampled items and to the brand franchise. The average cumulative new buyers was +85% for sample products and +23% for the brand franchise over a 20 week period.

In-Store Sampling Increases the Average Household Shopping Basket Size
As a result of the sampling event the involved consumers’ overall shopping basket expenditure increased +10%, as compared to the average frequent shopper basket in the participating retailer. This suggests sampling contributes to incremental growth and does not cannibalize other items within the brands’ own franchise.

In-Store Sampling is Cost Effective
The study proves in-store sampling impacts sales long after the day of event, disclosing that sampling is much more cost effective than the limited “day of event” view reveals. By utilizing frequent shopper data, the actual sales impact of the in-store sampling can now be measured. Over the 20-week period, the sampled items saw an average cumulative sales lift of +74%. As a result, in-store sampling’s cost effectiveness when applied to all of sampling’s benefits over time is extraordinary.

The Retail Opportunity
As retailers and marketers look for every opportunity to get brands closer to the consumer, one of the most obvious marketing tactics—in-store sampling—is now proven to deliver results never imagined. To learn more, a comprehensive analysis of the study and its findings can be found at http://www.promoworks.com/source/default.asp.


John Stermer brings 35 years of marketing and in-store experience to his role as EVP of Sales & Marketing at PromoWorks, delivering sampling solutions that are targeted and measureable. Headquartered in Schaumburg, Illinois, PromoWorks represents hundreds of consumer brand manufacturers and national retailers. Formerly EVP of Sales & Marketing at GOLIATH Solutions, Stermer also served 12 years as SVP at ACNielsen, the global leader in market research and media information.

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