The Power Of Surprise: Rue La La Drives Loyalty Via Product Sampling

Members-only e-Commerce fashion retailer Rue La La has expanded its partnership with e-Commerce media network and product sampling company BrandShare to deliver more free product samples to its shoppers. When the retailer ships purchased products to consumers, it regularly adds a package with a sample product from a fashion, beauty, or food and beverage brand. Each package is designed to surprise the shopper upon delivery, and includes a card explaining why Rue La La believes the product is a good fit for the consumer.

Rue La La first partnered with BrandShare in 2014 in an effort to drive loyalty to its brands. By delivering samples and targeted advertising in-home, Rue La La can generate new product sales going forward while enabling CPG brands to directly engage with its customers. As many as 73% of consumers said a new product sample would persuade them to purchase the item, according to data from Sampling Effectiveness Advisors.

“It’s a great way to target people,” said Craig Kapilow, Senior Director of Integrated Marketing at Rue La La in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “If someone sees a box with their favorite shoe brand — let’s say it’s Stuart Weitzman or Donald Pliner and there’s a new product sample from one of those brands — they’re happy. It’s consumer logic where you’re excited about the purchase that you make. There’s so much noise out there. You think about all these channels that are going ad-free and you think about the best way to target these very desirable customers, and sampling is one of the best vehicles to hit people, especially when they’re most excited and they’re opening a box.”


Communication Determines The Best Brand Fit

BrandShare facilitates communication with both Rue La La and the CPG brand to first determine if the combination is a fit for the merchant’s target customer. Rue La La then gets the first decision on whether it wants to include the brand in its free product samples.

“We’re excited about the BrandShare partnership because of their ability to serve our members a really nice assortment of mainly CPG-focused brands that we feel would resonate with our members’ lifestyle,” Kapilow said. “It could be everything from luxury premium brands like a new flavor from Starbucks to something that’s genuinely fun like a product from Burt’s Bees. We feel that all the products that BrandShare serves us are in line with our audience.”

“Brand managers may think that any brand can partner with any e-Commerce retailer, and that’s not correct,” said Doug Guyer, President and CEO of BrandShare. “It’s about selectivity. Not all are approved. It’s not a select few, but it’s the products that are appropriate and most aligned with each retailer, especially someone with a prestigious audience like Rue La La. If you’re a brand manager or CMO from L’Oréal and they are coming out with a new hair care shampoo and conditioner combo, they’re after a certain lifestyle — a 29-to 39-year-old — so it’s going to be up to us to partner them with the right e-Commerce retailer.”

Sampling’s Success Secret: Targeting Established Shoppers

Guyer noted that much of sampling’s success comes from the fact that these campaigns are going after established consumers as opposed to typical viewers coming across ads online or on TV.

“These shoppers are extremely comfortable buying through e-Commerce,” Guyer said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “They get it, and this is the e-Commerce economy that we’re living in now, and it continues to grow. The year-over-year growth can’t just be ignored anymore by the brands.”

BrandShare said its e-Commerce sampling orders, which promote hundreds of brands to 760+ retailers, increased 366% from 2013 to 2017. Brand spending on product sampling is expected to rise 5% by the end of this year, reaching $34.12 billion. By 2020, that number is expected to grow at an annual rate of 4.6% to $40.69 billion.

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