Sampler has raised a $4 million round in funding. The round was led by existing investors StandUp Ventures and BDC Capital with participation from EDC, Factory LLC as well as new investors from Calgary-based female-led financial platform, The51. The closing was managed by Chase Irwin, partner at Dentons Canada LLP, and brings Sampler’s total amount raised in equity financing to $10.3M since its inception in 2013.
The product sampling platform, which helps CPG brands distribute product samples to digitally targeted consumers direct-to-home, saw a spike in demand as in-store sampling, trade shows, and events were cancelled worldwide as a result of COVID-19. The company experienced a 300% increase in sales in Q2 2020 compared to the same period last year and user engagement doubled during the months of March and April as consumers looked to discover new products from home.
“We’ve been working on Sampler for seven years and built a unique platform that connects brands and consumers through in-home product experiences. Though we could not have predicted the sudden shift in the market, we were ready. When the pandemic hit and in-store demos, events, and trade shows were brought to a sudden halt, brands had to quickly rethink how they were going to deliver such a crucial element of their marketing strategy as product sampling in a socially distant world. Our company’s growth accelerated quickly and we’re thrilled that this investment will allow us to continue carrying our vision forward while driving new product offerings that will change the way retailers, trade shows, and events conduct product sampling forever.” said Marie Chevrier, Founder and CEO of Sampler
The investment will be used to build the company’s sales and service teams to support clients’ evolving needs while accelerating product roadmap and new offerings. This includes a newly launched retailer program enabling brands to send product samples of new product innovations directly to the homes of participating retail buyers. This allows them to build important relationships with decision makers, and gather valuable product feedback, something they would traditionally do during in-person meetings, trade shows and conferences now cancelled due to COVID-19. Sampler predicts the benefits of powering product discovery digitally will far outlast the pandemic.
Sampler’s users, made up of consumers interested in trying new products, have also seen their behaviors change during the pandemic. ?“For many of us, receiving a package at home is the most exciting part of the day. Sampler’s mission has always been to deliver high-value product experiences - and we have a really unique opportunity to deliver on this promise for our users during this time - by delivering product experiences in the comfort and security of a consumer’s home” - Kelly Stewart, Director of Marketing at Sampler
“COVID-19 was an accelerant for digital sampling and the value proposition for the solution resonated with Sampler’s clients who were looking to maintain and grow a close relationship with their consumer. Sampler is not only helping clients reach their targeted consumers, but also collecting high value consumer data and insights” said Michelle McBane, Managing Director at StandUp Ventures.
“We're thrilled to see that several of our portfolio companies have become rising stars during COVID-19 including Sampler, who has seen a significant increase in demand since February. We’re excited to witness how the team drives digital product sampling market forward and sets new standards for how CPG brands connect with consumers” said Marius Swart, General Partner at Henkel dx - the digital arm of Henkel, a client of Sampler and producer of global household brands like Persil, Dial and ?Schwarzkopf?.
Sampler strategic investors also include Pennsylvania based Factory LLC, a ?$250M fund investing in rising consumer packaged goods companies like Pipcorn and HoneyStinger. Keith Caldwell, partner at Factory LLC said “Product sampling plays an important role in the brand building journey of an emerging brand. Sampler’s targeted and measurable approach is what initially attracted us to invest, but the pandemic pushed online grocery shopping 10 years forward causing the entire industry to rethink and build additional digital resources. Sampler is in a perfect spot to capitalize on this trend, offering a key marketing service to inspire product trial and gain valuable customer feedback.”
Sampler decided to raise their financing closer to home during this time and received the support of investors like BDC and EDC to do so. “BDC Capital remains committed to supporting innovative Canadian companies, like Sampler, during this time,” said Michelle Scarborough, Managing Partner, Strategic Investments and Women in Technology Venture Fund, BDC Capital. “As an existing investor in Sampler, we were impressed with their ability to adjust during the pandemic and quickly saw the potential for their acceleration during this time”
Sampler is the leading Direct-to-Consumer product sampling platform helping brands like L'Ore?al and Nestle? deliver samples online and gather the insights they need to build one-to-one relationships with consumers. Sampler has worked with over 400 brands reaching over 50 million consumers globally in 24 different countries and its most notable clients include CPG industry giants Unilever, Pepsi, and Henkel, and Kimberly Clark.