Digital ads losing their effectiveness? How your samples can change that

July 11, 2022

The rise of the modern internet made way for digital ads to become one of marketers’ biggest allies when it came to advertising. Through targeting and analytics and millions of user behavior data points, companies could now turn their un-targeted marketing tricks from the pre-digital era into a sophisticated and measurable channel. 

Fast forward to 2022 with tech giants like Facebook and Google making upwards of 80% of their revenue from advertising alone, the average consumer is now estimated to encounter between 6,000 to 10,000 ads a day. A clear indication that the modern day shopper is under constant information overload and that perhaps the ads that were once highly effective are getting lost in a sea of indifference.

The volume of ads consumers are exposed to on the daily are making them increasingly distracted and causing them to veer their attention away from ads altogether. So amid this attention crisis, how does the modern marketer design an ad that not only catches a consumers’ eye, but actually leads them to further engage and take a desirable action?

The answer might require marketers to pull one of the older tricks in the marketing books: a clever incentive. Here are three ways adding a free product sample to your digital ads can boost their performance and maximize their impact.


It breaks through the media clutter

It’s no secret that consumers love a freebie. As humans, we assign a large value to things that are given to us for free and experience a great sense of joy when we’re offered an unexpected gift. It’s in large part why marketers have leaned on product sampling to drive awareness and incentivize purchases for decades. 

So when consumers are scrolling through their daily social feeds and encounter a digital ad with an enticing invitation to claim their free sample, they are far more likely to engage with it as opposed to scrolling past it. Nescafé experienced this during a digital sampling program with Sampler where they saw a 42% increase in click rate on an ad that featured a sampling call-to-action.

"Offering a free sample to your consumer is perceived as a gift and with that comes a sense of reciprocity. It shows a potential shopper that you value the time they took to check out your brand. With ad effectiveness across traditional digital and social ad formats decreasing, layering sampling CTAs onto media campaigns are proving a major impact on key metrics like clicks and ad recall even before consumers actually try the sample” - Morgan Kingdon, Director of Audience at Sampler

Giving consumers an offer they can’t refuse can help you stand out when competing against thousands of other ads for the attention of your target audience. The idea of getting a free product delivered directly to their doorstep is proven to give consumers that extra nudge they need to engage with your brand and take a desired action.

It powers a tangible and memorable product experience

Though a digital ad may communicate the value of your product, they’d fall short in actually proving it to your audience. Infusing a product sampling campaign with your digital ads, transports that brand messaging from consumers’ screens into their homes, adding a whole new dimension of engagement. It offers consumers a tangible interaction that is hard, if not impossible, to ever replicate digitally because it engages their sense of smell, taste, touch, and sight in a way that even the most appealing ad wouldn’t be able to. Not to mention, that sampling by nature boosts consumer buying confidence and helps eliminate any apprehension they might have before buying the product. 

"Product sampling is one of the most impactful ways to introduce (or reintroduce) your product and drive conversion to purchase. Consumers on Sampler rely on digital sampling to help them quickly make the best purchase decisions for their household and are 71% more likely to say they are driven to purchase a product after sampling a product vs viewing traditional forms of advertising" - Morgan Kingdon, Director of Audience at Sampler

By delivering a sample tailored to your consumer’s unique needs and preferences directly to their doorstep, you’re not only capturing their undivided attention but also giving them an idea of how well your product works. In a time where consumers are craving richer brand experiences and growing increasingly numb to digital advertising, the incentive of claiming a personalized sample creates a lasting impression and powers an omni-channel brand experience that effectively bridges the gap between online and offline. 

It makes a case for zero-party data capture

By now, most marketers are well aware of the growing privacy concerns of consumers that led to the phase out of third-party cookies by Google. Consumers made it known that they wanted to be in the driver seat when it came to when and where they shared their information. So how do you succeed in this new era of consent-based advertising? The key lies in creating a compelling enough reason that a consumer deems worthy of their data and reassures them that it will be handled safely. 

DIrector Analysis at Gartner Chelsea Gross says digital marketing leaders will need “best-in-class tactics for incentivizing customers to share first-party data, as well as data and analytics (D&A) management capabilities to handle the data itself.”

If we take a product sampling program as an example, think about how consumers feel when you offer them a complimentary sample of your product. It’s an instant delight that offers them an opportunity to discover new products for free.  Knowing that there is a high value incentive in it for them, consumers willingly and voluntarily share their data and because of this, they don’t consider it intrusive. 

The average Sampler user shares 26 data points and about 17 on their first login ranging from demographic information to dietary preferences and shopping habits. They also get the opportunity to share their feedback about their sample and overall experience with the product. This newly acquired data and feedback helps paint a clearer picture of the high-value consumers that are most likely to convert and remain loyal to your brand in the long-term.


As consumers spend more time online than ever before and become increasingly numb to digital advertising, marketers need to find high-value experiences that incentivize action from consumers who otherwise tune them out. Leveraging this digital real estate to also curate a high-value product experience, not only stands out from the current digital noise, but is proven to be considered a high enough value proposition by consumers to merit a data exchange. At a time where brands need to capture consumers’ attention and gain their trust when it comes to their privacy, creating programs that they’ll actually value and want to participate in will be key to success down the road. 


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