How consumers feel about the future of in-store demos

June 4, 2020

Consumers have adopted countless new habits since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. From breadmaking to home improvement projects, they’ve picked up new hobbies and even shifted the way they shop and live. Amongst these changes, is the way consumers discover and test products before purchasing. Will consumers go back to their usual way of sampling or is the trusted marketing tactic changed for good? We surveyed over 800 Sampler users to find out and learn about their sentiments surrounding product sampling post-COVID, and here’s what we found:

Consumers won’t be trying products in-store anytime soon

Someone testing a skincare product sample on their skin in-store.

Consumers may be gearing up to get back to their usual shopping routines as stores reopen, but there seems to be one activity they’re not eager to pick back up in the near future: in-store sampling. When asked how they feel about sampling products after COVID-19, 46% of respondents said they won’t be sampling in-store at all and feel safest with a sample sent directly to their home and 26% said they’ll only sample in-store if it’s a single-use sample. As concern over the spread of the virus remains high and consumers adopt new levels of safety and hygiene, it’s clear shoppers are interested in safer and lower-contact options in their buying journey.

Consumers prefer a physical sample over a virtual try-on

Someone virtually testing a product with their iPhone with plants on a ladder in the background. l

To make up for the suspended in-store demos, retailers turn to AR-powered solutions like virtual try-on tools that allow consumers to visualize what products look like on them. Despite the wealth of virtual try-on tools available to them however, consumers don’t seem to be too enthusiastic about replacing the physical experience of trying a product with a virtual one. When asked whether they prefer physically or virtually trying a product before purchasing, 97% of respondents said they prefer a physical product sample. This tells us consumers aren’t quite ready to give up the ability to see, smell, touch and taste a product. While virtual try on tools may very well be a safe and contactless alternative to in-store sampling, it lacks a crucial element that consumers seem to crave more right now - a physical one.

Shoppers are experimenting with new products

Someone opening a package in front of their labtop at home.

Being confined to their homes isn’t stopping consumers from treating themselves to new products. In fact, it seems to be encouraging them to. When asked how they’re treating themselves during quarantine, 45% of respondents said they’re buying new makeup, 66% are buying new skincare, and 78% indicated they’re trying new foods and snacks. Shoppers are clearly seeking small daily indulgences that bring them joy and comfort during these times posing a unique opportunity for brands to get their products into the hands of consumers - they just need to do it a little differently this time.


Many aspects of our day to day interactions will look a little different post-COVID, and product testing and sampling is no exception. Though brands may very well have to reimagine and adjust how consumers discover and interact with their products, the ultimate goal, however remains the same: to deliver memorable experiences that boost brand awareness, deepen connections, and foster brand loyalty.


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