Product Sampling and eCommerce: How and Why They Work Together

March 23, 2022
Cynthia Nakad

The marketing method of product sampling has been around for centuries, giving customers the opportunity to test a product before committing to a purchase. As technology has evolved and businesses have moved online, the product sampling strategy has been adapted for eCommerce.

The benefits of product sampling have proven themselves time and time again, particularly for Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) brands. The tactile, interactive experience offers the chance for product experimentation and consumer engagement and presents the opportunity to boost brand loyalty. 

While businesses were already moving online before the pandemic, the arrival of COVID triggered a digital and eCommerce turning point

Let’s explore how product sampling fits into the eCommerce world, and how they work together.


eCommerce and product sampling - where’s the connection?

Before the rise of e-commerce - retail was relatively simple. You needed something, you drove to a nearby store, and bought the product. Traditional retail was predominantly made up of local merchants who provided full service to customers, think of the classic “general store” or “mom and pop” shop. People came into stores with little to no knowledge and relied on a salesperson to advise them on what to buy. 

Fast forward to the digital era, and consumers had more options than ever before at their fingertips. They had nearly unlimited access to a massive assortment of products and their purchases were no longer restricted to physical bricks and mortar. In 2020, this rapid digital option was taken to a whole new level. McKinsey and Co. reported the COVID-19 pandemic condensed ten years of eCommerce growth in three months. This rapid digital adoption required brands to quickly adopt new digital methods to meet consumers where they are and we expect this to continue. 

But even with consumers having more power and leverage than ever before, there’s one setback to eCommerce that’s hard to overcome through a screen - a physical experience with the product. Consumers love the convenience that they get through online shopping, but there’s something to be said about seeing, feeling, touching, smelling, and experiencing a product in real life. In fact, in a survey of over 30,000 consumers worldwide, 51% stated that the biggest drawback of online shopping is not being able to touch, feel, and try a product. 

Offering your consumers a free product sample - gives them an opportunity to experience it first-hand and learn what makes your product so special before making their buying decision. Lucky for brands, the digital era has made distributing a free product sample faster, better, and more convenient than ever before. A digital sampling program for example, let’s you target your ideal consumer online, ship a sample directly to their doorstep, ask them for their genuine feedback, collect engaging UGC, and gather their email addresses to stay in touch long after they’ve given your product a try. It allows you to leverage the strong engagement and brand presence you’ve grown online, and transform it into a tactile experience. 

How does sampling support eCommerce?

It helps your shoppers make confident buying decisions

From small surprise gifts to a taste of a treat, samples serve as a teaser and test. With so many product options to choose from, consumers are at risk of decision fatigue. A product sample can be the deciding factor that gets them to commit to the brand wholeheartedly. Your sample isn’t just a fun little bonus to delight your consumers with, it can be a powerful tool that cuts away the apprehension that they feel before they buy - leading to a fun (and profitable) checkout experience.

Earn genuine consumer feedback

One of the top benefits you'll reap from a digital sampling program, is the ability to quickly and effectively collect powerful ratings and reviews on your product. This not only helps feed your product research and development efforts, but also fuels your future marketing and sales strategy. Statistics show that nearly 70% of online shoppers read between one and six customer reviews before making a purchasing decision in 2021. Less than 10% didn’t have a habit of reading reviews before making a purchase. Consider repurposing the consumer feedback you gained during your program, and display them on your eCommerce site, to help shoppers make their decision at the point of purchase.

Acquire user-generated content (UGC)

In a digital world, user-generated content provides the personal touch needed to create an authentic brand image. UGC serves as a type of review as consumers place trust in what others have to say about a brand. Delivering a deeply personalized experience to a consumer in the comfort of their own home not only captures their undivided attention, but immediately offers a reward that inspires them to share their experience.

One scan of the #SamplerLove hashtag on social media is enough to recognize the influence an at-home sampling experience has on consumers. Digital product sampling can arm you with valuable UGC to display on your eCommerce site to increase engagement, brand affinity, and ultimately conversion.

Case study: How one marketing team made digital product sampling work for them

Shameless Pets, a natural, sustainable, and nutrition-focused pet food brand was looking to leverage a digital sampling program to increase trial and awareness with new consumers, reach their target audience, gather ratings and reviews and grow their email list. 

The tasty treat was an instant favorite amongst the targeted consumers with all of the samples being claimed in one weekend. Here’s what Shameless pets saw after launching their digital sampling program: 

  • 2617 emails were collected which can be used in future marketing efforts
  • 72% of survey respondents stated that they are likely to purchase the product post-trial
  • 86% of sample claimants left a 4+ star rating
“Our experience with Sampler was great, they have a very user-friendly platform that’s easy for brands to engage with. Our Sampler representative was extremely helpful throughout the entire process. We saw really successful numbers, and we were able to get into peoples’ homes that had never heard of us -- all around a very positive sampling experience.” - Sabrina Han, Creative Brand Manager at Shameless Pets

Ready to join Shameless pets and launch a winning digital sampling program? Speak with an expert today!   


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