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27 of your product sampling questions, answered by the experts.

March 30, 2021
  ●  
Charlotte Crawford

Two experienced sampling experts recently answered your most pressing questions about product sampling and the future of CPG experiential marketing strategies in a live FAQ session.

Sampler’s CEO and Founder, Marie Chevrier, has led Sampler, the industry leader in product sampling, for 7 years. Her experience ranges from starting Canada’s first premium digital product sampling solution to being a brand ambassador handing out product samples on a street corner.Karen Zhang is Sampler’s Senior Partner Success Manager, she has run countless successful product sampling and shopper marketing programs across formats at Sampler with brands like L’Oreal and during her time as a Brand Manager at P&G.These two experienced sampling experts recently answered your most pressing questions about product sampling and the future of CPG experiential marketing strategies in a live FAQ session. Let’s see what these industry leaders had to say on the following topics:

The Future of Sampling

Two people with masks on facing at each other sharing french fries outside.

Q: Do you think the industry will revert back to traditional product sampling once the pandemic is over and things get back to 'normal'?

Marie: The reality is consumers are eager to go back into stores.I think we are all looking forward to going back to picking up our own produce and being able to discover new products and brands in-store.We're seeing retailers really focused on the trend of brand discovery and consumer experience and I think that that’s really great. I also think that no one should completely be divesting from traditional in-store methods, they should work to compliment more contemporary digital strategies.Retail as a channel is definitely going to continue to grow. Having said that, consumers are going to be expecting new sampling formats and measures in-store. They're going to expect product samples in closed packages and the ability to take that sample home for consumption rather than consuming it in the store.We think this will be the case for quite some time and know that major changes in consumer behaviour don’t just go away. So my biggest recommendation to all brands is to really start thinking about how you can  diversify your product sampling methods.

Q: What do you imagine for the future of product sampling program formats?

Marie: It is important to ask yourself if your product sampling formats are not only effective but produce a memorable product experience for e-commerce, digital and in-store sampling. Brands shouldn't be catering to the traditional cup to lips experience as consumer engagement is, and will continue to be, different.

Q: What does evolving product sample formats mean for brands?

Marie: The moment you start creating data-driven product sampling programs and you realize that their costs are very similar to traditional product sampling methods, it is hard to imagine going back to 100% traditional. I hear it from brands all the time, now that they can collect an email from a consumer when they sample online and can understand who they are sampling to, it doesn't seem feasible to revert back to a strategy that did not allow for those kinds of pivotal insights.We're seeing that brands are going to be taking more of a blended approach. Both traditional and digital product sampling have their strengths. With digital product sampling you can target a specific store and/or retailer, so a lot of the things that were benefits of in-store can now be recreated with digital. The driving force at the end of the day will be creating a personalized and memorable consumer experience -- so I strongly encourage brands to think about these new formats in order to produce that kind of data-driven experience.

Reaching target demographics

Q: Given the propensity for mobile users, how do you target an older demographic with Sampler? What is the age range of our demographics?

Marie: About 80% of Sampler consumers are on a mobile device and our age range is really anywhere between 18 - 65 plus. The 65+ is definitely the smaller percentage of our audience - it's around 2%. But our audience between 45 - 64 is anywhere between 10 -15 % of our audience, so still a large portion.It is still possible to target certain age demographics and target against others. Our most popular age demographic is between 25 - 34, no surprise there it is 44% of our audience. We have also had product sampling programs do extremely well with the 35 - 44 demographic as well

Q: Is there a fixed set of parameters for target audience selection?

Karen: So the kind of simple data brands gather from our programs illustrates who their consumers really are. For example, you're able to see their age, demographics, interests and even where they shop. What our sampling experts do with brands at the end of each program is dive deep into their specific consumer insights to determine if there are sub-segments of your target demographic that are more likely to buy your product(s).This is how we provide a data-driven re-marketing roadmap for brands to utilize in both current and future marketing initiatives. For example, if a brand is targeting consumers with different skin concerns we might pinpoint consumers who are experiencing fine lines as they are more likely to repurchase your product. At Sampler, we'll be able to identify these key sub-segments for you and come up with actual recommendations as to how you can continue to target potential customers to ultimately bring them closer to the next purchase decision.There's truly a variety of different kinds of insights that we can gather depending on brand objectives.By design, Sampler’s digital product sampling solution is very flexible - it all depends on what you as a brand are looking to achieve.

Q: Can you target specific geographies and also can you target people who have identified preferences such as being vegan?

Marie:That is my favorite question in the world because the answer is absolutely yes! When a consumer is creating their Sampler profile they answer a questionnaire that asks things like: where do you shop and your diet preferences.We have 700 segments that include everything from how often someone works out to eating style to hobbies.Brands can also target consumers based on their area allowing brands to reach specific shopping groups. For example, if you are looking to reach Whole Foods shoppers who are Palo living in San Francisco, we could absolutely do that.Marie: That is my favorite question in the world because the answer is absolutely yes! When a consumer is creating their Sampler profile they answer a questionnaire that asks things like: where do you shop and your diet preferences.We have 700 segments that include everything from how often someone works out to eating style to hobbies.Brands can also target consumers based on their area allowing brands to reach specific shopping groups. For example, if you are looking to reach Whole Foods shoppers who are Palo living in San Francisco, we could absolutely do that.

Gathering consumer feedback & ratings and reviews

A hand holding a phone that has an email opened with a product sampling program coupon offer

Q: What are some of the best practices when it comes to collecting consumer feedback?

Karen: The most important part is to make sure that you're actually collecting objective feedback. We want to make sure that the data that you collect is not biased in any way. So one of the things that we do is that we actually don't incentivize consumers to answer surveys and we also don't penalize them if they don't answer it positively.That really helps to ensure that the feedback that we're delivering back to the brand is objective and is what the consumer really thinks.Now when it comes to more tactical things, you want to make sure that the way you're phrasing the question really helps gather data in an objective and measurable way. Our team of sampling experts is very specialized in doing exactly that, coming up with the right ways to ask the right questions in order to get concrete answers to your hypothesis.That's a big part of what we do at Sampler, strategizing around AB testing and really discovering the right kind of actionable and honest consumer feedback.

Q: Can Sampler direct consumer’s ratings and reviews to another website like Amazon?

Marie: Every single review that is given on Sampler can actually be syndicated to the retail network. Our integration partners, Bazaarvoice or Yotpo, syndicate the reviews collected on Sampler to your Walmart reviews, your Kroger reviews or anywhere else syndication is possible in the retail space.The one player in the space that does allow for that is Amazon. But we do have a solution -- we get consumer ratings and reviews from Sampler on Amazon by sending an email to the consumer with the link to the product on Amazon and we ask them to review there.We've also seen brands take it one step further, they'll do a coupon redeemable on Amazon for a very high value or even for full value and ultimately distribute that on Sampler and then get consumers to submit a review after that. So multiple different options but absolutely we can help you syndicate your reviews across the retailer network.

Increasing retailer distribution & enhancing shopper marketing

Someone in a store with a mask on shopping, looking at a product in the aisles with one hand and their phone in the other. .

Q: I’m in shopper marketing, are you able to target consumers that shop at specific stores?

Karen: Absolutely! What's really interesting about this is some brands let us know they have an activation at a specific retailer - let's say it’s at Target on a given month. Our sampling experts would then set the Sampler product sampling program activation right before that time. This allows consumers to get the sampled product ahead of the retailer and also receive an insert that encourages them to buy the product at Target. We take pride in building holistic product experiences. Once consumers complete product testing and they're ready to buy, Sampler’s holistic product sampling campaigns allow your program and preferred retailer to be top of mind.

Q: How does product sampling help brands grow distribution?

Karen: Yes, definitely! Growing distribution is very important to some of the brands we work with, so we gather retailer specific data. This supports distribution growth by:

  1. Providing data for pitches to retailers. We had a brand who really wanted to be in Costco so we gathered retailer specific data for Costco during their program with Sampler. So, this brand was then able to go to Costco directly and show them “hey 80% of your shoppers really loved our product.”                                    
  2. Informing retailer pricing and purchasing expectations. We also asked consumers what they would pay for this brand’s product at Costco and how often they would expect to buy it from  Costco. This really allowed the brand to show the retailer that they have already tested with their shoppers.

This all worked to create a strong data-driven story for why Costco should carry that brand’s product. Sampler is a great way to not only get your product into the hands of the right consumers, but also grow your distribution potential. As a previous shopping marketer, I know that utilizing this kind of data could be the reason your product is front and centre at a big retailer.

How does a Sampler program work?

Q: Do you think that having multiple brands arrive in one box dilutes the experience for the individual brand?

Marie: Our Sampler Exchange Experience does have multiple product samples in one box and Sampler will never distribute two samples from the same industry category. Our algorithm will actually make sure that at the consumer sample selection stage two products from competitive brands in the same category will never be shown together. So, to answer your question, absolutely not. Our goal is to make sure that brands are showcased as the leader in their category, and as the preferred product of that category.Sampler also offers a Fully Branded Experience for brands who want to only showcase their product(s) in a box. With both experiences, there are measures in place to ensure that your product shines within it’s category!

Q: What if there is low consumer engagement with the product sample?

Marie: Sampler charges on a performance basis, so even if a consumer decides to pass on your product you will not be charged an impression fee or any fee. Brands are only charged when we ship a product sample to a consumer. There is really then no risk from a brand’s perspective and ultimately if you want to distribute 5, 000 samples, we will do that.A brand has never not reached their product sample goal because of not matching with enough consumers at Sampler who want to receive the product. Our audience is so engaged, they’re amazing, and we're really proud of that. A brand has never failed to reach their product sampling objectives because they didn't match with enough consumers who wanted to receive their product. Our audience is highly engaged, they’re amazing, and we're really proud of that. 

Q: For smaller brands, are there options to share the cost or scale the cost across several brands? Can Sampler create partnerships between brands?

Marie: The Sampler exchange allows you to place your brand into our network of samples that are available, you tell us who you want to target and automatically the technology will not only match you with the right consumer but also match you with like-minded brands that are targeting a similar consumer.What that does is it allows the products to all be distributed together into one Sampler box. If you are sending samples alone direct-to-consumer it would be way more expensive than sharing the cost of the sampling with others. The Sampler Exchange Experience prices for both emerging and large brands at a much lower cost because we are able to actually share the efficiency of fulfillment across multiple brands.So the average box ships with 2-3 samples so do not worry this is not a sampling program where your brand will be beside 15 other products.

Q: What's the timeline from product selection till delivery? Is there a fixed timing for the packaging of shipments?

Marie: Our fulfillment works on a rolling basis so we ship samples out as they are claimed and this makes sure that consumers don’t wait a really long time for all shipments to go out simultaneously. Pending any postal delays, we typically see that consumers receive their package about three weeks or so after they've claimed the samples.

Q: Does Sampler work in Canada? Is it a Canadian company?

Karen: We are very Canadian! All of our staff are located in the GTA, so if you're in Toronto please say hi! Marie actually started Sampler in downtown Toronto in her apartment and we've been here ever since.We do operate in the US and Canada, 80% of our product sample volume is in the U.S. We actually started our marketing efforts in the US before starting in Canada, so we are very familiar with the US market. We ship centrally from our warehouse in Chicago if brands are working with us in the US and from Pickering if they’re working with us in Canada.We also do work globally - we've done product sampling programs in 24 countries across Europe and the UK.

Q: How big is Sampler’s audience?

Marie: Sampler can reach up to 70 million consumers in North America. Our reach is expanded via multiple different partnerships that we've developed. Our social media audience is also growing with over 100K following on Instagram.We also partner with large online publishers that actually host product sampling programs powered by Sampler. You may have seen the Sampler turn-key solution installed on InTouch or Men's Health website.

Q: Can you share a case study or example of Sampler’s in use?

A desktop computer with an open youtube video with an influencer holding an OB tampons box with a dark blue background.

Karen: Love this question - absolutely, we did a great program with OB Tampons recently. They had worked with an influencer to really promote their message of less waste for hygiene products for those with periods. The influencer had a product sampling call to action that allowed consumers to swipe up and click to get an OB Tampons sample. This is what we saw:

  • Consumers who watched the influencer video were 1.5X more likely to engage with the brand and leave a rating and review.
  • Almost 50% of consumers left a review - which is really high considering we don't incentivize consumers to leave a review,  so that shows they just really wanted to to share their experience with the product organically.
  • 85% of consumers said that they would recommend OB tampons to a friend - and we all know word of mouth is one of the strongest influences in purchasing decisions.

Over half of these consumers opted-in to communications from OB Tampons. They joined their CRM, this created a unique opportunity for OB Tampons to foster a direct one-to-one relationship with those consumers. OB Tampons can now tell them about new product variants, showcase their brand story and have consumers really understand why OB Tampons are different from the other players on the market. This is how brand loyalty and advocacy happens in our digital age.

Q: Has Sampler ever worked with luxury beauty brands?

Karen: Yes! We love working with luxury beauty brands, we have consumer segments in our audience that we specifically target for luxury beauty brands, so we are very familiar with that kind of product and brand.

Q: What other kinds of brands does Sampler work with?

Marie: Sampler works across CPG categories such as food, beverage, beauty, cosmetics, vitamins, household products and more.

Q: How can I find out more?

Marie: Have a question we didn't answer? Get in touch with us, we would love to hear from you!

Takeaways

Direct-to-consumer, personalized, and contactless product experiences are quickly becoming a consumer expectation rather than a “nice-to-have,” and product sampling is no exception. Tune into the full FAQ session and learn more with Marie and Karen, click here.

Consumer feedback
CRM
Free samples
Product sampling tips
Consumer insights
Re-marketing
In-store sampling
Shopper marketing

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