The Psychology of Sampling

June 15, 2016


The Psychology of Sampling

Let's face it, we all love getting free stuff. Whether it's a dessert at Costco or a sample-sized lotion from Sephora, it's hard to say no to free. Product sampling has a wide range of benefits that boil down to a few key consumer insights.

We know sampling works, but we often forget to mention the root of why. To help you understand, we did a little digging ourselves and broke down the top factors that make sampling so successful.

So, why does it work?

Risk Aversion

Trying a product doesn't involve any form of commitment or investment on the consumer's end, so it feels like a win-win situation to them. With no obligation on their end, consumers feel more open minded and willing to give your product a chance.

Giving away free product is also a great way to softly nudge consumers towards picking your brand over another. According to the Behavioral Changes in the Trial of New Products, After the use of the sample, the consumer might be less uncertain about a brand's performance.

By minimizing the potential risk, consumers are more likely to buy a product they've tried rather than one that is foreign to them.


Humans naturally feel indebted to those who have done something for them, including something as simple as giving them a free sample. When you share free product with them, a mental desire to reciprocate the gesture comes into play.

According to Alex Birkett of ConversionXL, people, by nature, feel obliged to provide either discounts or concessions to others if they've received favors from those others. By giving free samples, consumers are implicitly indebted to grocery stores."


When you give your consumers the opportunity to trial your product, you're giving them a chance to intimately interact with it. Allowing them to taste, smell and experience your product creates a sentimental bond that is more powerful than any other direct marketing method.

In a recent study conducted by Interactions, the company who handles Costco's sampling, Interactions beer samples at many national retailers boosted sales by an average of 71 percent, while its samples of frozen pizza increased sales by 600 percent. The proof is literally in the pudding.

How Can You Sample?

If you're looking to create your very own sampling strategy, you have to do your research. Make sure you're capable of sampling the product, whether it be trial-sized or a free product voucher that can be redeemed in-store. Depending on your marketing goals, you can create an in-store or online experience that fits your needs.

As marketing efforts continue to move further online, though, so does sampling. Digital sampling can allow you to target niche audiences and measure how your campaign is doing in real time. The best part? You end up with the contact information of every consumer who samples your product, so you can keep the conversation going past their sampling experience.

Want to see how sampling helped Garnier? Check out their case study here.

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