Product sampling: the ‘next big thing’?

Product sampling: the ‘next big thing’?

I enter the department store and instantly get a waft of luxurious perfume. I navigate myself around the endless fragrances until I find my scent of choice and fill my boots from the sample on the stand. Next, I head over to the beauty department and marvel at the endless array of products there are to make me all kinds of beautiful (well, try at least). As I stroll around the counters, ambling around between mass market and prestige, I try a lip liner here, a lip gloss there and give my cheeks a spot of the latest must-have highlighter to perfect my look, and here I am, date night ready without having to put my hand in my pocket once.

Think this product sampling binge sounds a bit odd? Trust me – I’m not alone.

Indeed, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, the world has gone sampling mad. And it’s something the big beauty brands are lapping up, nay, even wholeheartedly encouraging. According to WSJ, sampling is becoming the next big ploy in enticing new consumers to spend, spend, spend, and it’s working. One buyer told the paper she regularly enters department stores with the sole purpose of using their free samples, stating, “I will occasionally leave with a product—and have like 70 on my face.”

So what do the big brands get out of this product sampling craze? Quite simply, they get sales. While sampling has clearly reached new heights, with consumers becoming more brazen in their usage of the products, most won’t do this every single day and will, at some point, make a purchase.

In fact, the trend for product sampling is fast being singled out as one of the most successful advertising ploys of late, with a recent survey by AT Kearney discovering that while 6 percent of respondents were lured in by a TV advert, double that at 12 percent would make a purchase after sampling in store. Figures that speak for themselves.

And if there needs further weight to the uprising and success of product sampling, it comes from behemoth Procter & Gamble. The personal care giant has made no bones about its desire to cost save of late, and has been open about cutting its advertising spend by $500million. But where will they be spending their savings? You guessed it; in-store sampling.

In my opinion it’s a win/win for both consumer and brand, with the myriad of growth avenues for the marketing ploy having endless possibilities. Nivea, for example, has taken product sampling out of store and onto the streets with its recent outdoor campaign in Singapore. Promoting its new antiperspirant range, bypassers were first hit by a large interactive billboard, before being given a product sample ‘sniff’ card that also contained a 20 percent off voucher. This, in turn, drove consumers in store (who doesn’t love a bargain), and the result? A slew of sales.

But does this form of marketing really have the strength to start to outdo the big boy TV and print advertising campaigns? There’s obviously an appetite for both, but with P&G clearly giving the trend its seal of approval, the question is, who will be next?