Samplers: the less-travelled road to loyalty
Product sampling can be thought of as a 'portal to relationships' and even a strong first step toward building future customer loyalty according to Larry Burns, CEO for StartSampling, who has found that CPG marketers' passion for finding out more about their customers is driving them to try to engage customers in dialogues that foster meaningful relationships.
Indeed, Burns argues that most marketers want genuine, open engagement and communication with their customers so they can better understand the customer and develop new opportunities, new services and new products based on what's actually wanted and needed in the marketplace.
Today's smart marketers are recognizing that product sampling is a good way to give people a chance to try a product they haven't used before (and we know from countless studies that this is an effective way to get people to change their behaviour). But many marketers are using the sampling technique for more than that: using the sample itself as a portal to a relationship is becoming a much more prevalent practice.
For example, many customers are quite willing to engage in an exchange of information in order to receive a sample. This willingness sets up a "fair value exchange". That is, a consumer is willing to talk a little bit about themselves and what they want or like in order to try the product that the manufacturer or brand is offering.
Results have shown that, when samples are used properly and in the right context, even presenting and offering brands to people across the internet can be a very successful strategy. However, a balancing act is involved: if you try to force a consumer into a transaction (e.g. "you must sign up for my daily email bulletin in order to receive this sample") then it's not going to work as well. Some people will still sign up but you limit the "sense of fairness" in the value exchange.
The human - the consumer - must be in charge of their willingness to engage with you. They will participate as long as you make that possible. Marketers will be pleased with the kinds of results that a sampling programme can deliver, well beyond the high likelihood of getting people into the franchise and making a purchase.
If you allow the consumer to freely engage with you, and they do so in order to request a sample, then you can reach out to them at an appropriate time after the sample was sent to find out what they thought about it and gain data about their reaction.
Post-sample outreach can also be structured to offer the sampler an opportunity to comment in a forum you've designed for this purpose. There are so many benefits to be gained by the brand beyond the consumer's initial engagement, fair value exchange and willingness to order a sample.
"It goes without saying that marketers have to do the proper things in terms of privacy policies and making sure the person has an explicit understanding as to what you, as a marketer, will and will not do with their data. Most good marketers already understand that," concluded Burns. "Think about sampling as a first step toward deeper engagement and understanding the individual consumer's needs, then use that knowledge to provide a higher level of personalisation in a more intelligent context, and the relationship will naturally deepen."