How to Use Product Sampling to Increase Brand Awareness and Drive Conversions

March 1, 2019 by Rahul Chadha

Ever been handed a granola bar from a friendly stranger on the street? Made a beeline for a bite-sized Vienna sausage on a toothpick at Costco? Been offered a tube of toothpaste by your dentist? Then you’ve already experienced product sampling.

What is Product Sampling?

Product sampling is one of the oldest and most effective marketing techniques for brands and retailers, and a powerful way to achieve a number of marketing objectives. In the simplest terms, it’s when a brand or retailer gives customers a free sample of product.

When done right, sampling can increase brand awareness, build loyalty, expand customer databases, and help gather Ratings & Reviews for products.

Sampling offers brands and retailers several advantages:

  • Zero risk for shoppers. Sampling doesn’t just lower the bar for a customer trying a product, it eliminates it altogether. Customer acquisition doesn’t get any easier than when you’re giving away free stuff.
  • Emotional engagement. Shoppers can browse online product pages for hours, but there’s still no substitute for experiencing a product in real life. Samples put products directly in the hands of customers for stronger emotional engagement.
  • It just works. A recent study from Cadent Consulting Group found that 76% of retailers thought product sampling and demos were effective at generating sales. And the trend line is looking good—that was up from 67% two years earlier.1

It’s Not Just for CPGs Anymore

When most people think of a free sample they probably think of a single serving of instant coffee or a sachet of anti-wrinkle cream. That’s because consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies have long used samples as an effective way to acquire new customers or challenge their loyalty to the competition.

But a growing number of eCommerce companies are also tapping into the technique. Brandshare projects that spending by brands on eCommerce sampling will grow to $40.69 billion by 2020.2

One of the core advantages of sampling is that it can generate Ratings & Reviews for products, which in turn helps companies drive site traffic and increase conversions.

The types of products that can benefit from a sampling strategy designed to seed Ratings & Reviews might not be readily apparent. They include:

  • New products. Ever checked out a new product on a website, only to lose interest because there were no reviews? Sampling allows clients to quickly and easily build up a library of reviews for a product, demonstrating social proof of purchase intent. Running a sampling campaign before a product is offered for sale ensures that a product detail page already has Customer-Generated Content when it goes live.
  • Seasonal products. Products with a short selling cycle, like Valentine’s Day gifts, can similarly benefit from a fast build-up of reviews. Again, it’s a key way to show social proof for items that customers usually spend little time thinking about.
  • Established products. Even well-established brands can benefit from sampling, which can generate Customer-Generated Content to deliver new shopper engagement for long-tail products. Fresh review content not only boosts shopper confidence, it can also increase your SEO performance.

Sampling doesn’t need be limited to low-margin, high-volume products typically sold by CPG companies. With the right strategy and sound targeting, sampling can also help drive sales of more expensive goods that usually spend more time languishing in inventory.

How TurnTo Can Help

TurnTo Sampling offers merchants and brands a reliable way to quickly increase the volume of Ratings & Reviews and other types of Customer-Generated Content on their sites. Our turnkey sampling solution only requires our clients to ship the products in bulk. We can do the rest of the work—finding the right target audience, managing fulfillment, and collecting honest, authentic feedback from customers.

For Merchants:

TurnTo Sampling provides white-label sampling services that merchants can offer to their brands, either as a value-add or as a source of revenue. Merchant-branded interfaces are used by brands to manage the campaigns, and by sample recipients to sign up and submit reviews.

This enterprise approach gives merchants the ability to leverage their customer base and fulfillment capabilities on behalf of brands, if they so desire. It works great for marketplaces that need high-quality reviews across a number of brands. And it’s especially effective when those brands run multiple campaigns simultaneously, with different sample audiences and goals.

For Brands:

Brands can use their own panel of reviewers, or use a targeted audience provided by TurnTo. We can supply complete program management, only oversee the content collection, or do anything in between. Sampling program members can sign up for samples, track shipments, and write reviews all in the same place.

Interested in learning more about TurnTo Sampling?

Get In Touch!


1 2017 Marketing Spending Industry Study; Cadent Consulting Group, 2017

2 eCommerce Fuels Triple Digit Growth of Product Sampling; Brandshare, July 2017