How Product Sampling Works

Product sampling seems so easy - you give a sample to someone to try and if they like it, they buy it!   Simple right?

Well, not quite THAT simple as the graphic below shows.   To get it right there are myriad pieces to consider and address.  Who should be offered the chance to try?   What is the right sample itself to offer?  How and where are we going to give people the chance to experience our brand?     What partners are going to help us get our perfect sample into the right humans hands?    What are we going to learn about our samplers and how are we going to extend the life of the sampling experience past the moment of trying into buying and beyond?    Easy to ask - and LOTS of different answers are correct depending on a brands goals!  

Targeting - Often an initial step in product sampling program design is to consider who you wish to have try your product, in other words your brands ideal "target".  This can be defined in many ways from very broad (adults 19-54) to quite specific (Employed people who work within 3 miles of my stores).

"Media" Planning - Where and how are you going to attract people to offer them the chance to try your sample.  Many vendors exist to assist with this part of the plan.   Can be driven by locations being used (e.g. in specific stores), purchased media (online sample request program ads), or many other choices. 

Distribution Approach - How are physical samples getting from your production facility into the hands of samplers?   What are the steps and what portions of this flow will be handled by brand versus vendor resources.

Package Design - When a sample is going to be delivered to someone "packaged" for their use what should that look and feel like.   Design of sample itself, outer packaging (e.g. if being mailed many considerations), other marketing collateral to accompany the sample itself, etc.  

Order Capture -  Are you going to gather information from individual samplers either for use in sending them a sample or to gain insight from their experience?    Many believe this is a critical step in the permitting brands to learn about people's reactions to their sampling experience as well as having the potential to extend the sampling experience to additional touch points. 

Data Management - Once data of any kind is captured from any individual (with proper privacy policies and data handling adherence) there are choices to make on where and how to 'store' that data and turn it into valuable information.    Most brands/manufacturers and retailers have stringent rules about these tasks and all must be considered in how data is managed.   Often samplers are recontacted shortly after their experience so having the right data in the right place to permit follow up is a key success criteria. 

"Dashboard" - Umbrella term used to suggest the need for a brand to have the ability to see into their program as it is running.   Ever greater levels of transparency are being expected by brands so that they can monitor their sampling program while in execution.   Information such as inventory status, dates of sampler delivery, samples per location, etc. are all encompassed by using overarching term.

Assembly - Refers to the preparation of the sample for delivery to the sampler.   Combining the sample with it's 'packaging' and any other marketing collateral is often thought of as "assembling the sample".  In some instances this step can be combined with fulfillment.

Fulfillment - The act of getting the samples into the distribution stream for final arrival in the hands of the sampler and/or the human who will be placing it into the samplers hands.  This often consists of transportation and logistics activities via mail, parcel post, or trucking.   

Research, Analytics, Metrics - This block speaks to the design and implementation of appropriate data collection in order to provide insights into how people responded to the sample as well as some measure of ROI on the program.  The range of options here include status updates, simple survey data collection all the way to closed electronic loop data based on actual sales data and beyond.   Such actions all attempt to measure the impact and result of the sampling activity.   

CRM & Marketing - The use of data and information collected as part of the sampling program to reconnect with and further market to the samplers who permit this activity to occur, by their explicit opt in for recontact.