Natural Foods Merchandiser

New research proves sampling is effective

A new study shows that sampling works: One-third of customers who try a sample buy the product in the same shopping trip, and 58 percent said they would buy the product in future store visits.

A new study shows that sampling works: One-third of customers who try a sample buy the product in the same shopping trip, and 58 percent said they would buy the product in future store visits.

The Product Sampling Study, conducted by Arbitron research firm earlier this year and released on Monday, analyzed the shopping habits of 1,857 people age 12 or older. Researchers found that product sampling successfully reaches 70 million consumers every quarter, and encourages 47 percent of people who had previously never heard of a product to buy that product in the future.

"This study enforced that the sampling approach is both effective in making new customers aware of products while also establishing a firmer identity with those consumers who have considered the product before," said Carol Edwards, Arbitron's senior vice president of sales for out-of-home media, in a statement.

The Arbitron study complements a 2006 study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia, Catholic University of Portugal and the Institute of Economics in Croatia. The researchers surveyed 354 shoppers at a midwestern U.S. grocery chain and found that:

  • Shoppers are more likely to purchase higher-priced products after sampling than less expensive products.
  • Sampling is most effective in reducing the risk associated with buying new or non-national brands.
  • Shoppers will buy "hedonistic," or specialty, products without a coupon after sampling, but most often require a sample and a coupon to buy a utilitarian product.
  • Shoppers want useful, educational product information with their samples rather than bells and whistles. "Efforts to create a festive and pleasing sampling experience will have little to no impact on purchase," researchers wrote.

For naturals retailers who don't have "enough time or money to staff as many sampling stations as we might like," Allen Seidner, partner with Good Earth Natural Foods store in Fairfax, Calif., recommends "passive" demos, or unstaffed sampling stations.

"I see good results every time we do a passive demo," he said. "For the wholesale cost of a bag of chips and a half pint of guacamole, plus a few minutes of my time, I can generate an added $35 in guac sales."

Seidner believes a successful passive demo station should be properly signed and attractively presented, and be spruced up every 10 to 15 minutes. It's also key to offer the sampled product for sale immediately adjacent to the sampling station, he said.

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