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Sampling with the 5 senses to grow sales

Sampling with the 5 senses to grow sales

Sampling is a risk-free way for shoppers to try new products without committing to buy. Done correctly, it can have a massive effect on sales but hitting that sweet spot is harder than you might think. Shopper Behaviour Xplained has carried out extensive research in a wide range of retail situations to find the best way to sell your products. Using methods from eye tracking to film-based shopper reviews, we handle the specifics, analyzing customers in more detail than mere surveys.

The facts

A recent study provided good evidence of the benefits provided by effective in-store sampling. In ideal conditions, sampling can result in 656% more sales on the day, with a 90% increase still present in product sales after twenty weeks; that’s an increase of over 10% still happening five months later.

The increase in on-the-day sales can be explained by shoppers trying and buying, and then the long-term sales come as a result of one in 10 of those adding the product to their regular shop. Sampling makes consumers more open to trying new products, even ones that aren’t sampled. During sampling periods, overall shopping basket expenditure increases by a tenth.

Sampling, when it’s done right, has the potential to engage your shoppers and encourage trial purchases, potentially leading to a new regular purchase.

Food sampling: How you could be doing it wrong

When we think of samples, we probably all think of the same thing: a member of your staff handing out tiny portions of a product they know little to nothing about from a generic display (often without decoration barring a few boxes of the product) in tiny plastic cups or on blank paper plates.

This is not the way to do it. Our senses are affected by all kinds of different things and you have to consider them all when you’re running a sample promotion. Did you know, for example, that heavier cutlery makes food taste better? That’s something to consider when you’re handing out the plastic forks.

How to do it right

Sampling is pretty much the only sales tactic that can involve all five senses in the selling process. While you can appeal to fewer senses — some foods don’t have a distinct, appetizing smell, for example — the more senses you touch the bigger the impression your sample makes on the buyer.


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Sight: The product needs to be visually appealing and linked to the brand; ideally the materials used to present the product should be branded, including any paper plates or napkins. This links the product they are tasting with the brand imagery, imprinting the product in their memory and increasing your chances of landing a repeat sale.

Taste: Your sample should be presented in a way that gives it the chance to showcase its flavor. Are you providing a large enough taste that the consumer has the chance to really savor it or just a tantalizingly small piece? If they only get a hint of the product, they don’t always get a strong enough impression of the taste.

Touch: How does the product and the packaging feel? Is it flimsy and cheap or is the packaging appealing and satisfying in the hand? Do you have full-size products nearby that consumers can pick up and examine more closely if they want to? We have found that a product that is in the consumer’s hand is already most of the way towards the basket.

Smell: We all know the classic trick of piping the smell of baking bread around a supermarket, but does your sample have the right smell? Is it being presented in a space where the aroma can circulate, or somewhere where it will clash with other scents — for example, near a fish counter? As many as 30% of shoppers will smell products before buying them.

Sound: A little voice coaching can go a long way and an enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff member can have a surprising effect on the impression of your product. We have found that sound can have an astonishing impact on shoppers: By slowing down familiar music by around 6% shoppers spent an average 12% more time in-store.

Sampling can be a powerful tool for increasing brand awareness, but done badly it can be worse than useless. If you’re running in-store samples, make sure you’re doing them right!

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