Grocery distributor United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) has partnered with Sampler, a digital product sampling platform, to enable CPG brands to send samples to consumers’ homes.
Toronto-based Sampler said Wednesday that the onset of COVID-19 more than 18 months ago led to the wholesale shutdown of in-store sampling, due to safety concerns. To help CPG companies continue using product trials as a marketing vehicle, Sampler’s online platform allows brands to deliver physical samples to targeted consumers, in effect bringing the in-store sampling experience to their doorsteps.
Sampler matches consumers to product samples by developing a profile based on their preferences and lifestyle attributes. (Photo courtesy of Sampler)
“Supporting innovation and new ideas has always been a part of our company DNA,” UNFI President Chris Testa said in a statement. “UNFI sells over 275,000 unique products from thousands of national, regional and local suppliers. Working with Sampler, we can help deliver a solution for brands wanting to generate greater trial and consumer awareness for their products. This new marketing vehicle can be customized by demographics and region, providing an ability to support product distribution to UNFI retailers.”
North America’s largest publicly traded grocery distributor, UNFI operates nearly 50 distribution centers and supplies more than 30,000 retailers in the United States and Canada, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, e-commerce retailers and foodservice providers.
Sampler said its direct-to-consumer platform — which has worked with more than 570 brands in 24 countries and has a reach of over 50 million consumers — is designed to make targeted, at-home sampling accessible, affordable and measurable for brands while helping them drive trial and awareness; collect first-party data; and receive consumer ratings, reviews and user-generated content.
Through its direct-to-consumer solution, Sampler reaches more than 50 million shoppers. (Photo courtesy of Sampler)
To receive product samples from participating brands, consumers first create a Sampler account and answer a set of profile questions to be matched with items that reflect their lifestyle and preferences. After consumers are matched with brands’ offerings. the sames are processed, packaged and delivered to their homes in a safe, contactless way. Consumers check their account monthly to see if new samples are available.
Brands can target consumers by region, demographics, lifestyle, personal interests and dietary preferences, among other attributes, according to Sampler. By drive email opt-ins and gathering ratings and reviews, CPG companies can unlock consumer insights to build effective remarketing campaigns to guide consumers through the journey to the point of purchase. The Sampler platform also enables brands to syndicate product ratings and reviews to their e-commerce websites.
A Sampler-commissioned study of more than 38,000 North American consumers found that 74.6% of respondents prefer shopping and trying products at home.
“Once the pandemic hit, traditional ways of handing out samples, like in-store demos, became nonviable,” Sampler CEO and founder Marie Chervier commented. “Because of this, we’ve been working hard to spread awareness about digital product sampling and make it accessible to brands of all sizes. With UNFI’s help, we can accelerate conversations about the power of digital sampling with brands across UNFI’s portfolio.”