Are You Sampling Products At Your Locations? You Should Try It.

by Paul Schlossberg
Posted On: 10/30/2019

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Have you ever sampled products at your locations? If you answered yes, that’s great. If your answer was no, you’re missing out an opportunity to sell more stuff.

There was a posting at cstoredecisions.com about product sampling: “Food Marketing’s Secret Weapon: Sampling.” The sub-headline read. “Successful foodservice marketers offer samples and let customers’ taste buds seal the deal.” That’s the point -- if they taste it, the odds of selling that item will increase.

One day while I was riding with a very skilled and highly productive route tech, she executed some sampling events on her own. At some locations, she handed out single-serve packs to a few shoppers (who were “regulars”) and asked them to share with their coworkers. At other sites, she opened retail packs (a new cookie was the featured item) and left the open package on a table with a sign: “New Product in Slot D-3.”

But, the “how to” of sampling in our industry might have to be different from what other food sellers do when they offer samples to their shoppers. We do have special circumstances to consider when it comes to sampling:

ŸProduct manufacturers use sampling in store to get shoppers’ attention to taste and, hopefully, purchase a product. Sampling at retail is driven by new product introductions. The people who are doing those demonstrations will encourage you to try it -- and then point out where the product is on the shelf. It will be nearby and often in a special display. 

ŸWe normally do not have anyone from our team available at sites to offer samples to our shoppers. Our route techs are usually at a site for a limited time.

ŸWhen a new product is introduced, we generally experience a huge volume surge. Why should we give away free samples when our shoppers want to buy new items (without lots of encouragement)? For our shoppers, the cost for a single-serve package is clearly less than what they would pay in a supermarket for a retail (multi-serving) package. That is one big reason why vending generates significant new product trial purchase activity for beverages, candy, cookies and salty snacks.

We have a lot of opportunities to feature products -- whether new items or established SKUs. Are you using social media to get shoppers’ attention focused on individual SKUs? If you offer a loyalty program, have you promoted specific products?

Let’s address “how to” sample in our industry. Remember that we have highly different operational situations versus traditional retail stores.

ŸMy recommendation is to pay more attention to sampling established SKUs versus new products. There will be exceptions. You’ll probably be able to recognize that some new items are so different that it would be worth the effort to set up a sampling program.

ŸIf you’ve been tracking your best (and worst) sellers, you might see that one or more of your better penny-profit SKUs has shown a decrease in sales. That would be a good time to think about sampling. Your loyalty program is one relatively uncomplicated way to sample. We’re not going to get into all the details here.

Use the random-free-vend to “push” a product you want to emphasize.

Sampling is not easy for our industry. That does not mean you should avoid trying it. If you want to sell more stuff, find ways to sample products -- whether it is a new item or a product you want to revitalize.

PAUL SCHLOSSBERG

Paul Schlossberg is president of D/FW Consulting, working with clients to merchandise and market products in impulse-intense selling environments, such as vending, onsite foodservice and convenience stores. Based in the Austin, TX, area, he can be reached by emailing to Paul@DFWConsulting.net, calling him at (972) 877-2972. The company is online at www.DFWConsulting.net