Sell more stuff: Amazon And Free Samples. It's An Idea You Can Capitalize On – Now.

by Paul Schlossberg
Posted On: 1/10/2019

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  Paul Schlossberg
The folks at Amazon are pretty shrewd. According to news posted at Axios, they are working on a free sampling program. The headline from said it all for me: "Amazon's new ad strategy: Free samples based on what it knows about you."

Apparently, Amazon is looking at the sampling program as a way to generate more advertising revenue from brands. The Axios posting describes it this way, "…[advertisers will] pay to send free samples to consumers — all based on what the retail giant already knows they're likely to buy."

We (should) know that online retail, especially Amazon and the other "big" players, will analyze and study our online search and shopping activities. They do it with incredibly sophisticated tools – called algorithms.  It allows them to identify patterns and relationships. From that point, retailers (online in this case) can figure out when (the right time) to focus shoppers on the right products, pricing, promotion and advertising to sell more stuff. In this case, the word "right" means the most likely strategies and tactics to generate a sale (or multiple sales).  
Sampling has always been a powerful promotional tool for food, snack and beverage brands. Just walk through a Costco, Sam's Club or your local supermarket to see sampling in action. You'll also find non-food "sampling" being done; those efforts can be defined as an awareness tool – to get you interested in a specific product or service.

How often have you done sampling at locations you serve? Did you do it with retail packages left open for people to try? Did you leave out free packages for people to pick up? Did your route techs hand out samples when they were servicing location?  Did you offer free samples from vending machines or micromarket shelves?

There are a number of organized sampling initiatives using vending machines. We are aware of these promotional efforts here in the U.S. and internationally.

Going back to my snack-selling days, we knew that our vending channel sales were very important for new product introductions. We called it "paid sampling." Shoppers purchased the new product at full price – which meant that we sold it at full price. By comparison, sampling at supermarkets is an expensive proposition.

Think about how you can use sampling. Not just for new product introductions. Use sampling to revitalize established products when sales are slumping. Talk with the distributors, brokers and manufacturer reps who call on you. Seek their input and share ideas. Maybe you'll find a new approach.

Make sampling a part of your plans for 2019. Amazon is doing it. Why can't you? Sampling might be another step on the path to selling more stuff.    

» 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 at or (972) 877-2972 or