In-store product sampling can generate immediate sales, increase brand recognition, and bring smiles to the faces of shoppers craving a snack. But new research from the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin–Madison further identifies the impact of product sampling, finding that such events can build long-term sales and are more effective than other forms of non-price promotions, such as special product displays.
The study by Qing Liu, Wisconsin School of Business associate professor of marketing, along with Sandeep R. Chandukala of Singapore Management University and Jeffrey P. Dotson of Brigham Young University, also reveals that in-store sampling produces what is known as a “category expansion effect”, leading to increased total category sales, not just sales for the sampled product.
“Retailers prefer sampling events to price-based promotions, such as coupons or temporary price reductions, because these events encourage consumers to try a product and build loyalty that won’t disappear once the price goes back up,” says Liu. “We were able to show in-store sampling can lead to a long-term sales lift, one that positively impacts other brands in the same category, and generates better results than simply relying on improved product display efforts.”
She adds, “These findings give store managers and brand managers important new information they can use to expand brand and category sales.”
The study looked at data from in-store product sampling in the categories of diet/health snacks, frozen snacks, salty snacks, and snacks from a large coffee shop chain. The focal products for in-store sampling included new product introduction as well as existing products from national and private-label brands.
In addition to identifying both an immediate (short-term) and long-term carryover effect for in-store sampling events, the study found that conducting the sampling event multiple times provides a sustained impact on sales that dissipates more slowly than after a single event. The findings also suggest that stores with a smaller assortment of products benefit more from holding sampling events than larger stores.
As part of their work, the researchers also examine optimal approaches that retailers can use to plan sampling events that take into account the frequency of the events, store selection, and location.
“In-store sampling is a highly effective form of quality promotion,” concludes Liu. “These experiential events add value to a product without altering consumer expectations of price, so sampling should be used more frequently by brand and category managers seeking to expand product penetration and sales.”
The paper, “An Assessment of When, Where and Under What Conditions In-Store Sampling is Most Effective” appeared in Journal of Retailing.