Sampling Delivers Long-Term Sales Lift

August 17, 2009
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New research from Schaumburg, Ill.-based marketing services company PromoWorks shows that sampling continues to boost sales - of both the sampled product and its parent brand - for up to 20 weeks afterward, making it a much more cost-effective tool than previously believed.

Study after study has shown that in-store sampling produces a significant increase in sales on the day of the event. But what about afterward? New research from Schaumburg, Ill.-based marketing services company PromoWorks shows that sampling continues to boost sales - of both the sampled product and its parent brand - for up to 20 weeks afterward, making it a much more cost-effective tool than previously believed.

"Marketers have long recognized the value of in-store sampling for new products to generate trial on the day of the event," said the authors of the "Report on In-store Sampling Effectiveness" - or “R.I.S.E.” - study. "However, day-of-event analysis ignores repeat consumer purchase behavior, and the absence of valid metrics to measure the extended benefit to the brand leaves the perception that sampling events are costly, thus making it an impractical tactic for long-term sales of existing products. The R.I.S.E. study now provides the needed metrics."

Conducted by independent research firm Knowledge Works, the study used loyalty-card data instead of conventional POS or panel data to determine which shoppers were in-store during a sampling event. The study then tracked these shoppers’ purchases over the next 20 weeks. Behavior then was compared to a closely matched control group that did not visit the store on the day of the sampling event but does shop that store regularly. Products sampled included a new item, a line extension and an established brand.

According to the study, the sampled products enjoyed an average 475 percent cumulative sales lift on the day of the event and a 58 percent average cumulative sales lift over the next 20 weeks in test households (those exposed to the sampling event) vs. control households, confirming a “long tail” theory posited by PromoWorks but never before proven.

"Having that kind of sales impact that long after the day of event makes sampling incredibly cost-effective," said PromoWorks vice chairman and co-founder Mike Kent. "This is really big news."

Perhaps even more surprising, however, was the benefit shown to be derived by the parent brand (non-sampled SKUs) of the sampled item. According to the report, sampling resulted in a 107 percent average sales lift for the brand franchise of the sampled item on the day of the event, and a 21 percent average sales lift after 20 weeks.

"We always suspected that sampling in-store might have a halo effect on that brand's franchise," Kent said. "If you're sampling chocolate Pop Tarts and giving out a coupon, we know that some people will switch to blueberry or strawberry, or a different package size or SKU, because the coupon is good on the entire franchise. But we had no idea that the franchise or halo effect was this powerful, and this extended over time."

Although the sampling events included in the study did not offer store brand products, "The expected outcome would be similar," Laurie Carlson McGrath, PromoWorks' vice president of marketing, told PL Buyer. She also noted an increase in the use of sampling by retailers promoting private label products. Among PromoWorks' retailer clients, approximately 15 percent of sampling events last year featured store brand products. Through the first half of this year, however, that figure jumped to 23 percent, with some retailers using 30 to 60 percent of their demos for private label items.

"With private label products in particular," she explained, "consumers always wonder whether they're 'as good as brand X.' The way to break through that concern is consumer engagement through product sampling. … [It] eliminates the risk associated with trying something new.

“There is no better vehicle out there that we have seen to stimulate consumer engagement,” she added.

The study also showed that in-store sampling both drives repeat purchases and delivers new buyers. Over the 20 weeks post-event, it revealed, average cumulative first repeat purchases of sampled products and their parent brands were 11 percent and 6 percent, respectively. Average cumulative new buyers for sampled products reached 85 percent, and 23 percent for the brand franchise.

In addition, the report said, in-store sampling increased the size of participating consumers' shopping baskets by 10 percent, indicating the practice leads to incremental growth and does not - as some have suggested - cannibalize other items within the brands' own franchise.

For more information or to read the study in its entirety, visit

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