Does in-store sampling work?

Until now, the majority of studies on in-store sampling effectiveness have only come through consumer surveys that revealed consumer intent, but no hard evidence of actual purchase behavior. While POS data is available, it provides only a glimpse of behavior at a total store aggregated level and only includes the “day-of-event” period and possibly a very short post-event window. Based on feedback from retailers, marketers and consumers, we believed that sampling had a much longer term impact on consumer behavior, as an in-store event is truly one of the last one-to-one human engagement opportunities for a brand. We hoped to prove that in-store sampling has measurable impact on trial, repeat and new buyers at the sampled item level as well as the brand franchise level beyond the day of event.

PromoWorks commissioned an independent research study that revealed a more comprehensive understanding of sampling’s effectiveness. Titled R.I.S.E. (Report on In-Store Sampling Effectiveness), this is just the beginning of work in this area. As a result of the study, there is now a method to specifically measure how consumers are impacted by a PromoWorks sampling event by examining frequent shopper data 20 weeks beyond the day of event as well as looking at sales lift, trial, repeat purchases and new buyers. Here’s what we learned through this study.

In-store sampling drives trials and sales.The average cumulative trial for the sampled items was +58% over 20 weeks. Sampled items in multiple categories showed an average +475% cumulative sales lift on the day of an event.

In-store sampling impacts sales in ways never thought possible. Our research also uncovered that in-store sampling increases sales of established products and line extensions, as well as new products, for many weeks following. The study also found in-store sampling lifts sales of the entire brand franchise in addition to the sampled brand.

In-store sampling drives additional repeat purchases. The average cumulative first repeat purchase was +11% for sampled products and +6% for the brand franchise over a 20-week period. In-store sampling drives sales for existing products and line extensions. The sales lift for the existing product sampled was +177% for day of event and +57% after a 20-week period. The sales lift for the line extension product sampled was +919% for day of event and +107% after a 20-week period.

In-store sampling drives brand franchise trial and sales. The sampling was found to have a significant impact for the parent brand of the sampled products with +107% average sales lift on the day of event and +21% average sales lift after a 20-week period. The average cumulative trial for the brand franchise was +19% over a 20-week period.

In-store sampling delivers new buyers to the sampled items and to the brand franchise. The average cumulative new buyers was +85% for sample products and +23% for the brand franchise over a 20-week period.

In-store sampling increases the average household shopping basket size. As a result of the sampling event, the involved consumers’ overall shopping basket increased +10%, as compared to the average frequent shopper basket in the participating retailer. This suggests sampling contributes to incremental growth and does not cannibalize other items within the brands’ own franchise.

In-store sampling is cost effective. The study proves in-store sampling impacts sales long after the day of event, making it incredibly cost effective. By using frequent shopper data, the actual sales impact of the in-store sampling can now be measured. Over the 20-week period, the sampled items saw an average cumulative sales lift of +74%. As a result, in-store sampling’s cost effectiveness when applied to all of sampling’s benefits over time is extraordinary.

The study was conducted by independent research firm Knowledge Networks-PDI (KN/PDI) and is among the first to utilize frequent shopper data to follow consumer behavior for an extended period after the day of the sampling event to test the impact on sales. KN/PDI implemented a matched panel test and control research design using frequent shopper-based household panel data from its National Shopper Lab of more than 16 million frequent shopper households.

As retailers and marketers look for every opportunity to get brands closer to the consumer, one of the most obvious marketing tactics—in-store sampling—is now proven to deliver a return on investment never imagined. To learn more, a comprehensive analysis of the study and its findings can be found at

John Stermer is executive vice president of sales and marketing for PromoWorks, a marketing services company based in Schaumburg, Ill. The firm represents more than 400 consumer brand manufacturers and national retailers.



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