Retail Foodservice

Shoppers Signal Support for Return of In-Store Sampling

8 in 10 consumers interested in these one-to-one experiences, Advantage Customer Experience survey finds
cheese sampling
Photograph: Shutterstock

Nearly a year and a half since COVID-19 concerns shuttered in-store sampling of food and drinks in grocery, the offering is beginning to make a comeback—and to the delight of shoppers.

Eight in 10 consumers, plus 9 in 10 club store members, are interested in these one-to-one in-store experiences, according to Shopper Interest in Sampling Runs High, a report based on a July survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults by Advantage Customer Experience, a division of Advantage Solutions.

“As safety protocols continue to emerge and familiarity with the ‘new normal’ sets in, we are seeing a build in return of one-to-one experiences and watching shoppers feeling comfortable to engage,” said Andrea Young, president of Advantage Customer Experience. “People still love human contact and the experience of trying new things, especially when there’s no cost and no risk involved.”

While trial at 47% is the most popular choice for what shoppers like best about in-store sampling, discovering new products (39%) is not far behind followed by the chance to get something for free (24%), the survey found.

And for those interested in sampling, the chance to try before they buy remains a powerful influencer on the decision to make a purchase, with nearly 9 in 10 (87%) saying if they enjoy a sample, they’re likely to buy the product during that store visit, according to the survey. Nearly as many (78%) say they’re likely to buy the product during a later visit to the store, and 6 in 10 (58%) are likely to pick up the product at another store.

But with COVID still prevalent and the delta variant raising additional concerns, more consumers (89%) do express a higher interest in samples that are individually packaged vs. the 68% who said they would sample an unwrapped food item, the survey found. Meanwhile, 82% of consumers said they would try a sample cooked in front of them, and 77% said they would try a nonfood product sample.

The Club-Store Factor

Advantage Customer Experience finds that club store members are especially engaged shoppers when it comes to in-store sampling. While one-fourth (24%) of adults say they like discussing a product’s attributes with someone before they buy it, 37% of club store members say they like this type of one-on-one interaction.

Club-store members are also more likely to enjoy sampling items they’ve previously purchased (51% of club-store members vs. 45% of all adults); to buy a different product made by the brand they’ve sampled (39% vs. 31% of adults); and to say seeing an item sampled reminds them they wanted to buy it (39% vs. 31% of adults).

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