Sampling 3.0: Digitally Disrupting the Consideration Set
Sampling has long had its place in a marketer’s advertising arsenal, but the popularity of social media and our growing dependence on digital are creating new, innovative ways for marketers to disrupt the consumer consideration set.
Marie Chevrier, founder and CEO of Sampler, a SaaS solution that helps CPG brands manage and measure the digital distribution of promotional offers, discusses how marketers can use sampling effectively to drive brand engagement, influence the at-purchase decision, and increase market share.
In this webinar, you will learn:
- The most effective engagement drivers to influence the at-purchase moment
- How to integrate social into your brand’s path to purchase
- How technology is changing the way we shop
- Tips on how to run a successful sampling campaign
Fill out the form below to watch the webinar.
Jean-Pierre: Good afternoon and thank you for joining us at today’s session of Design Lounge. I’m Jean-Pierre Lacroix and I’ll be your host. And I’m very excited about having our guest, Marie Chevrier, who is a founder, innovator, a maverick on redefining sampling. Thank you for joining us, Marie.
Marie: Thank you.
Jean-Pierre: So talk a little bit about your company. What do you do?
Marie: So, our company’s called Sampler and we help consumer packaged good companies just to re-product samples online in a more effective way, so in a more targeted, measurable, and social way.
Jean-Pierre: You know, there’s a lot of sampling programs out on the marketplace, a lot of Catalina couponing and companies doing sampling in the stores. What made you decide to launch sampling? What kind of sampling do you do?
Marie: So I’m a marketer by trade and I’ve always found that product sampling was ineffective. So when marketers go in Dundas Square and distribute product samples there…let’s say you receive a sample. We don’t really know much about you. You pick up the sample, you go home. Did you purchase after the trial? Who are you? Where are you from? Brands don’t have that type of information. And that always bothered me, especially in a digital world where, if we were distributing product samples online, we could gather a lot more information about you.
So we started playing around with some of my clients and seeing how we could make that a little bit more effective, and realized there really wasn’t one place where brands could integrate a technology into their own re-marketing channels to encourage those that already love the brand to recommend it to a friend. And so Sampler’s really focused a lot on peer recommendation and allowing consumers who love a product to recommend it to a friend via social media.
Jean-Pierre: And so they are able to track who the sampler is, and can they track repeat purchase of the brand? Can they track all the way to the at-purchase moment in the store environment?
Marie: We do have some capabilities for allowing to track in store. Some of them are with a follow-up coupon. We could also do follow-up surveys to see where in the purchase intent the consumer is. So even if they’re still thinking about it, you can kind of gauge that through our customer surveys. But yeah, it’s really about allowing them…allowing the brand to bid on those consumers who already love the brand, that fit the target market to be the brand ambassadors for the product and increasing the number of conversions that way.
Jean-Pierre: You’re obviously a packaged goods marketer. You’re obviously applying a lot of that discipline and insights, as most marketers are. They tend to look at what is driving…what trends are driving the needs of customers and where are those hidden needs that you could fill a gap with your service Sampler. So what were the trends that were driving you deciding to start this business?
Marie: I think one of the trends I hear the most now from our clients is omni-channel. I don’t know if you’d agree. That’s kind of like the buzzword these days. But I think that what that means in layman terms is you need to start marketing to consumers in more than one way. So you can’t just rely on TV anymore. You need to think about hitting the consumer at retail, on e-commerce, on social media, on newsletter, and I think that that’s what more brands are trying to start measuring. So, for example, it’s really impactful for a brand to know that Judy, who just walked into a Walmart store, was actually looking up their product for potentially two weeks before online through one of the ads that they had put up. So this type of omni-channel strategy and understanding your customer across different channels is something a lot of brands are starting to look into.
Jean-Pierre: Where is Sampler the most effective? Obviously, there are omni-channel, there is online shopping, which is growing, but still at a very small percentage, it’s only 15% of sales was online. There’s a retail environment, obviously, a store environment. There’s pop-ups, you know, as another channel where a lot of retailers or packaged good companies are looking at…Pepsi, our client, have done a pop-up on Bathurst a couple of years ago and last year also. So where is Sampler the most effective? What channel in this omni-channel experience is it the most effective?
Marie: So the first channel we focus on, still our best-selling product, is Facebook actually. So we are a Facebook integrated application that allows your Facebook fans to recommend a product to a friend. One of the ways that’s been incredibly impactful for one particular brand who was working to get products out before the cold and flu season hit was really timeliness. So imagine running a national program across Canada distributing product samples. It’s a huge operation. But using our Facebook integrated application, they were able to distribute over 5,000 samples in just one day. Just empowering those that knew the brand to share the product sample with a friend. So when seasonalities hit a little earlier, like a cold and flu season that was unexpected, you’re able to use this turn-key solution to get samples into the hands of consumers at the right time and the right customers as well.
Jean-Pierre: So when you look at sampling, it’s really part of a brand experience. You’re allowing the consumer to try the product in their home. So what are the true benefits of sampling or you, Sampler? Specifically talk about the social part of that, social media part of that.
Marie: Sampling traditionally is for two things. It’s either to drive brand awareness with new potential customers, or to drive loyalty with existing customers. So let’s say you have a product introduction. You might wanna recommend that new line to an existing customer. So when it comes to product sampling online, I think the most important things you could get is the data behind it. So using Sampler, the consumer actually has to log in with an account which actually includes some Facebook information. So if you think about the information on a Facebook account, it’s really the most important information for a marketer. It’s demographic information, age, sex, location.
So now you have a consumer who’s opted in to receive a promotional message from you, a product sample. And potentially you could go as deep as knowing how many friends they have, where they’re from, what other retailers they follow, what retailers they follow, what other competitors they follow. And so the brands that are using Sampler wisely, are also using that to craft the marketing message that they send to that customer. So imagine, you think you’re a premium ketchup brand, but turns out you’re actually…all of the consumers that are sampling your product are actually fans of a lot of those private label brands. Well, potentially, your message to them will be a little different than if they were a premium type customer. So if you use intelligently all of the data that we’re using, you’re able to craft your message a little better, too.
Jean-Pierre: That leads me really to a point. Today, especially millennials, they want things customized to their individual needs versus, I think, mass market. The more you can customize the messaging to their lifestyle, the more it resonates with them, and the more, obviously, they pay attention. What is the capability…where do you see from sampling standpoint of being able to customize the messaging?
Marie: I think, like I said, a lot of the data that we’re able to gather with the consumer just logging in with their social information is a really good way of doing it. I’ve seen great campaigns where brands will actually put the face of the consumer on the chip bag and things like. I think that those little things definitely grab your attention and it’s a nice little touch that is easy to do with technology.
Jean-Pierre: When you look at sampling, and you look at the world of sampling in a way we see it today. Whether you see it on the corner, people handing out, you know…or it shows up on your doorknob at your house, you know, for shampoos, etc. When you look at those sampling approaches and your approach, what could a marketer expect from sampling? In other words, if I’m gonna invest this amount of money to sample, which is expensive to do, you know, what should be the expectation from the standpoint of purchase intent or sales growth, etc.?
Marie: Well, I think it’s important that we all realize that you need at least three to four touch points with the customer before you’re likely going to drive them to purchase. So what I want marketers to think is that a product sample is not directly going to lead into a sale. But if you do it smartly, and you get the consumer along the way to actually register to one of your re-marketing channels, whether it’s your newsletter, whether it’s your Facebook page, whether it’s any…an e-book, whatever it is. If you can get them to register to get another touch point from you, then you have an increasing chance of converting them to sales.
So I wanna push marketers to think about, “What’s my call to action when I’m receiving a sample?” And also not just giving it away, also getting something back from the customer. Whether that’s data, or whether that’s feedback, or a social action, it’s important that a customer gives back for a sample. They shouldn’t be fully free.
Jean-Pierre: Marie, as you know, most consumers go to the supermarket and they don’t have a shopping list. Great opportunity for marketers to disrupt their purchase behavior and, obviously, offer a brand either through strong shelf blocking, or great new packaging, or a sample that they had received in their home, or online, or through a friend. So how do we disrupt? How does sampling in your platform disrupt the current purchase behavior consumers, that path to purchase?
Marie: Definitely if the consumer receives a sample before, that’s great. There’s a lot of really great innovation though in-store that retailers are looking at and that suppliers are as well. One of the most exciting ones, I think, is actually on packaging scanning. So imagine you’re walking down the aisle and potentially you’re looking at a box and the box only has so much area for a description of the ingredients and stuff like that. There’s great technology out there that’s starting to extend the content a little further by allowing the consumer to see exactly where that product was actually produced. Was it produced with good ingredients? And all of that product journey all the way to the store. So I’m really excited about that. And that would happen with the mobile device, potentially with the retailer app, scanning directly on the packaging and extending your experience to digital. So you’ll see that I definitely am already thinking about how that could impact the digital offers that we offer. But yeah, I think that that’s really exciting.
Jean-Pierre: Do you see that technology benefiting or the linkage between sampling and virtual world? So in other words, you know, do you see that when individuals get sampling that they’re driving visits to the packaged good’s website?
Marie: Definitely. So there’s a lot of…some of our clients are already using QR code technology to drive to a survey after trial. I think that’s a really good way. Potentially a follow-up coupon that you could use digitally instead of needing to take the printed copy. There’s a lot of really fun ways that you could do that with your sampling strategy.
Jean-Pierre: One out of 10, now it’s 1 out of 20 new products succeeds. The other 19 fail. There’s a lot of investment made to new product launches and what is said in research is not what you can take to the bank, obviously. Consumers sometimes have very different perspective through…from research to actual real world purchase behavior. What is the value of sampling for new product innovation?
Marie: Every brand that I speak to tells me, “If they taste it, they’ll buy it.” And that’s something I hear often. And so I truly believe that product sampling is the best way to spread the word about a product.
Jean-Pierre: And so when you look at the network, you know, think of this now as you’ve got…you market a certain group of individuals from a social media standpoint. They then register to receive the sample. They receive the sample. How big does the network then become on how they refer that product to their friends? In other words, I call it the ripple effect, you know, that ripple. How big is the second and third circle of that ripple? Is it small, 20…you know, they refer the new product to five friends. And then when you look at those five friends like how big is that circle when you do these social media sampling?
Marie: We’ve done campaigns like that where we’ve actually had the opportunity to measure that for certain brands. I’m thinking of one especially that was a female hygiene product. Which was actually quite private to speak about. It was an alternative to your regular tampon. And so at first I was like, “I’m not 100% sure that women will go out there and recommend that to friends via social media.” But it was quite surprising. Because those that…those women that did use that alternative were quite proud of it because it was more eco-friendly, because it was better for them. And so they were sharing it quite a bit. And we did see that the maximum you could send was three and consumers were sending three at first in quite a good percentage. About 50% of customers would send it to the maximum. And then it would drop to typically two and then one. But there is definitely a ripple effect that is created. And consumers, we believe, are more likely to recommend it to a friend if it was recommended by a friend. Because if someone wanted to…if it was so good someone wanted to share it with you, you’re more likely to share it with others.
Jean-Pierre: So if I looked at it from a numeric standpoint, so one consumer trial will drive about five referrals. So in a campaign that you may have 10,000, those numbers are phenomenal.
Marie: The thing that’s even greater is that sometime…we also manage the inventory. So there probably would have been more, but the brand had planned for 20,000 samples. So then we’ve created demand. Because all of these consumers come back and are like, “Hey, I didn’t get mine. I didn’t get mine.” And that creates another conversation. So that’s also great.
Jean-Pierre: So what is the, I call it the fulfillment rate? In other words, when a consumer tries the product, what does that carry over to actually buying the product at retail?
Marie: So that is still hard to tell even with digital sampling. We’re getting closer, but it’s not something that’s 100% sure. What we do look at is increase in overall purchases. It would be very…it’s still very difficult for us to tie that directly back to that specific trial. But we’re working on it.
Jean-Pierre: A lot of retailers and packaged goods companies are really focused today on retaining customers, retain strategies. So retailers they know…Loblaws have PC Plus. They’re really working hard at making it hard, I call it stickiness, making it hard for consumers to leave their brand. And given the reason to increase their frequency or maybe their basket size. Do you see a role in sampling for the packaged good industry to do the same kind of retention benefits that the retails now own?
Marie: Definitely. I think it’s a really good strategy for making the customer feel important. We have seen a lot of great strategies where brands will introduce a new flavor, introduce a new product type, and ask those who are avid buyers of another product type to try it, and eventually, potentially recommend it. It’s important to ask them because they know your product well. And so I think it’s important to bid on them and offer them the opportunity to trial.
Jean-Pierre: When you think of that, and you think today…YouTube, and Vimeo, and Pinterest, and Instagram are now becoming the new currency of language for the new generations. They’re no longer tweeting. They’re taking pictures and posting them. You know, have you seen similar behavior, because you’re using social media on your sampling? Similar behavior…there’s image, photography and image video related…imagery of your product usage.
Marie: People are more and more visual and brands crave the products being in someone’s regular lifestyle in a lot of the strategies. So yeah, we do encourage consumers to share back using the product, and yeah, that’s been quite impactful.
Jean-Pierre: Is the sampling category growing or shrinking? And was it, you know…there’s only a limited amount of funds that marketers have. What funds is it taking away from? So the question is, is it growing or shrinking, and what funds is it taking? If it is growing, where is the revenues being taken from in order to fund your sampling programs?
Marie: I think it’s been pretty constant. I think traditional sampling has been around for years. And that percentage of sampling has always stayed there. I think though, it’s becoming more targeted. It’s becoming smarter. And so that allows brands to do more with just as much budget. So I don’t think anything is shrinking. I think they’re mixing it. So we see a lot of brands in the past that used to use…that product sampling came out of their PR budgets, but now product sampling is coming out maybe of their digital marketing budget. Maybe it’s coming out of their research budget. So it’s kind of being spread out across different channels once again so that they can distribute samples digitally, in person, potentially through some search marketing and on their email newsletter. So I think it’s being mixed across different strategies now.
Jean-Pierre: Well, you actually bring up an interesting point. When you look at sampling and you look at what you provide, how many of your initiatives are…well, I call it integrated strategy, where, obviously, they’re leveraging your services, Sampler, but they’re also doing high density street corner sampling. And maybe some mail drops sampling. How many of your clients are doing this integrated, or is it verticals? They’re working with you on Sampler and that’s all they’re doing.
Marie: They’re starting to use Sampler to do integrated marketing more and more. But I believe most of them are thinking about sampling with different approaches, not just one.
Jean-Pierre: Just one? So it’s more integrated?
Marie: Which mean encourage, yeah.
Jean-Pierre: So if you were to give advice to the audience here on, thinking, you know, if they haven’t done sampling before or if they’ve done sampling in a different way, what’d be like the four or five tips you would give them? The watch outs, the things that they should think about when they do their sampling program?
Marie: First off, pick a target. I think too many marketers don’t think enough about who they’re talking to and who they wanna talk to. Blanket sampling is not as impactful. Second, figure out what your key performance indicators are, so measure. And make sure…I’d say three, if you can, make it social. Because if you can extend the sampling so that it’s not just the person receiving that notices that the sampling has happened, then you’ve made…you’ve double the impact of your sampling program. There’s a lot of opportunities to play with others. Subscription boxes are good example about how you might put your sample in a subscription box with other brands. Sampler also does events where…that we call cross promotional programs where we team up five different Facebook pages. Where it’s brands that are non-competing, but all going after one particular audience and pooling each other’s audiences. I think playing well with others will make your sampling strategy a little bit less costly, too.
Jean-Pierre: What about using the data and the insights to drive purchase intent in the future?
Marie: Yeah, so yeah. That ties into measurable, but definitely have a call to action. So you definitely need to make sure that at the end of the sampling there’s something the consumer can do to give back to you.
Jean-Pierre: So, Marie, we’re gonna be wrapping this up and we’re just going to open up the lines for some questions by the audience. But if you had some…any insights or things you’d wanna share with marketers who are watching this show, what would be your recommendation or insights?
Marie: Just think about…just think about your ROI on product sampling, and I think that the best way about…the best way to increase your ROI is to bid on the right consumer and that’s on targeting. So you need to make sure that if you’re giving out a sample, you’re giving it to someone who’s likely to purchase. And you know who your target customer is, so just make sure it gets into those hands, and start thinking more critically about product sampling.
Jean-Pierre: Thank you very much. This is Marie Chevrier who is President of Sampler. And we’re gonna open up the lines now for questions and you’ll see at the bottom of the screen a phone number. Please call in. Love to have questions for Marie. And thank you again for joining Design Lounge.