Digital Product Sampling Vs. Traditional In-Store Sampling

82% of consumers look up the internet before making an in-store purchase.

Arbitron and Edison Media Research confirms that 35% of customers who sampled a product purchased it the same day. 26% of them bought it immediately.

Engagement is a priority in any business. The direct marketing technique of Product Sampling is well-known for fostering engagement. Leveraged by the FMCG sector, it involves distributing samples to a targeted audience.

But why would a brand want to distribute free samples? Is it to increase product familiarisation? Or boost brand loyalty and advocacy, and improve sales? Well, yes! The idea is to acquaint the consumer with the product and increase their propensity to buy it. It is to make existing customers continue using a product and nudge them to advocate the brand. This impacts sales. 

Brands have always relied on in-store sampling to increase product awareness among consumers. But as the range of Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) evolves, so do consumer expectations. More brands are discovering the benefits of experiential marketing. What used to be an in-store sampling space inside a grocery store has shifted to Digital Sampling.

The pandemic has affected the CPG industry. It has influenced buying patterns due to social distancing and safety norms. CPG brands are now reaching out to consumers through digital sampling. They are partnering with product sampling agencies such as Samplrr, offering Digital Sampling. But why should brands include digital product sampling in their marketing strategy? What are the critical differences between Digital Product Sampling and Traditional in-store Sampling? Is Digital Sampling effective? What are the benefits? Let us dive straight and find out.

Key Differences Between Digital & Traditional Product Sampling

There are crucial differences between digital and traditional product sampling. In both cases, the consumers are given product samples to try before making a buying decision. Targeted marketing strategies are intrinsic to both digital and traditional product sampling approaches. Both need data to retarget and improvise marketing strategies should the need arise. 

But all the negatives of traditional product sampling prove positive for digital sampling. The digital method is customer-based, efficient, and accurate. 

In-store product sampling allows consumers to engage with a product. It helps familiarize themselves with a specific brand before making a buying decision. It enables them to get acquainted with a product before they buy it. In today’s landscape, brand familiarity is pivotal.

Grocery store activations, events, or direct mail, have been traditional sampling methods. This is how CPG brands get products into the hands of as many consumers as possible. This method works and boosts sales. Yet, this method is replete with challenges such as consumer targeting and tracking. 

Brand marketers struggle to know about those stopping by at the demo table or the sampling stand. Whether the sample was given to the right target audience, would get reviews or not is uncertain. With the consumer walking away, brands lose track and the insights that come along. 

But, Digital Product Sampling relies upon data and insights. It enables brands to target consumers, track them, and re-market products. Through digital sampling, brands target audiences and send them samples through the mail.

Brands can now reach consumers with a lifestyle that matches the product sampled. It increases the potential purchase rate. Traditional sampling is low on cost on a per-sample basis. But there is too much wastage of product and money due to the absence of specific targeting. Yet, in the digital model, the cost per sample is high, but so is consumer quality.

From our experience, we know that traditional product sampling has a conversion rate of 1%. But in the case of digital product sampling, it is anywhere between 10-15%. It is despite a high upfront investment, customer acquisition, and execution costs. 

Let’s dive deeper into the differences between digital and traditional product sampling:

  • Target Audience

The targeted group in the traditional method of product sampling is indeterminate. There is no way to prove that the product sampling counter set up inside a store has found its target audience. That, the samples were given to the right potential customer. 

By contrast, all customers are chosen based on their AI algorithms’ in the digital method. Brands are, thus, assured that their product samples are in the hands of the right target audience.

  • Resource Wastage

In-store product sampling has a lot of uncertainty about meeting the right target audience. The amount of resources spent on sampling is entirely unreasonable. The amount of time, energy, and budget spent on handing out free samples outweigh the impact on sales. 

In digital sampling, the customer acquisition and execution costs are higher. But it is also more cost-effective in terms of ROI.

  • Customer Relation

In traditional sampling, once the consumer walks away, the connection is lost. But in the digital sampling method, the brand acquires extensive data about the consumers. It eases the complex decision-making process about the subsequent marketing campaigns. This keeps their customers satisfied.

  • Real Feedback

The feedback that consumers provide to the salesman behind the counter is unreliable. They barely have the time to process the product sample thoroughly. There is no way to ensure that their feedback is accurate. There is no database of information. Nothing reflects their lifestyle that marketers can correspond to their target audience.

In digital product sampling, the potential customers test the product samples from the comfort of their homes. It enables them to write genuine reviews and ratings without hurrying.

How Does Digital Sampling Work?

GEP whitepaper lists ways to offer virtual retail experiences and samples to consumers. Among these are free inserts to surprise and delight the consumers. Freebies tagged along with online orders build an immediate rapport with the consumers. Coca-Cola, for instance, delivered free samples of its new energy drink to consumers.

Customers also receive samples when interacting with contactless vending machines using their smartphones. The direct-to-consumer websites of CPG brands aid in personalizing the brand experience. They bypass the retailers and reach the consumers directly. 

The beauty industry isn’t far behind. It counts heavily on product sampling. Brands such as Smytten have employed digital product sampling effectively. Another leading beauty brand introduced a fully interactive digital catalog. They offered the customers’ video reviews and makeup tutorials by influencers. 

Some brands have also introduced virtual try-on using augmented reality. It enables customers to test out beauty products before buying. This strengthens the case of digital product sampling.

What are the Merits of Digital Product Sampling?

Taking a leap from traditional to digital product sampling strategies is not easy. But there are substantial breakthroughs to prove that benefits outweigh the investments involved.

Key benefits include:

  • Identifying the exact target audience, 
  • Creating a personalized experience that drives e-commerce purchases,
  • Inspiring user-generated reviews and ratings on social media,
  • Integrating ratings and reviews across e-commerce platforms, 
  • Fostering brand loyalty through direct consumer engagement,
  • Ensuring the right product is placed in the right hands, and
  • Tracking consumer’s product experience across multiple channels.

The fight against freebie hunters has shown tremendous results. Consumers fill out surveys to help brands understand the motivation behind product trials. Brands can now comb out the freebie hunters.

Digital product sampling has paved the way for brands to be connected with consumers. It helps them gain deeper consumer insights. Brands capture consumer profiles of those who undertake product trials with online targeting. It makes remarketing easier.

Why Should Brands Opt for Digital Product Sampling Strategy?

Digital sampling allows brands to target specific consumers. It keeps the conversation going with existing customers and emerging audiences. It enables brands to take their consumer engagement efforts to take it up a notch. It results in fostering lasting brand adoption and advocacy. The brands that do not incorporate the digital sampling strategies are left behind.

Challenges of Digital Product Sampling

While digital sampling has proven benefits, there are apparent challenges as well. Digital product sampling requires high investment for events, operations, and distribution. 

Secondly, there is a limit to consumer insights which is, more often than not, delayed. Once the samples reach the consumers, it is challenging to track those who have tried out the sample. Marketers have to wait for data from retailers, distributors, and market research agencies. Getting feedback on time is challenging. It is another challenge to target the right set of consumers for the next sampling exercise. 

Without sustained engagement, positive feedback and advocacy seem like a matter of chance.

Why Collaborate With a Product Sampling Agency?

Getting your product samples noticed is quite an endeavor. The market is oversaturated with choices. The beauty segment is plagued with highly competitive brand products. The concept of product sampling originated as a way to entice a customer into making a purchase. But eventually, it was acclaimed as a sales tactic. 

Brands approach sampling in a way that makes it a memorable experience for the consumer. Collaboration with product sampling agencies such as Samplrr can make a difference. 

Businesses increasingly focus on engaging and communicating with digital consumers using digital channels. It is an evolutionary act to replace traditional product sampling methods with digital. 

The most efficient product sampling agencies work with teams on-premises and off-site. They strategize to influence consumers with sampling. If you are looking to collaborate with a sampling agency, make sure they understand the psychology of product sampling. Make sure they have a portfolio of case studies that demonstrates campaign development methods.

The sampling campaigns at Samplrr aim to increase the demand for a product. It enables brands to gain direct marketing insight as a result of the sampling process. Samplrr helps its clients get on platforms such as Dunzo, Milbasket, Swiggy, Grofers, Box8, Bigbasket, and more. The agency delivers meaningful experiences and helps marketers harness the power of data. This helps businesses become more efficient.

Is In-Store Sampling Coming Back Post The Pandemic?

In the current scenario, health and safety are a priority. It compels consumers to rely on online reviews and digital content to buy products. But whenever in-store sampling makes a comeback, it is likely to assume a different form. Potential customers might receive packed samples to be later tested at home. But brands cannot afford not to act and enjoy digital sampling opportunities.


Product sampling can be a compelling strategy to boost sales when properly done. But relying completely on traditional avenues can impede the impact on the consumers. Traditional product sampling lets buyers actually experience the brand. But digital product sampling is the future of sampling. It aggregates valuable consumer data meant for re-marketing strategies.

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