Choose your free sample


As I perused the aisles of a brand-new grocery store in my neighborhood, I was amazed at the number of free samples that were available. In each case, the store had a friendly staff member on hand to greet passers-by and offer a product sample, which I understand is a proven way to encourage people to try new items.

Despite the impressive logistics and presentation, I didn’t accept any of the free samples, since none of the items really appealed to me. But this made me wonder: is there an alternate approach that would encourage more sampling across a wider customer base?

In a perfect world, retailers would just pool up the product sampling budgets, and give shoppers coupons that could be redeemed for any item in the store. Of course, this wouldn’t make economic sense, since the brands that pay for sampling campaigns don’t want those funds going towards other products. But in special situations — like a grand opening or pre-holiday shopping period — I would be very curious to see how an open approach to product sampling influences consumer purchase decisions and total revenues for the retailer.