Free Product Sampling: Is It Going Digital?

Digital coupons and rebates open up new avenues for product sampling at the point of purchase.

Product sampling is the practice of brands offering consumers trials of their products, and it remains an essential strategy for CPG marketers to win new customers. But the logistics of sampling have become increasingly difficult to execute. Rising postage costs have made sample delivery prohibitively expensive for most products. Live in-store demos have been marginalized due to high demo fees, labor shortages and the pandemic’s limitations on in-person service. Shoppers love “free,” and when brands can offer shoppers the surprise and delight that comes with complimentary tastes and trials on new products or line extensions, consumers can discover new favorites without risking their cash. But given all the restrictions and cost implications, what is a brand to do? 

Thankfully, there’s a secure, targetable and broad-reaching new version of product sampling made possible through the digital world. Digital sampling through online promotions and rebates allows brands to target consumers with an offer for the full value of a particular product. Not only can this tactic drive redemption numbers and repeat purchases, but it works for perishable, refrigerated and frozen brands whose products aren’t easily sampled through traditional methods. Plus, by using digital coupons instead of paper ones, offers can be tied to loyalty cards or mobile phone numbers to eliminate the worry of fraud or abuse. 

Interested to learn how this could play out? Let’s dive deeper.

How Can Digital Coupons and Rebates Benefit Advertisers? 

Free product sampling has always been popular with consumers. After all, who doesn’t like free stuff? But for advertisers, it can be expensive to set up live in-store demo booths and distribute sample products through direct mailers. Traditional sampling also lacks the level of targeting that’s available through digital advertising. Even so, product sampling is possibly more important now than it ever was, especially with the recent growth in alternative foods. For example, consumers who are hesitant about trying plant-based, meatless or dairy-free items might be willing to try these products if they get a free sample first. 

So, what advantages do digital coupons and rebates provide? First of all, since these offers reside on either the retailer’s offer gallery or Quotient third-party partner sites, the digital method of delivery dramatically reduces the opportunity for fraud that brands can see with high-value printed coupons. Digitally powered coupons and rebates also can be turned off and on programmatically in the event of over-redemptions or stock shortages, giving advertisers additional layers of protection. 

Digital coupons and rebates present a no-stress option for consumers to redeem and for advertisers to execute on a national scale. Before running a sampling campaign, CPGs can plan ahead to ensure there is enough product on hand to mitigate the risk of an out-of-stock situation. Digital sampling can also be set up to be redeemed at the point of sale, opening sampling up to a wider array of products that otherwise wouldn’t be conveniently served up or shipped out. Plus, it’s more cost-effective for advertisers to offer rebates on existing (perhaps smaller-sized) products rather than creating a new sample size for distribution—not to mention the lead time that goes into customizing products. This solution also works great for smaller, emerging brands that don’t have the infrastructure or resources to execute an in-store sampling campaign. 

And because these coupons and rebates are digital, they’re also highly targetable. When paired with shopper loyalty IDs, they can be aimed at competitive brand buyers, lapsed buyers, category purchasers and more. Advertisers can also distribute follow-up coupons to that same shopper to build retention over time—something that’s usually not possible with other methods of sampling. By understanding product purchasing cycles and offering a rebate followed by a series of well-timed coupons, brands can create a continuity program that has the potential to change shoppers’ behavior over time. For CPGs, that is huge!

What Comes After Redemption? 

Another important benefit of using coupons and rebates for sampling is the opportunity for post-campaign measurement. As with other digitally powered tactics, results of these offers can be tracked down to the audience level. And because they’re tied to store loyalty IDs, brands can retarget consumers after they’ve redeemed the coupon or rebate, opening the door to future campaign efforts as well as tracking the incrementality of the campaign. 

All in all, product sampling through digital coupons and rebates is another exciting example of the innovations happening right now in the promotions space. Today’s consumers are motivated by value-based messaging, and we’re seeing brands use creative new strategies to connect with them in relevant ways. 

Are you interested in driving new trial and market share for your brand? Send a message to our friendly team of experts at [email protected] to get the conversation started.