If you are a business owner, you might have wondered whether offering free samples of your product to potential customers is a good idea. After all, giving away something for nothing can seem counterintuitive and can sometimes be costly, right? However, there are many benefits of providing samples that can outweigh the drawbacks and boost your sales in the long run.
One company that has found success with sampling is Wee Away, which offers odor and stain removing cleaners and grooming products for dogs and cats. Founder and CEO Adam Brady says consumers may have difficulty justifying the purchase of large bottles of cleaning products when they’ve had little success in the past finding products that work.
“We know our products actually work, which is why we decided to start developing two-ounce sample bottles,” said Brady. “Samples allow consumers to test out Wee Away products for no cost, and we believe that once they try the samples and see how effective they are, the consumer will be back to purchase more. Developing samples was a no-brainer once we perfected our sustainable, industrial-strength formulas.”
Wee Away’s approach is solid. Samples help show customers you’re confident enough in the quality or value of a product that you’re willing to “lose money” by letting them try it for free. It also shows that you care about helping them identify products they truly need and work for them, so much so that you’re willing to let them try something before they buy it.
By giving away samples, you also allow customers to experience the benefits and features of a product without any risk. If they don’t like the product, they don’t lose any money and don’t have to deal with the hassle of returning it. However, if they do like the product, a free sample can motivate them to run out and buy the product sooner than later.
Studies also show that people who receive samples are more likely to tell friends about the product or share their experience on social media than someone who has purchased a product. It’s the sentiment of, “Look how lucky I am, I got this awesome thing for free!”
For Wee Away, Brady says giving away a sample means customers “can come right back to purchase our larger bottles once they discover how effective the product is.”
Finally, giving away samples triggers a need for reciprocity on the part of the customer. You did something nice for them, so they’ll in turn do something nice for you – buying the product.
However, providing customers with samples shouldn’t be done without a strategy.
Don’t “reinvent the wheel.”
Before you start creating your own samples, check with product distributors and manufacturers to see if they have samples that you can give customers. Wee Away’s sampling program was so successful, they expanded their offerings.
“Initially, we offered our sample size in just one scent. But customer feedback has allowed us to understand that consumers like the option of trying a smaller sample size in a particular scent before committing to a full bottle,” said Brady.
Resist the urge to try to make a buck.
It might be tempting to offer a sample-sized product for a sample-sized price. However, this defeats the purpose and benefits of giving away free samples. You need to look at samples as part of a longer-term strategy, not a short-term opportunity to make a small sale.
Provide samples with the expectation of feedback.
By giving away samples, you can collect valuable information from your customers, such as their satisfaction level, preferences, opinions, suggestions and questions. However, you’ll likely only get this information if you ask for it. Therefore, give your customers a way to provide feedback on the sample. Something as simple as a feedback card you give out with the sample and ask them to return it to the store the next time they stop in, or a web address to take a short survey about the product.
Tailor your sampling program to your audience and your goals.
Before you start giving away free samples, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and who you want to reach. For example, do you want to increase sales of a new product, test the market for different product options or raise awareness of a particular brand among a specific segment? Depending on your goal, you may need to choose different methods and channels for distributing samples.
Choose the right type of sampling.
There are two main types of sampling: direct and indirect. Direct sampling involves face-to-face interaction with the prospective customer, such as having a stall in your store or at an event. Direct sampling could be as simple as handing out a sample of the product with a brief explanation of what it does and how well it does it or could include a demonstration of the product in action. Direct sampling can be done right in your store, at public events, or at a complimentary business site, such as your favorite veterinarian’s office. Indirect sampling does not require direct contact, such as including samples in online orders, mailing samples to customers’ homes or collaborating with other businesses to provide samples of each other’s products. Each type of sampling has pros and cons, so you need to weigh them carefully and decide which one suits your budget, product and audience best.
Make sure your samples are relevant and attractive.
Your samples should be representative of the product’s quality, features and benefits. They should also be appealing and easy to use. For example, if you want customers to try a new line of dog treats, be sure your samples are fresh, dog-tested favorites and the samples are properly packaged. A couple dog biscuits in an unlabeled sandwich bag isn’t going to cut it. You can also include instructions, coupons or other incentives to encourage customers to buy the full-sized, packaged product.
Tailor your sampling program to your product offerings.
Some products are easier to sample than others, depending on their size, shape, weight, durability, shelf life, packaging, etc. For example, food, treats, cleaning products and other consumables are usually easy to set up as samples. However, grooming and training tools might require more explanation or demonstration and likely can’t be “upsized” after the sample. If you give away samples of brushes, the customer now has the brush and they’re not likely to buy a second one. Also, keep in mind that certain services also lend themselves well to the “sample” philosophy. A 30-minute daycare session, 15-minute puppy training session, or “clean up” groom could set you up for a customer purchasing more of those services in the future.
Consider your budget and resources.
Be sure to calculate how much it will cost to produce, package, distribute, and promote your samples. You should also consider how many samples you can afford to give away, and how you will track their impact on your sales. You should also ensure you have enough inventory and staff to handle the increased demand that might result from sampling.
Brady added some additional advice for a successful sample program. “If you want to attract new customers through the use of samples, you have to be 100 percent confident that your products do what they’re supposed to.”
He added that educating staff is also key to a successful program and retailers should make sure their employees “are well-versed enough in the product line to be able to educate and recommend them to customers. Implementing training sessions is a great way to ensure store employees are knowledgeable about the brand and the benefits products offer. Offering sales materials, such as brochures, sell sheets and, if possible, videos to show demonstrations or even setting up a small area where demonstrations can be done in person, can also be extremely helpful.”
The post Is There Value in Providing Customers With Pet Product Samples? first appeared on Pet Age.