7 Ways to Get Product Samples to Consumers for DTC Brands

Product sampling is a time-tested way to get consumers to try new things. It’s been around since at least the 14th century. And consumers love it. Look at Costco’s continuing use of using product samples to make sales. It works.

These days, everybody’s talking about AI. Before that, everybody was talking about social media and online advertising. But as many direct to consumer (DTC) brands are starting to realize, sometimes it’s a lot simpler — and more effective — to just get your products in front of consumers and excite them to make a purchase. More and more brands are returning to the simplicity of letting their products sell themselves.

Today, we’re going to look at five ways to get your product samples in front of consumers.

The Problem with Over-Relying on Digital Marketing

The wizardry of AI supersedes even that of the automation, pixels, remarketing, audience targeting, and other digital marketing tools that have taken center stage for many marketers. 

But underneath the shiny surface, all the digital marketing tools share a common problem. You don’t really know what’s happening. You don’t really know who is seeing your ads. You hope the data you’re given about impressions, clicks, and conversions is accurate. You hope the targeting is accurate. And if sales show up, it’s kind of a relief. Because it’s really difficult to verify anything — even more traditional media. Just ask Nielson

The flip side of all that is well-known too. Scammers, bots, fake ads, AI-generated content that isn’t real but fools people into believing it is — we all know this stuff happens. And there’s no way to verify how much ad fraud is truly affecting your digital marketing data

Whatever happened to just getting your products in front of people? 

This is why, as Ad Age recently wrote about, many DTC brands are actually increasing their outdoor advertising and use of product sampling. 

Why Product Sampling Works

The benefits of product sampling extend far beyond simply making more sales in that moment. Here are some other ways giving away samples helps your bottom line:

Increased customer loyalty

There’s a psychological concept called reciprocity, and an Atlantic reporter explored this with regard to Costco’s use of product sampling. When you do something nice for someone, they feel an urge to do something nice in return. With product sampling, that ‘nice’ thing is to buy the product. 

That’s why product sampling increases customer loyalty. Once someone buys the product, if they like it, they’re more likely to keep buying it. And this is more likely to happen because they have a favorable impression of it, since you gave it to them for free.

Expand product awareness

Sampling reaches new consumers who wouldn’t otherwise have known about the product, because they weren’t looking for it. With an expanded audience, you increase the capacity to make more sales without the need for expensive advertising or discounts.

Plus, if you have any sort of campaign associated with the sampling, you can generate buzz. 

And, when people try a sample, they usually learn more about the product than if they just purchase it off the shelf or online. You’re giving consumers the ability to justify their purchase. 

Increase order size

When you give free samples, it tends to increase average order size. That means higher revenue. With discounts, you may actually be losing money you would have made anyway, because many customers would have bought the product either way. 

But samples produce positive feelings about your company and the consumer’s buying experience. This study confirmed the positive effect of sampling on overall sales. 

Increased product recommendations and reviews

These days, if someone likes a product, they often post about it on social media or even write reviews. 

With your sampling, you’re likely to generate positive word of mouth about not just that product, but your company as a whole. 

7 Ways to Get Product Samples to Consumers

Here are some of the most effective ways to deliver samples to a willing audience. And you can see a few examples of sampling campaigns here

1. In-store product samples

This is the tried-and-true method both consumers and CPG professionals alike are very familiar with. It’s not perfect, though, as distribution is inefficient and less targeted. 

For smaller businesses, if you have a store, or can partner with one, getting samples to customers in the store is a sure-fire way to get an immediate reaction. You’ll know what people think of it right way. You can measure the sales from the campaign very easily. Plus, if you get contact information of the people who try your samples, you can build your list and follow up with additional promotions. 

What does a campaign cost?

Get a custom-built sample campaign with real targeting data, ad creative, cost estimates, and distribution plans.

Use the Project Estimator

The best places to do in-store product sampling are either at the entrance, near a window that passersby can see, or in high-traffic areas within the store. 

2. Product demonstrations

These can be done in stores too, but they can also be done in shopping malls and even outside near high foot traffic areas. You can also do product demonstrations on TV or online video advertisements, and include a call-to-action where consumers can request a free sample. 

3. Send samples straight to the front door

With a targeted set of home addresses, you can send product samples right to people’s homes. Power Direct has used this approach many times, and it works great because consumers experience a double delight. They get something free, and they get a package. People like receiving packages, and when it’s also a free product, that’s even better.

There are two ways to use product sampling in a front door marketing campaign.

First, you can send actual samples as part of a door-to-door marketing campaign.

Or, you can send special coupons that consumers have to bring to the store to redeem for their free samples. This second approach saves money because you’ll only be giving samples to people who come to the store. Plus, for retailers, it gets them in your store, which means a dramatically increased chance they’ll make a purchase.

But the first approach means everyone who receives your front door campaign also gets a sample, so you have broader distribution. Plus, you can ensure a wider swath of your target audience receives a sample. It’s more efficient than in-store sampling campaigns.

Both ways work great and have their advantages, depending on your marketing goals for the product sampling campaign.

See how Power Direct helps plan, target, and execute a door hanger distribution campaign, including free samples.

4. Mailed offers

You can send postcards or other direct mail pieces that promote your free sample, and include a way for respondents to request it. That way, you only send samples to people who say they want them. The other benefit of this approach is, now you’ll have a new group of targeted customers who have identified themselves as being interested in your products.

Power Direct can help make your direct mail campaign more targeted and effective.

You could run this same type of campaign with your email list or your SMS list.

5. Online forms

You can also include offers for free samples right on your website. You can feature them on your home page, put them on specific product pages, or use them on your checkout page as an upsell — except here the upsell is free. 

That will lead to more people trying the product, and will have the additional benefit of helping more people follow through on completing their purchase, since they get a free sample as a bonus.

6. Send samples to loyalty members

If you have a customer loyalty program, you can make free samples a benefit of joining. Send samples to all your loyalty members — or perhaps only those who have been members for a certain amount of time — and they’ll be delighted at getting something new to try. 

This will encourage them to keep their membership, and will also lead to more sales of the new product.

7. Send samples to a nonprofit

Another smart way to get your samples out there is to partner with a charity. Whenever someone donates to the charity, they get a free sample of your product as a thank you.

This approach benefits the charity because they can use it to motivate more donations. And it will be warmly received by donors, because they will know the charity didn’t spend any money on the samples, that your brand is supporting something that aligns with their values, and that their free sample comes as a reward for doing something good. 

Want to Try a Product Sampling Outdoor Marketing Campaign?

Product sampling works. If you want to plan a campaign where you can pre-select the number of samples you’ll give out and decide who will receive them, using Power Direct is going to be your best option. 

Front door advertising in all its forms — door hanger distribution, flier distribution, and product sampling — are what we specialize in. And, you can create advanced audience targeting to make sure the addresses receiving your samples fit your ideal customer profile. We have data for hundreds of demographic and behavioral metrics plus proprietary methods of collecting advanced data that you simply can’t get anywhere else.

Get a free project estimate and receive a customized ad targeting report