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Are There Benefits to Retail Product Sampling?


“Costco has learned that when sampling is done right, the shopping experience becomes fun which draws people into the store in greater numbers. The products featured in a sampling campaign, in turn, see a significant spike in sales.” – Penn Jillette.


Retail product sampling is a marketing strategy that has been proven to enhance the customer shopping experience and can potentially improve product sales.

Thus, retailers can entice shoppers to try new products they might not have otherwise considered by offering free samples.

This promotional tactic is particularly beneficial for introducing new or unfamiliar products, as it reduces consumers’ perceived risk.

This article discusses the advantages of retail product sampling as a marketing tactic to enhance the customer shopping experience and increase product sales. 

What is Product Sampling?

Product sampling is the act of giving out products to potential customers to try at no cost.

Why Do Retailers Do Product Sampling?

The top three reasons why retailers use product sampling are:

    1. Product sampling Increases exposure (Brand Awareness).
    2. Samples allow consumers to taste or try a product, leaving them wanting more.
    3. Product sampling enables shoppers to leave the store feeling confident about their purchase. 


What are the Marketing Objectives?

Product sampling can have multiple objectives. However, its main purpose is to increase sales over the long term.

Sampling is a marketing strategy that allows potential customers to try a product before committing to a purchase.

Experiencing the utility of a product firsthand builds trust and confidence with consumers, increasing the potential of a sales conversion. 

How Effective Is Product Sampling?

Recent marketing studies have found that product sampling is effective in making new customers aware of products while simultaneously establishing a stronger connection with current customers:

  • 68% of consumers said that the free sampling persuaded them to purchase. (Marsh Supermarkets)
  • 83% said the sampling improved their shopping experience. (Marsh Supermarkets)
  • 35% of customers who try a sample will buy the sampled product on the same shopping trip. (Promo Bikes)
  • 88% of people would not have purchased the product without sampling it first. (Fizz Experience)
  • 58% of people would tell their friends and family about the new products they discovered through the sampling. (Fizz Experience) 

Product Sampling

“When someone does something nice for you, it creates an urge for you to do something nice in return. This phenomenon is called reciprocity—exactly what happens when your business offers free samples to customers.” – Elise Dopson. 

What Retail Companies Use Product Sampling? 

Costco Product Sampling

Costco allows shoppers to try products before purchasing them. This sampling practice has been proven to increase the likelihood of impulse buying and customer loyalty.

Product sampling at Costco helps introduce new products and clear inventory faster. Examples of samples include food items like cheeses, snacks, and drinks and non-food products such as cleaning supplies and beauty items.

The impact on Costco includes higher sales volumes, enhanced customer satisfaction, and a stronger brand reputation, as shoppers associate the store with a positive and engaging shopping experience. 

Starbucks Product Samples

Starbucks uses product sampling to attract new customers and encourage existing ones to try new menu items.

The Starbucks approach encourages repeat business by familiarizing their target audience with the company’s diverse product range.

Starbucks also uses sampling as an opportunity to gather customer feedback and improve new and existing products. Examples of samples include new beverages, seasonal drinks, food items such as pastries, and specialty items like coffee blends.

The impact on Starbucks includes increased customer engagement, higher sales of sampled products, and a stronger brand presence as customers are more likely to purchase items they’ve already tasted and enjoyed. 

Kraft Heinz Product Sampling

Kraft Heinz uses product sampling to introduce new flavors and create popular-hype around its salad dressings.

Distributing samples of Vinaigrettes, Twisted Ranch, and Bitten dressings to a targeted group of consumers, encourages shoppers to leave online  customer reviews and social media posts, generating user-generated content.

Kraft Heinz’s sampling strategy increases product visibility and doubles the expected product reviews, leading to a higher ROI and significant social engagement. 

Introducing Product Sampling in Retail Stores – 5 Tips

Tip #1: Identify Target Audience

Determine who your ideal customers are and tailor your sampling efforts to their preferences and needs. Understanding your audience helps in selecting the right products to sample and ensures a higher conversion rate. 

Tip #2: Strategically Place Sampling Stations

Set up sampling stations in high-traffic areas of your store. Position them near relevant product sections to maximize visibility and encourage impulse trials. 

Tip #3: Train Staff

Educate your employees on the benefits of the sampled products and effective engagement techniques. Well-informed staff can better explain product features and benefits, enhancing the sampling experience for customers. 

Tip #4: Offer Incentives

Provide small incentives, such as discounts or coupons, to customers who try the samples. This not only encourages immediate purchases but also builds customer loyalty. 

Tip #5: Collect Feedback

Use surveys or comment cards to gather customer opinions on the sampled products. This feedback is valuable for improving future product selections and understanding customer preferences. 


“Think of it as marketing the item: you want to spend money to attract new buyers that have expressed interest in it. You would be throwing away money if you just targeted people with zero interest in an item. Think of sampling in the same way.” – Ryan Zamo. 

Final Comments

Product sampling remains a highly effective retail strategy for boosting sales and enhancing customer experiences.

Moreover, by strategically targeting the right audience, training staff, and collecting valuable feedback, retailers can maximize the benefits of product sampling initiatives.

Implementing these tactics ensures a higher return on investment and facilitates greater customer loyalty.


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