Sampling Marketing – The Complete Guide

Oh, the samples, the little gifts that help justify any Costco membership. You can get everything from hot pizza bites to smoothies to hand lotion at a pass-through.

Sampling Marketing of Edamame

And don’t get me wrong, this strategy is an incredible tactic that can Increase in sales, in some cases, up to 2,000%, But there’s more to a sample marketing strategy than just flashy snacks and perks.

Product sampling marketing offers benefits for brick-and-mortar companies, online B2C and B2B brands, and everything in between. You can increase your reach, increase customer loyalty, and ultimately increase conversions and decrease churn rates. Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Keep reading to learn how sampling marketing can help your company.

In this article we will discuss:

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This can appear in a variety of forms, from Sephora’s free gifts with purchase to HubSpot’s 14-day free trial.

Sampling Marketing.  Allowing your customers to try your product before making a purchase decision.  This could include giving away samples of your product or a free trial of your service.

Why sampling marketing works

The strategy behind sampling marketing is rooted in psychology and behavioral economics. Giving a customer a glimpse of your offering can show them its benefits before they buy.

Here are three key benefits of sampling marketing that are backed by research.

1. Reciprocity

As Dan ArielyThe modern-day King of Behavioral Economics at Duke University says,Reciprocity is a very strong instinct. If someone does something for you, you feel a surprisingly strong obligation to actually do something back for them.

At Costco, the effect of this principle is clear. The graph below shows the direct translation from sample to purchase.

sampling marketing;  Percentage of buyers who purchased the item being sampled by product

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The same principle holds true for the digital space as well. Giving a potential customer the ability to test the service before committing creates a similar sense of mutual obligation.

When they build a relationship with your brand, they have one more incentive to complete a transaction, which increases the number of sales for your brand. Then you can build a lasting relationship with users that will keep them coming back.

2. Customer Loyalty

Professor Miguel Gomez of Cornell University conducted a Study About wine tasting.

The results showed that customers who enjoyed the tasting were 93% more likely to spend the extra $10 at the winery. They were highly likely to purchase from the business again in the future.

This study advances the notion that a free sample not only encourages a first purchase, but it also fosters a sense of loyalty to the company.

Customer loyalty is an essential tool for growth. In fact, B2B companies with referrals experience 70% higher conversion rates, This sense of trust will drive customer retention of your business and help you reach out to new customers equally.

3. Spread of Loss

Sample marketing works because we have an innate human fear of physical harm, no matter the size. Behavioral Economist Award Daniel Kahnemandevoted much of his study to this notion and claims that “The concept of loss aversion is arguably psychology’s most important contribution to behavioral economics.”

Here, when someone gets a free trial or sample, they are made to feel like they own that product. Once it is in their possession they become more reluctant to lose it. According to Kahneman, the pain of losing is almost twice as strong as the joy of having.

Sampling Marketing Best Practices

How much can I give for free? How do I implement these free samples into my marketing strategy?

You have to answer these age-old questions. But not to worry. These best practices can help you build the right sampling marketing strategy.

Find the sweet-spot quantity.

You need to find the sweet spot for your free offer. Don’t give away too much that the customer ends up needing to buy your product. Don’t give too little, or they won’t get a chance to thoroughly test your offering.

Database detected that over 40% of B2B SaaS companies have a free trial of between 14-29 days.

Databox How long should your free trial be?;  sample marketing strategy

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This timeline is often a sweet spot for software offerings. That’s long enough for users to see how the product can affect their bottom line. However, this is not long enough for users to complete everything before the trial expires.

Time-based models will not work for physical products. For these items, Shopify shares, “Offer a sample they can use at least two or three times … and customize your sample offering to fit the consumer profile.”

For example, an online news business may offer an average of five articles a month before asking for a subscription payment.

Bolster new product launch.

The best way to spread the word about a new product is through the users themselves. Product sampling increases the number of users and sales, along with promoting user-generated content marketing (UGC).

When these lucky users try a product, they are more inclined to review and advertise it on their own because of their innate sense of reciprocity,

Today, 89% of shoppers check reviews before making a purchase, Let people know about your new product through user generated reviews to take advantage.

Sampling Marketing, Data Showing Customers Trust Product Reviews and UGC Informs Buying Decisions image Source

Use feedback to inform product development.

What better way to understand how your product works for your users than by asking them directly? By giving them a sample of your product for free, without any conditions, they can honestly try the product.

Take advantage of this opportunity to collect genuine feedback, user reviews and ratings.

Find ways to tap new markets.

Over 70% of customers look for attitudes that reflect their ownWhich means you need to find ways to market to specific target demographics.

Through product sampling marketing, you can find your footing by speaking to these market segments in a relatable way with your UGC strategies.

sample marketing example

There are thousands of stellar examples to guide your product sampling journey. Here are three case studies to inspire you.

warby parker

Sample Marketing Example, Warby Parker

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Warby Parker is a prime example of how sampling marketing allows the user to try before they buy. The modern, sleek and trendy eyewear company allows you to choose from any five frames to try on at home for free.

Then, after five days, the customer can buy what he likes best. The rest are shipped back (absolutely free of charge).

After five days of wearing glasses that make me feel like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City, I don’t even want to put them back! Warby Parker uses product sampling marketing exactly as it was intended — to give me a taste of the life I could have, but take it away before I get too comfortable in my Bradshaw era.

What We Love: Personalization of their free samples. Customers can find the right frames and then use them in practice before actually committing.


If you’re an Apple Music user, no problem. We all have that friend and we still love her. Although, I hate to admit it, Spotify may have you beat in more ways than a few, such as its personalized interface and accessibility.

Yes, Spotify has a free tier, but it certainly doesn’t use to be their premium model. That’s why Spotify offers a three-month free trial to all its users to experience everything Premium has in store.

This free trial really works. In 2019, they had 217 million active users and 100 million subscribers – that means a 46% conversion rate.

Spotify now has 100 million paid subscribers and 217 million monthly active users in total;  product sampling marketing

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What We Love: Three months of Spotify keeps you hooked. You’ve invested in the app by cultivating a playlist that you can’t ditch after three months. Once you lose that benefit, you can’t go back to the free tier again – with ads, degraded audio quality, and no exclusive release access.


Sampling Marketing, Zoom

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Whether COVID has turned you into a Zoom fanatic or a Zoom hater, video conferencing is here to stay – and Zoom is at the forefront of it.

However, if you’re only using a free personal account, you’re limited to 40 minutes. Yesterday, I received an email asking me to upgrade my account with these words: “Bored with the 40-minute limit? This holiday season, stay connected through it all — for free! Today, start your free month! Claim Off Zoom!”

What We Love: Zoom uses seasons and holidays to target its promotions. The holiday season is a time when everyone wants to connect, and Zoom knows that. They are able to tug at our heart strings and make us feel happy that they are making their service more accessible in a time when it is most needed.

make the most of samples

We’ve all made a purchase after using a sample—whether it’s Spotify, LinkedIn Premium, Costco, or Sephora. There are lots of benefits to letting customers try a product, hook them in, then close the sale.

Start small by offering samples of select products. Once you perfect your strategy, you can expand your sampling marketing.

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