We get asked very often whether in-store sampling is more effective than outdoor sampling at Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Morrisons, Asda and Lidl. Whilst we have an opinion and stats on this there are a number of items you need to consider:-

What are your brands objectives, do customers normally buy your product on their normal supermarket shop? Do customers know the brand and where to look for it? If your brand needs to educate people about the taste, health benefits, position in store of your product then its better to be outside of store where you have access to all that supermarkets shoppers for the day. If you were in-store you would only have exposure to customers in the aisle in which you were positioned. Lets assume your brand is a coffee product in competition with Nespresso for example, your customers would normally order their coffee online so would never frequent the coffee aisle, in this circumstance you have to be based outside (or in the entrance) to the store. If you were a margarine brand, being positioned in the fridge aisle would be beneficial.

When you hear the term car-park sampling, this can be a fairly inaccurate description of your positioning, you can either be positioned in a car parking space if you have a vehicle / stand, but you can also request a position at the store entrance, a good sampling agency would probably have a good relationship with the store manager and would be able to get a premium space with potentially positioning under cover. There is a cost associated with booking site space outside / in the entrance of a supermarket and the cost per day is anywhere between £200 and £350 depending on the retailer and how many dates you are booking. If you are based in-store, you will be placed where the store manager wants you, not specifically next to where your product is being sold.

Conversion to purchase
This is quite an important metric that most brands rely on, if for example you sample 100 samples in-store and you achieve 10 product sales this means your conversion to purchase would be 10%. It needs to be stated that if you are based in-store you will only access to customers that are shopping in that aisle, your total sample volume will therefore be a lot smaller than being positioned at the store entrance. When you are not near the point of purchase your conversion rate will be reduced. On a recent campaign we investigated both positions on different days, we achieved 1200 samples at store entrance with a conversion of 4%, achieving sales of 50, in the aisle we achieved 620 samples and a 7% conversion rate or 43 sales. As you can see from the figures the brand achieved more new customers from being positioned at the store entrance than in the aisle.

Apart from reporting on a conversion to purchase percentage, we collect sales data from the same day the week prior to the sampling day and also sales data for the two weeks following the sampling campaign. This allows us to not only prove that we have achieved a great increase in sales whilst conducing sampling, but the halo effect which is more important indicates a change in consumer behavior. If we can prove an ongoing increase in sales as a result of sampling, we can build a financial model that suggests that brands should never stop sampling. This data can be collected whether you are positioned in store or outside of store.

Agency and staff
This may well be the most important element for brands and the single biggest barrier for brands to conduct in-store sampling. Currently some of the biggest supermarkets in the UK have got and agreement with one agency to provide all in-store sampling in their stores. I don’t know why they have done this as it eliminates competition therefore creating a monopoly which in turn reduces the quality of staff and also increases the costs. Most of our customers who have trialed these agencies have vowed never to use them again. Damage is done to brands buy these poor quality staff who may be sampling a cocktail sausage in the morning and a new wine in the afternoon, they do not read any briefing notes and don’t really care about the brand. Oh and did i mention that they are more expensive than using an agency that trains their staff thoroughly and ensures the staff provided are aligned to the brand.

Why would Tesco and Sainsburys only allow their suppliers to use an agency that charges over 50% more than any other agency is beyond me, when all this buys is a poor promotional staff member and poor brand communication, not to mention a sample that may be delivered poorly.

You do need to consider the weather for outdoor sampling, and ensure you allow your customers to be out of the rain if you are expecting your brand ambassadors to engage with them and communicate the key brand messages.

Whilst Sainsburys and Tescos get it wrong, Waitrose and Lidl get it right, and allow various agencies to sample in-store.

Investing in sampling does not need to be costly, it pays itself back over time. But if you would like advice on whether in-store sampling is right for your brand, and which retailer you should be targeting, do speak to us and we can give you some advice on the best route for your brand.

If you have to use a specific agency for in-store sampling then stick to outdoor / entrance sampling!


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