Practical Ecommerce

The benefits of free product samples

Whether you’ve been in business for years or you’re just launching a new website, sending samples of your products can grab the attention of shoppers. In this post, I’ll review nine reasons to consider offering free samples of your ecommerce products.

  • Raise awareness. People who have never encountered your brand before can experience it directly with a sample. Once they’ve tasted, touched, smelled, seen, or heard your product, it starts to make sense what you sell.
  • Creates a law of reciprocity. Most people feel a closer connection to a company when they’ve tried a sample product. It usually creates a law of reciprocity that, if they can’t actually use your product, they may think of someone who can. Everyone loves getting a gift. Let it be from your business, and be generous.
  • Get feedback and reviews. Whether it’s a new product line you need assessed by the public or you need people to start giving you valuable feedback to help populate your reviews and testimonial pages, samples help put the word out. Be transparent and let recipients know you’d appreciate their feedback. If one of your customers is a blogger, for example, this could help grow sales for that product.
  • Check if it’s a winner, first. A sampling program is a marvelous way to test a new product before it’s gone into full production, or before you’ve committed to a bulk container load of it from China. Sampling lets you see if customers actually like it, before you commit to more. While only you can determine how big your sampling size needs to be for accuracy, and indeed, what proportion would have to give approval for it to be a success, this strategy safeguards your cash flow. Sampling feedback may indicate you only need to make a few small tweaks to make it a best seller.
  • Thank existing customers. Pop a sample or two in with your customer’s order as a surprise — but with a note explaining you’d like his feedback. Or encourage customers to spend above a certain threshold, as some beauty-goods websites do, to receive free samples. Or why not do it for your highest-spending customers for their birthday or anniversary, to make them feel special?
  • Helps public relations. Sending samples to editors and bloggers is an obvious way for them to assess your product. Food and beauty products are usually winning sample types, but it may be also appropriate for items that they can’t quite imagine without seeing in real life. You could offer a number of samples for readers, too. And don’t forget there are many expos and shows that are always looking for samples for their attendees’ show bags. Choose a couple of samples that could fit your customer demographic.
  • Helps social media. Add a hashtag #giveaway to your product name and invite potential customers to spread the word. Freebies in your sample category will be publicized quickly, for sure. And you can always set up a page for future customers to be alerted to free sample opportunities, and, in the meantime, to receive your updates.
  • Increase chances of immediate sales. Have you ever been in a supermarket and been invited to try a new product? The unexpected generosity, the pleasure of discovering a new product, and the law of reciprocity increases the chances that you may buy it. If you’re exhibiting at an expo, providing samples of your products to clearly interested shoppers can convert them into customers, or at least into warm leads. Compare that against boring mugs with logos.
  • Make shoppers feel more confident. If you’re a pure-play online retailer, you don’t have a bricks-and-mortar store to provide samples. So you’re going to have to get them out there. If your product costs more than the average for that category, or if your shoppers have never heard of it before, you have to work harder to eliminate any doubt or hesitation they might have. Samples let them know how your product works and feels.
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