5 big mistakes brands make with in-store sampling

It’s no secret that in-store sampling is a great way to get your product in front of customers. In fact, our brand ambassadors have almost 20 million in-store interactions with Costco members per year.

But sampling isn’t as simple as turning up on the day and handing out a few products. It requires careful planning, consideration and preparation.

Luckily, as Costco’s in-store sampling partner, we’ve worked with thousands of brands over the years. And we know what works and what doesn’t.

We want every sampling campaign to be a roaring success. Which means working closely with brands to make sure that they’re preparing for their campaign in the right way. If you’ve got a campaign coming up and want to get it just right, here are five pitfalls to avoid.

Not sharing enough information with us

Nobody knows your product better than you do.

We’re experts in creating memorable in-store experiences. But we need your help to communicate your product’s unique benefits to customers.

The more information you pass onto us, the more we can pass onto buyers. The product backstory, what makes it unique, how it’s created – the more information we have, the richer the story we can tell.

This can be as simple as filling out the WDS Demo Briefing Document. Or, for complex products or long-running campaigns, we may require bespoke training or briefings.

Not tracking competitor activity

Retail spaces are competitive environments. Competitor intelligence is essential to make sure that your campaign is going to appeal to customers.

For instance, a few years ago a dishwasher brand’s activation went live the week after their competitor ran a heavy in-store discount. As a result, the campaign suffered because savvy shoppers had stocked up the week before.

Make sure you ask plenty of probing questions to find out what other discounts or activations are taking place at the same time, or shortly before. Or even better (and if you can), lock out your competitors by securing all the available in-store promotions – end caps, price offers and in-store activations – for your brand.

Not tapping into seasonal & market opportunities

Different products or niches appeal at different times of the year. For instance, condiments such as BBQ sauce will appeal around the start of the summer, whereas mint sauce or gravy will appeal in the autumn and winter when people are cooking roast dinners.

Most vendors are already aware of the key sales moments for their products. Timing your campaigns to correspond with key moments in your calendar is a great way to increase relevancy.

This can extend to any promotional activity your brand is involved in. For instance, Robinsons squash has a longstanding relationship with the Wimbledon tennis tournament. As a result, they time their activations to run in parallel with the tournament and incorporate tennis themes into their branding.

The more relevant or topical you can make your offer or display, the more likely customers are to pay attention.

Creating additional work for the customer

This might seem like common sense, but it’s worth covering. The simpler you can make things for the customer, the more likely they are to get involved.

This is particularly important for positioning. While you can’t necessarily choose the exact spot for your in-store, WDS does it’s best to ensure you’re set up close to the product itself, and where footfall is good. If customers have to look for your product after they’ve tried it, there’s a good chance they’ll get distracted or lose interest. If we can’t set up your stand near to the product, we’ll make sure we have a separate supply to hand, so the customer can grab some from the brand ambassadors if they want.

Also, if you’re running additional promotional activity such as end caps, it’s a good idea to set up nearby, so customers can choose to visit your stand once they’ve seen the advertising.

Not setting objectives

At the end of the day, sampling is marketing. And all marketing activity needs to correspond to a set of objectives. If you’re not clear on your objectives, you won’t know whether your campaign has been a success. And, perhaps more importantly, we won’t know what you’re hoping to achieve.

The more you can tell us what your ideal outcomes are, the better able we will be to help you get there. This is particularly important for more complex activity, such as special events and super demos.

Are you preparing for an in-store sampling activation?

If you want to run a successful campaign, make sure that you’re:

  • Providing us with all the information that we need to wow customers with your product
  • Aware of what your competitors are up to and how it could impact your campaign
  • Tapping into what’s going in the market or any seasonal opportunities
  • Making life as easy as possible for the customer
  • Being clear on your objectives and including these objectives in your brief

If you’re looking for more ways to dazzle customers, why not check out 10 tiny touches that make a big difference to sampling success.

And if you have any questions, WDS is always on hand with advice and support to help you make the most of your sampling at Costco.