Do Free Samples Really Increase Sales?

It’s an age-old question. Will my marketing bring any kind of return on investment? Every single marketing activity you try needs to be backed up with data. Information that can help you see just how well it’s performing, how the audience is responding, and whether or not you’re seeing more sales as a result.

But what about free samples? It’s one of the bigger items in the marketing budget, which can make a lot of brands nervous about trying it. But for food and drinks companies, this strategy can pay real dividends, if it’s done right. So today we’re going to look at some of the benefits of offering free samples, and what you could gain by trying it out.

Why Free Sampling?

Sampling is a common promotional activity in the food and drinks world, where companies give out free samples of their products to customers in a retail setting. The goal is to give customers a ‘taste’ of what your brand offers, and make them hungry for more. Some companies offer free samples on the street outside their own establishments as a way of driving foot traffic inside, while others will set up within a wider retail space to offer their products while customers are doing their shopping. Perhaps looking to tap into the spending mood they’re already in! Either way, one of the common goals of pretty much all free sampling is the same  – get customers to spend more money with your brand.


customer enjoying free sample

Who Benefits From Free Samples?

Everyone! Giving away free samples is what sparks the beginning of a beautiful and mutually beneficial relationship between you and your customers. Bringing free samples into your business strategy makes your customers feel warm and welcomed, and you create a rare opportunity to turn a customer into a brand advocate.

You also have the chance to introduce a new product to audiences who are unfamiliar with your brand, and give them a no-stakes way to trail it. For your existing customers, you can build on and reward that loyalty, encouraging repeat customers and more sales of new menu items. It’s also a good way to gain publicity for your brand leading up to an event, like a new launch or a rebrand.

All of this works together to create new customers and more loyal existing customers, both of which translate to increased sales.


Sampling Statistics

While we can’t show you every single statistic out there (because there are a lot!), there are some key numbers that we think prove just how effective free samples can be at increasing sales, both immediately and in the long term.

  • 35% of customers who try a sample will buy the sampled product on the same shopping trip.

  • A study at Cornell University found that after trying a free wine samples, customers were 93% more likely to spend an additional $10 buying an extra bottle of wine, and 92% more likely to re-purchase the wine in the future.

  • 24% of customers in this survey claimed that a sampled product had specifically replaced an item that they had planned to buy.

  • As we’ve mentioned before, the reciprocity principle is one of the big drivers for customers to buy once they’ve sampled something from you. That underlying ‘social pressure; means that 65% of people will buy a product if they’re given the opportunity to try it first.

Research done by Marsh Supermarkets showed that:

  • 68% of consumers said that the free sampling persuaded them to make a purchase
  • 85% said they preferred in-store sampling events
  • 83% said the sampling improved their shopping experience
  • 75% said the sampling helped them locate a particular product in the store

All of this aligns very well with our own research findings. Keen to test our experience and observations, Fizz Experience conducted an exit survey of shoppers at a retail client during a 4-day period of in-store sampling. We spoke to over 2,000 shoppers, and we found that:

  • 60% of people took part in the food sampling
  • 88% of people would not have purchased the product without sampling it first
  • 58% of people would tell their friends and family about the new products they discovered through the sampling
  • 87% said that in-store sampling improved their shopping experience
  • 95% said it encouraged them to try new products

So we’re confident that if there’s one thing that food sampling is good at – it’s increasing your sales!

Short-Term Lift vs Long Term Rewards

It’s important to remember that while there will undoubtedly be an immediate uplift in sales, the true impact of food sampling comes in the days and weeks following. After all, just because someone tried your product doesn’t mean they will definitely pick up a pack that day. But in a week or two they will pick up your product when they see it, remembering that they enjoyed it. This is why it’s so important to measure your food sampling results for a period of time after the demo so that you can see the true impact.

At Fizz Experience we specialise in in-store demonstrations and free samples, bringing your brand to life and putting your products directly into your customer’s hands. We offer a complete and tailored sampling service, from research and planning through to boots-on-the-ground delivery. If you’re thinking about offering free samples, but aren’t sure where to start, we are here to help. Our experts can chat with you to understand exactly what you’re hoping to achieve, and develop a sampling plan to help you meet your goals. To find out more, just get in touch with the team today.