Shopper Behaviour Research: Food Samples Can Make or Break New Products

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Shopper Behaviour Research: Food Samples Can Make or Break New Products

Food samples are a powerful tool to raise awareness of your brand, but in the wrong hands, they can have little to no effect.

Sampling is a great way to let shoppers try your new product without having to commit to buying them. They can give a massive and permanent boost to sales, but only if they are carried out wisely.

Sampling: The Wrong Way to Do It

The easiest way to give out sample products is also the way that provides the least impact. By using generic packaging and giving out tiny portions to customers, you fail to show the product to its full potential. If your staff don’t know much about your product and don’t show much enthusiasm, don’t expect your shoppers to change their retail shopping behaviour either.

Our senses are not limited to taste when we try samples in store. You could be providing tasters of a delicious product, but if it doesn’t look or smell appealing, shoppers won’t be attracted to it. And it’s worth considering the other senses when packaging your samples. Recent studies have shown that meals taste better and are perceived as higher quality when eaten with heavier cutlery.

Why You Need Your Food Samples to Appeal to All Five Senses

Shopper behaviour may vary between shopping modes, but we use all five senses when we make decisions about what to buy in store. Samples, therefore, need to appeal to as many of these senses as possible. Allowing your sample to appeal to more senses lets the sample make the biggest impression on your shoppers.

Like what you see?

Making sure your samples are visually appealing is the first and almost the most important task. Shoppers won’t want to try a sample that is unattractive. You also need to make sure that shoppers know what your product is. The easiest way to do this is through branded plates or cups. If you don’t have branded tableware, ensure there are several full-size products around the sample counter. This allows the shopper to associate the product with the brand name.

Smelling a product is halfway to tasting it

Our senses of smell and taste are closely linked, and smelling a product can entice a shopper to try or even buy it. If your product has a particularly appealing scent, make sure it is in a situation where the aroma can circulate and isn’t in competition with other strong scents, such as coffee or fish. 30% of shoppers will rely on sense-based shopping behaviour, smelling the products they are considering before buying them, so it is well worth paying attention to.

Do your products crunch or squelch?

Sound is very important to products — not only the sound the product makes, but also the way the sample handler sounds. While making sure that a crispy product sounds and feels crispy enough, you should also consider the training of your samples staff. If they come across as knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the product, shoppers are more likely to trust their opinion.

Making sure your product doesn’t fall apart in your customer’s hands

Even if it’s packaging they will end up throwing away, customers tend not to like packaging they view as flimsy and cheap. The full-size products in the display should be heavy and solid, allowing them to seem high quality and worth buying.

Unsurprisingly, the most important sense for sampling is taste

Your product tastes good. That’s a given. But are you giving it the chance to really showcase its talents? Two of the main issues with sampling are size and temperature. Products are often served in meagre portions that don’t allow shoppers to capture the full taste, and often too hot or too cold to do the taste justice. Make sure your product is served under optimum conditions — after all, one taste test could change your shoppers’ behaviour permanently, leading to a lifetime of weekly purchases.

How Optimal Sampling In-Store can Change Retail Shopper Behaviour

Trying a product in-store doesn’t just potentially mean that a few shoppers buy that product on that particular day. Sampling can cause a major uplift in sales — and not only amongst sampled products. Trying samples in-store encourages shoppers to try new products — even those that aren’t being sampled. This can lead to an overall shopping basket expenditure increase of 10% on the day.

For the product itself, there is usually a marked uplift of buyers on the day, with around 656% more sales, and a 90% increase in sales thereafter.

If you are trying to boost the profile of your product, try sampling. The results could surprise you.

Phillip Adcock is the founder and Managing Director of the research agency Shopping Behaviour Xplained Ltd, a shopping research organisation that uses psychological insight to explain and predict how consumers will behave. SBXL operates in seventeen countries for hundreds of clients including Mars, Tesco, and B&Q.