When two researchers from Massey University in New Zealand tested coupon codes vs free samples, they came to the following conclusion: “Both product sampling and cashbacks promote incremental sales, but that discount coupons may only subsidize purchases that would otherwise be made at full retail prices.”

We didn’t need a research paper to tell us of the virtues of free samples but it’s nice that we do. Offering your customers free samples is a great way to increase order value, increase sales, increase customer satisfaction, and increase brand loyalty. It’s nothing but wins all around.

Giving away small samples is a great way to introduce customers to new products. The boost in sales is not negligible. Sampling underpins Costco’s entire business model. It can persuade as many as 68% of customers to make a purchase.

Sampling is a great way to promote your business while simultaneously avoiding the hellish label of “discount brand.”

Why does sampling work?

  1. Sampling eliminates new item jitters. The biggest reason customers may be unwilling to try a new item is simply that they’re not sure whether it will live up to their expectations. A free sample allows them to try a product at no cost and if they like it, many will buy.
  2. Reciprocity – This is the psychological instinct that makes us feel the need to do something nice for someone who has done something nice for us. That something nice could be the customer buying the full-size product after trying the free sample.

How to get sampling right

  1. Use small sample sizes– This is a no-brainer. You don’t want to lose money on the samples.
  2. Follow up – After giving the customer a free sample, check in after maybe seven days and encourage them to make a purchase.
  3. Keep samples relevant – The samples you send to your customers should match whatever they bought so that you can be reasonably sure the customer is actually interested in the product and you’re not wasting samples. Think lipstick and rouge, shoes and socks, clothing and detergent, or other complementary products.
  4. Limit them to customers – As an e-commerce brand, you have to worry about shipping costs so you can’t just send samples to everyone. Customers who have already made a purchase are the best audience as it costs you nothing to ship a tiny sample in the same package as a larger item.