Home » Articles » Sampling Drives Sales: The Art Behind Costco’s Sampling

People love free food, free products, and free services. Free trial products are one of the best ways to get customers to try a product so they fall in love with it and want to purchase more. But, there is a specific way to go about offering free services that will increase the likelihood of people coming back for more. Costco has free samples down to a science, and business owners can take some lessons from what Costco has learned from offering free samples.

Costco actually has another company, Interactions, come in and staff their sample tables, and, because Costco is so well known for their samples, Interactions must be very good at what they do. One of the major reasons that Costco offers samples is to make stores “fun places to be.” It allows shoppers to be a little adventurous and try some new things that they may not have otherwise tried. It is just like similar in-store product demonstrations, which have been proven effective for years. Costco just offers a quicker, food version of an in-store demonstration. Just as an example, Interactions’ beer samples at stores across the United States boosted sales by 71%, and it increased frozen pizza sales by an impressive 600%.

Other than encouraging customers to try new things, it also has some subconscious connections. For example, some customers may feel obligated to buy something after they are given something free. In addition, particularly for food, the samples may trigger forgotten needs or wants. Perhaps a customer hasn’t had a particular kind of candy in some time; the sample will remind the customer how much he or she enjoyed that candy, and the customer may purchase some to take home. Samplers may also feel a social pressure to buy the sampled product when someone is standing at the sample counter. This pressure is created only by the person standing there; they do not even have to try to sell the product.

This “product demonstration” mentality can be applied to virtually any product or service. Movie services like Netflix or Amazon Prime offer free trials. Financial services like banks or merchant services, like those found at eMerchantBroker.com also offer free trials so customers can try out a service before they commit. Free trials, free smaller versions of the product, and real product demonstrations are close cousins to the free sample, and can be just as, if not more, effective.

If you want to start offering free samples at your business, try a few options and see what works best for you. Maybe you want to start with product demonstrations and send people home with the finished project (i.e., cooking a meal with the pots you are selling, and then allowing them to eat that meal). Free samples may not be an option for every business, but get creative with product presentation and your customers will thank you for it.

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Blair Thomas is an electronic payment expert, who loves all things finance and planning. He is also the co-founder of eMerchantBroker.com, the #1 trial offer merchant account company in the country. If you would like to see what he's up to, add him to your Google+ circle.

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