Here are five practical ways to enable you to acquire new retail listings for your brand, maintain them during range reviews and expand your range holding within your key retailers, by using advanced promotional sampling tactics.

1 of 5: It’s Selling, Not Just Sampling

The first basic premise to understand is that the core purpose of sampling should be to drive your product sales. Driving sales growth is sampling’s real purpose, but it is a surprisingly uncommon focus across most campaigns you may have seen, when brought to life by less experienced practitioners. Anyone can give away free samples; the real skill comes in generating measurable ROI. Focusing on creating tasters, brand messaging, social media and memorable engagement are all still important elements to include; but should be seen as catalysts used to achieve bottom line sales results for your brand; and not as ends unto themselves.

QUICK CASE STUDY: FRENCH’S MUSTARD. To introduce the new Smooth and Spicy flavour variant, mustard giants Frenchs’ toured pop up sampling event areas across UK supermarkets. In order to drive sales across 100 stores within its trial launch and assessment period, six regional teams were quickly established, each sampling and selling the mustard alongside bite sized tasters of sizzling steak and boiled new potatoes. FSDUs filled with uplifted sales stock were positioned in the foyers which helped the sampling teams generate sales uplifts of over 5,500% on average across the 100 stores, with hundreds of units sold each day.

2 of 5: Incentivise A New Trial Listing

In the right context, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of legitimate and legal bribery. Every retail buyer needs to be persuaded that each square inch of their shelf space is going to work for them, so giving some up to stock your new range is a major risk for them. Getting your product its first trial listing really only gets you a ticket onto their retail battlefield, amongst thousands of other brands all screaming to be purchased too. The sad reality is that without an effective sampling strategy, most products stay languishing on the shelf: ignored, misunderstood and growing rapidly out of date. To mitigate the category buyers’ risk Vs reward equation, you can should offer to back up their leap of faith with a strong, professionally managed experiential sampling campaign, as added incentive to ensure that your product really does fly off the shelves from the moment it drops into their stores.

QUICK CASE STUDY: TILDA STEAMED RICE. When steamed packet rice was first introduced to the UK, it was met with suspicion from the supermarkets who had been happily selling boil in the bag rice for years. To show shoppers the convenience and interesting range of flavours, market leader Tilda invested in a nationwide roadshow, to help secure a firm foothold from the first 80 stores that Sainsbury’s trialled the range in. Within the following six months, they had been awarded a national listing with 450 more supermarkets; which later set the ground work to become the market leader in the packet rice category there and in all of the other major mults too.

3 of 5: Create Relevant & Engaging Social Media Content

How your brand interacts with your customers across social media is one of the very first entry points that any trade buyer evaluates, when assessing who to meet and keep. Building a large, loyal following of keen customers who have actually engaged with your brand and are keen to find out about where they can buy your product is a key driver to attaining and keeping a listing. Your sampling strategy should be delivering this marketable asset on a mass scale, as it interacts with new customers on a daily basis. You then have a retained, warm audience for new listing announcements, NPD updates, seasonal consumption messages, promotions and on-going dialogue with customers who will be the backbone of your business growth.

QUICK CASE STUDY: CADBURY DRINKING CHOCOLATE. To build a strong social media following for Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate, an experiential sampling roadshow toured across the UK in the depths of winter. In addition to sampling, a unique prize was offered to set up the sampling experience in one prize winners’ house in each region the tour stopped in at. The entry method was simply to like and follow their Facebook page, which the public were encouraged to do from the event area. Within a 12 week tour, the Facebook following had grown by over 90,000 new customers who had all been touched by the experience and engaged with the brand on social media.

4 of 5: Drive Immediate And Sustained Sales

What makes new shoppers keep on coming back for more? Deep cut price discounts can work for temporarily increasing your rate of sale, but are arguably detrimental for longer term sales growth, as shoppers often don’t see the value in paying anything more than the discounted price in future. To instil strong brand loyalty, you need to make shoppers understand why they should be buying your brand over others – and how it fits in with their lifestyles. To convert purchase, imparting this understanding while shoppers have a trolley in their hands and they are in active shopping mode is retail marketing at its most powerful. Experiential sampling in front of supermarkets, is the most effective method of creatively presenting your brand story, having two way dialogue with shoppers at the point of purchase – and instigating the initial purchase. Once the shoppers understand what your brand is about, how good it tastes and how it fits within their lifestyle, you then create the solid ground for sustained, repeat sales.

QUICK CASE STUDY: FEASTERS. For many shoppers the idea of microwaving a beef burger seems quite alien, so experiential sampling provides the opportunity to educate, inspire and convince customers they need it in their lives! For the Asda category leader, Feasters – a pop up burger bar is a long term touring strategy, which firstly wow’s shoppers with the great taste, educates that they are properly flame grilled, using fully traceable quality beef – and reassures it’s just reheated in a microwave for their convenience. This proven formula has seen sales spikes of 300 or 400 hundreds of units sold at each store visited on a daily basis, followed by sustained, long term sales growth and measurable ROI.

5 of 5: Survive Range Changes Using Trade Event Days

To adapt the eloquent words of the English poet WH Auden, Range change reviews …are like the distant roll of thunder at a picnic.” In Auden’s original context, he refers to death, but for many brands who haven’t consistently driven their sales, it amounts to a similar outcome. In addition to driving immediate and sustained sales growth at stores (as explained above), you should use experiential sampling trade days to present your brand at the head offices of your retailer. By focussing at least one day of activity at the head office of your customer you will:

1.      Give the lead buyer and their wider category buying team the chance to interact with your brand in your creatively branded experiential environment, to understand your product proposition, elevating it beyond the balance sheet numbers alone.

2.      Demonstrate how you are investing in driving sales, by showing them the amazing sampling roadshow that you are touring across their stores.

3.      Create the high visibility brand presence for your buyer to have publicly backed, endorsed and stood shoulder to shoulder with your brand – in front of their direct buying team colleagues and the wider remit of head office employees too.

4.      Spread-bet the sometimes limited tenure of buyer relationships caused by employees moving on, by showing off your brand experience roadshow to multiple colleagues in the trade buying team.

QUICK CASE STUDY: PRINCES TINNED FISH. To establish their new ranges of tinned fish with the category buying teams across the UK’s leading supermarket chains, Princes used a trade roadshow to introduce 12 of their new season’s flavours. Non-traditional lines were served with meal accompaniments to show them at their best, such as Mexican mackerel served warm on a bed of baked nachos and Indian style fish korma served with a toasted naan bread. Market research was obtained on site from amongst the buying team’s peer group, showing that the huge demand was there for the national listings which they then went on to secure.

If you are interested to find out how sampling can help your brand attain, secure and grow your listings – get in touch for an informative discussion. You will receive expert advice from industry experts – and a range of scalable options to consider for your further review.