Brand marketers have staged product samplings and demonstrations inside the supermarket for years. Overall, this has been a very effective promotion. Today these presentations are more important than ever for manufacturers and retailers because they help them to be more competitive in the marketplace.
For manufacturers, these in-store promotions stimulate trial purchases by the consumer. At a time when nine of 10 new products fail, offering shoppers samples can lead to several good things: one, a purchase on the same shopping trip; two, a purchase later on, and, three, eventual success of the product. The last point, of course, assumes that quality and pricing are up to snuff.
Most importantly, this show-and-tell is often the first step in building long-term brand loyalty.
Sampling traditionally has been used to support the launch or re-launch of products. Brands that have succeeded and have found a place on the shelf eventually move on to other forms of communication with the consumer, such as mass media advertising. They don't have to be trotted out via demo anymore.
Maybe it's time to rethink this way of thinking.
The battle for brand loyalty today is so fierce that any edge should be explored. In competitive categories, it might be worthwhile to sample/demo a well-known, established brand that's losing share -- to a new product or, worse yet, to a premium store brand that makes price an issue, too.
Of course, this type of sample/demo would be tell-and-show. The shopper has already been told about the product over and over for years. Now the shopper is sampling it as a reminder of its quality or usefulness. Giving away coupons at the same time would be a nice touch, too.
There are not too many of these tell-and-show promotions, if any. There should be.
Having more sampling inside the supermarket makes even more sense for retailers. The simple reason: competition from the alternate formats. Any way to keep shoppers loyal to the supermarket should be explored. It would be nice to have the reputation as the store with samples.
Which format is best suited for food product sampling? It is not the warehouse club, mass merchant or chain drug store. It might be the supercenter in years to come.
The supermarket is obviously the best place, and there are more taking place there nowadays than ever before. But there are also more problems than ever before.
It's estimated that more than half of supermarket retailers are now charging manufacturers "access" fees to allow demos inside the supermarket. In other words, the demo has become a new profit center for food chains.
Beautiful. That's just what manufacturers expect from their business partner, the retailer. It's this kind of approach that will encourage manufacturers to look to supercenters as the new frontier for product sampling. Bet those operators won't charge access fees.
This topic was one of many discussed early this month in Chicago at the annual meeting of the National Association of Demonstration Companies. See story, Page 4. The most critical topic was the manufacturer, retailer and the third-party in-store company.