“Worst of all, they stopped giving away free slices of bread! I used to look forward to my daily slice of bread at the bakery, and now that they took away this little bit of customer goodwill, I found that I no longer had a compelling reason to stop by the bakery after work.”
But aside from delighting your customers, free samples increase your sales, too. That’s what Marsh Supermarkets found when they tracked sales data: sales of sampled products increased from 600% to 2,000% (more details from the report here). There are some guidelines to follow, of course, when choosing what to sample and how to present it:
Never leave samples unattended – it’s a matter of food safety. (Remember when Ariana Grande licked those donuts?) But studies also indicate that customers are more likely to buy a product when they receive the sample from a human being.
Present samples nicely. This doesn’t mean you need to get fancy, but choose an attractive dish, put a cloth on the table, and clearly provide a receptacle for any toothpicks or paper cups that customers will need to discard. Employees handling samples should look clean and neat.
Choose samples that will have a broad appeal for your customers (think again of the bread example). That said, don’t be afraid to give them something new, either. “People want to try an unknown product before they buy it,” says Caroline Nakken, president of marketing company Mass Connections. If you’re offering new seasonal products — especially now, at the beginning of autumn and heading into the holiday season — giving regular customers a chance to taste what’s new, or new customers a better idea of your product quality, can convince them to expand their purchase.