Offering free samples to your customers can have dramatic positive effects on sales.

Customers like free samples — consider this article about a beloved bakery where the author got a free slice of bread at every visit: the bread didn’t just give this customer a sense of delight and increase his feelings of loyalty toward the bakery. It turned an errand into a treat, encouraging him to make an extra stop after work more often.

When the bakery was sold, the new owners put an end to the free slice of bread.

Fresh bread? Yes, please! (Of course, your hand will have a glove on it.)

“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.

Of course you’re already tracking your sales data, but it’s even more important when you’re offering free samples. You want to know exactly what your ROI looks like, what products make the most effective samples, and how customers feel about your samples (one way to track detailed sales data easily is with an app like POMePOS). Use this information to keep improving your sampling program to reflect what most delights your customers and increases your sales.

What can offering samples do for you? You definitely want to find out. Check out this article from American Express’ small business blog for more stats on sampling, and let us know how your first sampling campaign goes!

wholesale bread bakery

No need to overwhelm with this many options. Don’t they look good, though?