Supermarket Sampling Comes of Age

As the clock ticks towards a new year it’s especially pertinent to understand which types of sampling activity have evolved to keep up with the ever changing trends of 21st Century consumer behaviour – and which are being left behind, feeling outdated.

To make sure your supermarket sampling and sales activation strategy stay a few steps ahead of the curve – here are our top five trends to incorporate into your campaigns:


Let’s start with perhaps the most obvious change to promotional activity that is increasingly as much of a priority for some brands as the sales growth that the sampling achieves. Social media is now an essential ingredient in any brand’s marketing mix – yet so many brands still struggle for relevant content to share on their social media pages. It’s painful to see them post yet another picture of a fluffy animal to welcome the weekend, when they should be broadcasting how their brand is interacting with real people in the real world. Sampling roadshows across supermarkets should create opportunities to promote before, during and after each day of activity with hundreds of photos of customers positively enjoying the samples and engaging with the brand.  

To get top marks in this field, the step up from broadcasting is creating opportunities for user generated sharing – so the shoppers broadcast their experience across their own social media channels. Some call it incentivisation, others bribery – but no matter how you reward shoppers for sharing their positive experiences, it’s surely worth the price of a promotional freebie or larger portion on a live event site.

Newly launched American diner style brand The Shack engaged shoppers in front of Iceland supermarkets with a stylish Airstream trailer and fun photo competition, promoting their hashtag: #ShareTheShack.


While you have customers in front of you keen to try your produce and engage with your brand – what else can you do with them to create a memorable and fun experience with them? By adding in a fun challenge, you attract more shoppers with their families of all ages, enhancing your impact and the vibrant buzz on the event area.

 In addition to the buzz, the positive fun experiences triggers emotional engagement with the brand, adding an extra layer of memorable recall and beneficial association between the brand and the consumer. Simple ideas that make a big difference can include fun photos, target throwing, test your skill challenges, singing, dancing and quiz questions.



Experiential sampling in front of a supermarket gives your brand the space to present a creative display to really bring your brand values to life. Whether it’s wholesome raw ingredients, rustic furniture, neon light boxes, funky vehicles, ethnic authenticity clues – it’s all possible when you have a few square meters to play with.

Unlike the limited environment of in store sampling where everything is compressed onto a tiny table, that then needs to be replicated across each store – experiential sampling in front of store provides the ability to create a one off event kit of far higher quality, akin to a proper exhibition display. This is then toured for the entire duration of the roadshow, allowing you to achieve far greater value and sustained usage from the equipment.

Pop up display area promoting Little Dish


It’s hard to comprehend how the comparatively ineffective activity of in store sampling in the major mults hasn’t totally died a death, in comparison to the far higher impact experiential sampling which is conducted in front of the stores. The only reason it still happens is a) brands don’t know any better, b) it looks cheaper on paper than an experiential roadshow and c) it’s a quick fix to tick a box and show willing. While the less experienced might argue that it is lower cost on a per store basis to use a spare member of supermarket shop staff to stand by a dismal sampling table for a few hours – it is significantly cheaper on both a per customer and per sale basis to have a larger scale event area positioned in front of the main entrance to the store, reaching 100% of shoppers on arrival.

In a test pool of eight separate ‘like for like budget’ comparisons carried out by scientifically minded clients who have been keen to see the ROI difference between in store Vs experiential – the results have consistently shown a greater reach and sales impact on about an 1:8 ratio, when using experiential sampling in front of store. That’s 8 X more customers reached and 8 X more sales generated, on a pro-rata, like for like cost basis.

Bells & Whistles - Safe Street Sampling at Sainsburys

Biscuit bakery Choc-Ole launched their range into Tesco with sampling on aisle and a roadshow in front of store; the latter of which produced a sales yield 350% greater than its in store equivalent.


As sampling specialists, we really do love sampling campaigns, but many non-specialists forget that it is not an end unto itself. Ie: There is no point in sampling, if it doesn’t generate sales. The age of social media has created a proliferation of amateur bedroom based staffing suppliers who can reach out to select random staff from anonymous profile pics on Facebook. While that may appear to cut your costs, the lack of in depth professional vetting and detailed quality implementation omits all manner of essential elements required to effectively represent your brand and actually convert purchase in front of store.

From considering the clear point of sale messaging, using store pricing stationary, devising verbal interactions which lead to a purchase, planning impulse incentivisation – and removing the distance to point of purchase using FSDUs and chillers; there are a broad array of tactics that are required to influence the shopper once they have accepted the initial sample.


While the above are essential evolutionary progressions for creating effective sampling at supermarkets – it’s still reassuring to know that ancient processes of evolution are still in charge. In spite of all of the modern advances, new technologies and virtual realties – sampling still needs to engage the physical senses. Brand ambassadors still need to connect on a human to human level with eye contact, smiles and believable heart felt dialogue. Finally, sales is still king. Beyond whatever any other media agencies may preach, marketing isn’t worth its salt if it’s not creating sales for your brand – and there’s nowhere more successful at demonstrating ROI than right in front of your most important stockists.

Interested to find out how it can work for your brand?

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