Digital sampling

Online product sampling guide 2024

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Emma Hardy
online product sampling
Tuesday, January 30, 2024

In 2024, standing out from the crowd, capturing attention and remaining at the forefront of innovative sampling journeys has never been more crucial.

How can you create a product sampling strategy that gets your samples into the right hands, all while gathering high-quality consumer reviews and driving sales?

This guide has all the essentials to set up your online product sampling campaigns for success this year. 


What is product sampling?

Traditional sampling vs. online sampling

Why run a digital sampling campaign?

When should you run a digital sampling campaign?

How to run a successful sampling campaign in 2024

Real-life sampling success stories

Key takeaways

What is product sampling?

Put simply, product sampling is offering potential customers the chance to try your product for free before buying it.

Traditionally, consumers are offered free products in stores. But digital sampling has flipped the script in recent years, unlocking new, more impactful ways to connect with consumers online and drive superior results.

Traditional product sampling vs. online product sampling

Traditional product sampling is like casting a wide net and hoping for the best. You’ve most likely experienced it for yourself – handed samples at the grocery store, on the bustling high street or even at the train station.

While this approach may get heaps of people trying samples, it has zero targeting, leading to wasteful, ineffective sampling that leaves brands in the dark about campaign performance. 

Enter digital sampling. It's not just about dishing out samples; it's hyper-targeted to ensure your samples reach the right people. 

For example, let’s say you're a beauty brand launching a new moisturizer for people with dry skin. Digital sampling ensures your samples only land in the hands of those who fit that criteria, helping you maximize product feedback and campaign success.

Plus, sampling online means you can engage and track consumers at every stage of their sampling journey. Say goodbye to guesswork!

digital product sampling

Why run a digital sampling campaign?

Engage your ideal target market

Craft hyper-targeted sampling campaigns that connect with your perfect consumers wherever they are online.

Zero in on specific behaviors or interests, like people engaging with relevant social media accounts or showing intent to purchase similar products across retail websites. 

Grow your audience database

At SoPost, our product sampling campaigns generate, on average,  70% marketing opt-in rates, helping you to quickly grow your marketing database with high-quality, engaged contacts.

Boost product sales

Skyrocket product sales by converting consumers post-trial and harness campaign insights to influence future purchase decisions and maximize conversion rates. 

We helped Carolina Herrera boost awareness of their Good Girl Midnight fragrance in the UAE.  13% of consumers immediately purchased the fragrance after sampling, and 89% said they would switch to using Good Girl Midnight as their everyday fragrance.

Collect high-quality reviews 

Almost 100% of consumers check reviews before buying, and digital sampling is an extremely powerful tool to quickly boost high-quality, authentic reviews.

We partnered with Hellmann's to reach new, non-vegan consumers and grow reviews of their new vegan mayonnaise as part of their "Veganuary" campaign. 

After sampling, 97% of consumers recommended the product to a friend, and 84% gave the mayonnaise a five-star rating.

We also integrate with leading rating and review platforms, including Bazaarvoice, PowerReviews and Yotpo, to automatically sync product reviews across your brand and retailer sites and boost visibility.

Uncover detailed audience insights

Unearth invaluable consumer and market insights to better understand your audience and monitor consumer behavior throughout the entire sampling journey. 

At SoPost, we utilize features like qualifying questions, custom questionnaires and post-trial feedback and surveys to capture all the audience insights you need. 

Power new product launches

Set up your product launch for success with detailed insights, product reviews and engaging content from day one.

We fueled Clinique’s foundation launch with detailed audience intel collected during a targeted sampling campaign.

Our findings? Hydration topped their target audience's priority list. Clinique then tailored their campaign messaging to spotlight the foundation benefit that mattered most to their consumers. 

When should you run a digital sampling campaign?

Always-on sampling

Product sampling should naturally integrate into every marketer's strategy – an indispensable, "always-on" approach that consistently delivers benefits year-round.

When sampling is always on, you achieve 365 days of continuous brand exposure. Plus, it allows you to connect with consumers at every stage of their consideration journey and support a full-funnel marketing strategy.

Adopting an evergreen sampling strategy can also be remarkably cost-effective. At SoPost, we've seen our brands achieve significantly lower lead costs through sampling campaigns compared to other non-sampling lead generation activities.

Seasonal sampling

And how can you make an even bigger impact with your evergreen campaigns? Pivot your messaging during key seasonal dates. 

Seasonal sampling campaigns will keep your brand top of mind during those peak shopping periods and events. And tailoring your messaging to the occasion will resonate with your audience.

Take Tanqueray, for instance. We partnered with them to boost awareness of their gin in the lead-up to the busy Christmas shopping period. 

Within two weeks of sampling, 25% had already bought the full-size gin and 81% had recommended it to a friend.

So, where should you start with seasonal sampling? First, mark these key seasonal dates in your 2024 calendar: 

January February March April

Monday | 15th

Chinese New Year | 10th

Valentine's Day | 14th

Mother's Day (UK) | 19th


National Fragrance Day | 21st

Eid Murabak

Easter | 31st

May June July August
Mother's Day (US) | 12th
National Nail Polish Day

Father's Day | 18th


Summer holidays begin

Prime Day | 12th

National Lipstick Day | 29th

International Cat Day | 8th

International Dog Day | 26th

September October November December
Back to school
National Hair Day | 1st

Thanksgiving (Canada) |

Halloween | 31st

Diwali | 31st

Thanksgiving (US) | 28th

Black Friday | 29th

Cyber Monday | 2nd

Christmas | 25th

Next, you’ll need to consider a few things to maximize the impact of your seasonal sampling campaigns.

How soon should you plan? When should you launch? How do you stand out in a frenzy of promotions?

Want all the answers? Let’s chat – we’d love to provide more insights into how we can support your 2024 seasonal campaigns

In the meantime, check out these 6 seasonal sampling ideas to boost your 2024 sales

Now you understand the why and the when, let’s show you how to run a successful digital sampling campaign this year…

How to run an online product sampling campaign in 2024

Set measurable goals

Just like with any marketing campaign, setting trackable goals based on your campaign objectives is crucial to measuring success. Here are some examples:

  • Increase marketing database by 20%
  • Achieve a 16% post-trial purchase rate
  • Increase five-star reviews by 25%

At SoPost, our product sampling experts will guide you through the entire journey, from defining your goals to post-campaign support. 

Know your target audience

Nailing the perfect audience for your product is key to sampling success. 

But product suitability goes beyond basic demographics like age, gender and location. To identify the ideal matches for your product, you need to dive deeper into consumers’ shopping habits, budgets and lifestyle choices. 

For instance, launching a luxury skincare line? You’ll want to ensure your consumer’s budget matches your price tag.  

That way, you’re only sending samples to those most likely to become a paying customer after sampling. Smart! But how do you do that? 

SoPost’s customizable qualifying questions help you weed out anyone who isn’t a good fit for your product, allowing only the most relevant consumers to request a sample. 

qualifying questions

qualifying customers

Avoid freebie hunters 

You’ve targeted the right audience. Now, you need to separate the true product enthusiasts from the casual onlookers who are just looking for a freebie.

At SoPost, our cutting-edge Intelligent Order Processing technology does all the heavy lifting. We’ll analyze billions of SoPost data points to identify low-quality sample requests, like those showing a strong interest in sampling groups or submitting multiple requests. 

We’ll automatically flag these consumers, so you can offer them an alternative product or experience to help you reduce sample waste and maximize your campaign’s ROI. 

Choose the best product format

Picking the perfect product format can be the difference between a product sampling triumph and a wasteful, ineffective sampling campaign.

 Jonathan Grubin, SoPost’s Founder & CEO, explains why this is such a game-changer: 

“Don't just go for any old product. Choose the best sample format for your campaign goals.

“For example, we have a ton of data at SoPost that shows sachets or deluxe minis work best to achieve certain objectives in the world of beauty.

“Different sample formats play different roles. Some are best to boost sales, whereas others are better for capturing data or generating ratings and reviews.”

Want to know the best sample format for your campaign? Let’s chat – we’d love to show you more. 

"Different sample formats play different roles.

Some are best to boost sales, whereas others are better at capturing data or generating ratings and reviews."

— Jonathan Grubin, SoPost Founder & CEO

Sample through the right channel

The magic of digital sampling lies in its versatility, allowing you to integrate campaigns anywhere online, including publisher websites, ad tech, email, apps, TV and audio. 

Feeling overwhelmed with options? Here are some pointers:

Social media sampling

Social media is one of the most effective product sampling channels. Why?

  • It’s cost-effective! You can optimize for leads, not just impressions, through native lead gen formats. And we’ve seen some extremely low media costs for these formats at SoPost.

  • You can be super-specific with your targeting options and have insights into platform behavior, such as who's liked a page or interacted with a specific post.
  • You’ll typically see high engagement – choose the right channel and you’re sampling somewhere your audience is likely to hang out and actively engage every day.

Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the most popular social channels to help give you a steer:

TikTok product sampling

TikTok is still most popular with the younger generations, with 36% of U.S. users aged 18-24. But don’t miss out on a huge pool of potential customers! TikTok’s audience is growing every day, spanning all ages and demographics. 

Use thumb-stopping, short-form videos and authentic user-generated content to capture attention and spark conversation.

Instagram product sampling

Gen Z and Millennials typically love Instagram, with over 60% of global users aged 18-34. High-quality images and videos will grab their attention, and you can tap into influencers to amplify your content.

snapchat product sampling

Targeting Gen Alpha or Gen Z? 58% of Snapchat users are aged 13-24. Get creative through Snapchat’s filters and lenses to quickly boost awareness and engage a younger audience.

pinterest product sampling

Females account for over 70% of Pinterest users. It’s a Millennial haven, but Gen Z, Gen X and Boomers are fans too! Pinterest is a hot spot for product inspiration and discovery with very high purchase intent, so grab attention in feeds with exciting product ads. 

facebook product sampling

Males aged 24-34 just take the lead for Facebook with an audience share of 17.6% but it’s a diverse platform used by all age groups and genders and a strong contender for targeting Gen X or Boomers. Similarly to Instagram, you’ll grab attention with high-quality video and image ads.

digital sampling solutions

online sampling benefits

Influencer sampling

Want to build brand awareness and trust? Use influencers!

They’ll unlock a new, loyal audience base ready to engage with your sampling campaign.

We partnered with Bobbi Brown on an influencer sampling campaign to boost awareness of their Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick. 

After sampling, 86% of consumers left a five-star review, and 100% had already or planned to recommend the shadow stick to a friend at the time we requested feedback. 

digital sampling benefits

Community sampling

Looking for something efficient? Meet communities.

Communities are opted-in groups of consumers who have already raised a hand to say: “I’m in-market and want to try and buy your products!” 

When people sign up for an online community, they complete a profile with demographic information, personal characteristics and product preferences. Brands can then use this data to segment and target the most relevant consumers with your sample offers. 

At SoPost, our community sampling campaigns are not only super cost-effective but ignite engagement. In fact, our community campaigns generate average review and feedback rates of 36% – that’s way above the industry benchmark.

Retail media

Integrate sampling campaigns across retail partners to utilize rich shopping behavioral data, reach qualified consumers at the point of sale and create an omnichannel sampling experience.  

Here are some impactful ways we help brands sample through retailer channels:

  • Integrate sampling ads across popular retail websites
  • Targeted social media posts from popular retailer social accounts
  • Email marketing campaigns to relevant, high-intent shoppers
  • In-store QR codes linking to your online sampling campaign

We helped philosophy generate an incredible 3.2x return on investment through one of our powerful retail partnerships.

Create killer campaigns

You’ve nailed your audience, channels and product. Now, let’s make sure your consumers can’t resist clicking through to claim their sample! 

First, you’ll need to create a killer sampling ad creative that stands out in a sea of offers. Here are some quick tips:

  • Hit them with a strong call to action to make that click irresistible.

  • Make sure your visuals POP! High-quality graphics, images and motion-packed videos will capture attention and build excitement.
  • Want to feature people in your ads? Consider influencers who resonate with your target audience to create an impact.
  • But it’s not always about faces. Compelling creatives and impactful messaging can be more than enough to strike a chord.  As always, the key is understanding your platform and what resonates with your audience.
  • Make it easy for people to request a sample. No one wants to jump through hoops, so keep your forms short and accessible and use auto-fill options where possible.

digital sampling examples

online sampling examples

Next, get creative! Unlock the full potential of your sampling campaign with cutting-edge technology and exciting tactics to elevate engagement, personalize the journey, and provide even better audience and market insights.

Here are 4 creative sampling ideas to do just that: 

1. Virtual try-on

Meet the goldmine for any beauty brand – virtual try-on technology. 

Launching a new foundation or lipstick? Virtual try-on (VTO) lets consumers find and sample their perfect shade without leaving their screens.

Not only does this significantly reduce product waste, but it also helps you stand out, personalize the sampling experience and encourage audience engagement – especially important through channels like social media. 

We partner with PerfectCorp and ModiFace to offer market-leading AI/AR sampling solutions and virtual try-on experiences with makeup, hair and nails. 

At SoPost, we typically see a 27% boost in shade-matching accuracy and a 57% increase in post-trial purchases compared to campaigns using traditional shade selectors.

2. Product bundles

Why showcase just one product, when you can showcase multiple? 

Enticing product bundles offer consumers a high-value sample while flaunting a range of your goodies – perfect for popular gifting seasons like Christmas or Mother’s Day when everyone’s in the spirit of giving or self-indulgence!

A recent SoPost campaign for a popular haircare brand saw 100,000 bundles claimed in just six weeks, with 77% of consumers saying they'd switch to the brand as their new go-to.

3. Get-one gift-one

Ignite word-of-mouth magic through thoughtful get-one, gift-one sampling campaigns. 

How do they work? Your target consumer claims their sample and then has the option to gift a sample to a loved one via email, text or even WhatsApp.  

At SoPost, we’ve witnessed 100% marketing opt-in rates across these campaigns due to the incredible excitement and engagement they generate.

4. Sweepstakes and giveaways

Want a cost-effective way to quickly boost brand awareness and grow your CRM?

Enter sweepstakes and competitions. They give consumers the exciting chance to win a product sample while generating buzz around your brand.

And since you're handpicking only a select few as winners, these campaigns also keep your sample fulfillment costs in check.

One of our recent competitions attracted 56,000 entries in just two weeks, with an incredible 74% signing up to the brand’s marketing database.

Ensure seamless fulfillment

It's not just about distributing your samples; it’s ensuring they reach your target audience in a timely and efficient manner.

A seamless fulfillment process not only keeps your consumers happy, but also boosts customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy. Plus, it streamlines internal operations and minimizes unnecessary customer service support. 

And remember, it’s an opportunity to enhance brand recognition and connect with your consumers. Think about the unboxing journey and how you can create a memorable sampling experience.

Our advice? Nail the logistics:

  • Find a fulfillment partner covering printing, packaging and shipping – everything all in one place. 
  • Launching a multi-market campaign? Pick a partner equipped for global fulfillment. 
  • Sustainability matters. Choose a fulfillment partner with an eco-conscious ethos.
  • Want extra marketing collateral with your samples? Find a partner that handles it all. We advise including leaflets with QR codes linking to your product page or other products in the range. 

At SoPost, we're active in 30+ markets and take care of everything, including printing, packing and shipping your samples worldwide with our global fulfillment partners. Learn more about our fulfillment services.

Collect useful feedback

Make it easy for consumers to provide feedback about your product. Send a follow-up email 2-3 weeks post-trial while their experience is fresh in their mind, linking them straight to a review form or survey. 

Surveys help you understand what consumers like or dislike about your product and offer deeper insights into their purchasing habits. 

With SoPost's product sampling platform, we'll do all of the above automatically, with custom questions so you can collect the relevant, detailed feedback you need. 

On average, our campaigns generate 60%+ feedback response rates and 70%+ five-star review rates. 

online product sampling

Create easy paths to purchase

Don't let the momentum fade! Make purchasing your product post-trial as easy as possible. Here’s how:

  • Include a QR code in your packaging with a link to buy your product online.
  • Send a follow-up email a few weeks later with a direct link to purchase.
  • Sweeten the deal with special incentives like discount codes and exclusive offers

We helped Elizabeth Arden drive 10x more traffic to their product page versus display advertising through targeted drive-to-purchase messaging post-trial. 

sampling marketing

online product sampling strategy

Measure, analyze, optimize 

Your campaign might be over, but the work’s not done. The right digital sampling platform is your ticket to tracking your campaign KPIs and accurately measuring success. 

And post-campaign insights are a goldmine for shaping killer future campaigns. How? Here are two examples:

  • Boost further conversions by retargeting those who said they were very likely to purchase the product in the next six months.

  • Analyze reviews and feedback to spot common trends and inform future product marketing plans. Was a fragrance more popular with a specific age group? Focus on this market for your next campaign. 

At the end of a campaign with SoPost, we’ll provide detailed reports packed with all the data, insights and recommendations you need. We’re talking over a decade of expertise and billions of data points from thousands of sampling campaigns – unparalleled insights at your fingertips!

Real-life sampling success stories 

Here’s an extra dose of success! We've loaded this guide with a ton of incredible, real-life beauty and CPG success stories. 

And because we're feeling especially generous, here are even more brand stories to prove what success really looks like with a SoPost sampling campaign.

Breaking into a new market:

We partnered with Meta and beauty retailer Import Parfumerie to help Jean Paul Gaultier reach new consumers in the Swiss market and drive purchases of their key fragrance, Le Beau Le Parfum.

45% of consumers had never heard of the fragrance before sampling, and 18% bought the full-size bottle within two weeks of receiving their sample.

social media online sampling

Generating ratings and reviews:

We helped Estée Lauder collect feedback and reviews of their new Luxury Fragrance Collection. How? Through an interactive quiz, pairing over 10,000 consumers with their perfect fragrance sample. 

Within two weeks of sampling, 65% had given the fragrance a five-star rating, 56% had recommended it to a friend, and 74% already had or planned to buy the fragrance in the next six months. 

Boosting sales:

How about another seasonal sampling success story? We partnered with Boost Drinks to launch a hyper-targeted social campaign, offering free samples of their energy drink to help consumers "boost their mood" during January.  

Just two weeks after sampling, 32% had already purchased a Boost drink, 48% planned to buy within the next six months and 89% recommended the drink to a friend.

Collecting audience insights: 

We powered Grenade's protein bar launch by arming them with key audience and market insights they could use to tailor future campaign messaging. 

Our findings? Our targeted Meta sampling campaign uncovered that taste was the biggest consumer priority and revealed that their audience is most likely to eat protein bars throughout the day as a healthy snack, rather than pre and post-workout or as a meal replacement.

Key takeaways

We appreciate there’s a lot to consider when running an online product sampling campaign in 2024, so here are some quick takeaways from this guide to help you get the ball rolling.

  • Use a holistic approach. Think about how digital sampling can fit into your wider marketing efforts rather than a standalone campaign. 
  • Be smart with your product sample format. Some sample types work better than others depending on your industry, audience and campaign objectives. Do your research before committing to a product.
  • Streamline the entire journey.  It’s not just the ad that needs attention. Make sure every step of the sampling journey is seamless and on-brand, from order fulfillment to review requests and follow-up emails. 
  • Track, measure and improve. Use a product sampling platform that provides all the data and actionable insights you need to accurately measure the success of your campaigns and improve future strategies. 

Better yet, we can do all the heavy lifting to get your sampling campaigns off the ground.  

Get in touch and we’ll show you what sampling success can look like for you. 

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