June 7, 2010 – In today’s economy, marketers and shoppers alike are embracing the concept of “free.” Anything labelled “free” can be a powerful motivator. Shoppers psychologically believe that if they receive something from you for free, they would be willing to spend more money in your store because they feel good that they got something for free.
It’s not a big secret that free food samples helps to increase sales, and is a great way to market a new product. For bakeries, it’s practically a no-brainer. And the cost of slicing up a few loaves of bread for sampling is minimal.
But how effective is your sampling program? Are you just leaving your samples on the countertops for customers to try? Or are you actively following up on your samples with sales? Here are a few ideas that will help you make more money from your food sampling program:
1. Sample during peak hours
Make sure that you are giving away your free samples during your store’s busiest times, and when customers are most hungry like before lunch or dinnertime, or on the weekends. A hungry customer who gets a taste of something good will want more and would likely want to buy it immediately.
2. Advertise that you give out free stuff
Many people are drawn to shop at the places where they know they will be able to get some free samples of products. Many cities even offer “Sampling Tours” in which a tour guide will lead groups of people to a variety of places in the city for free samples of food. Use Facebook, Twitter, e-mail marketing or direct mail marketing to spread the word that your bakery is a great place to visit for its free samples. Chances are you will see not only an increase in traffic, but an increase in sales as well.
3. Personally hand out samples
Don’t just leave a tray of samples out somewhere in your store for customers to grab. First, it’s unhygienic, and second, you miss the opportunity to talk with your customers. Hand out samples directly to your customers (preferably while wearing gloves), and tell them something unique about the product. Suggest other items in your store that would go well with your samples.
4. Keep sampled items nearby
Display the products that you are sampling around or near your sampling table so that customers can make the purchase immediately. Most customers could not be bothered to walk back to the other side of the store to pick it up.
If you sell other products in your bakery, create samples using several different products in your store, like bread spread with jam and butter, or a simple crostini recipe. Shoppers will not only appreciate the free sample, but would appreciate the recipe ideas on what to do with your products as well. Merchandise all the products used in your demo products to increase sales. If you are only sampling one product, cross-merchandise relatable items next to your samples, such as similar types of breads and pastries, or jams, spreads, coffees or teas to increase sales.
6. Make it a regular event
Make an event out of your food samples, and hold a major food sampling night once a week or once a month to promote a variety of products, and your bakery in general. Invite your food suppliers to come and sample their products like cheese, jam, dips, chocolate, coffee and other items that would blend well with your baked goods in your store. If possible, also arrange to have a wine-tasting session on the same night.
7. Offer fun samples to children
Children might not be so keen to try your new gluten-free flaxseed bread. Offer kids something colourful and fun, but make sure you check with parents first in case of allergies. This allows parents time to browse your bakery and make more purchases, and also increases the chance that you will make the sale of the fun sample that you gave to the children. You also increase the chances of repeat visits, as parents will be more inclined to visit your bakery because they know their child will receive a small treat.
8. Get customers to sign up for your database
While customers are sampling your products and chatting with you, get them to sign up for your database. It’s a great opportunity to build up your mailing list and touch base with them, send them coupons and give them information about other upcoming events and products.
Keep a garbage can nearby
Always ensure a garbage bin is near your food-sampling table, especially if you’re handing out items in a paper cup, on a napkin or on a toothpick. You don’t want customers to leave these bits of garbage all over the table and your bakery.
Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping food service, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for more than 25 years. She provides innovative food and retail merchandising programs, interior design, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655, e-mail email@example.com, or visit www.chiassonconsultants.com
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