Picture: Supplied by Introducing!SA
Picture: Supplied by Introducing!SA

Many multinationals use a sampling strategy to win market share. In the pandemic, consumers have minimised spending time in stores and increased online shopping. Consumers now prefer discovering new brands in the safety of their homes. In the latest Future of Media online discussion in partnership with Introducing!SA, Siya Sangweni hosted a panel of  omnichannel brand experts who know a thing or two about connecting brands to consumers.

In this discussion, Sangweni pointed out that humans are sensory beings – we like to touch, feel, smell and hear. We like to turn products around in our hands, feel their weight and texture, and check them from all angles. However, the pandemic has dramatically changed the shopping experience for consumers as avoiding crowds and social distancing have become paramount, making sampling and testing products before purchasing them difficult.

Aqsa Qureshi, digital channel strategy manager at Introducing!SA, gave some background about Caxton and its new focus on at-home sampling. “Local and global companies have had to innovate due to the safety concerns around sampling.” This was done because of the win-win consumer/marketer relationship, where the consumer gets to sample something for free and the marketer becomes a considered purchase. Global research has shown that consumers are more eager than ever to discover new products in their home, because of all the adverts they see online and on social media. With in-store sampling coming to a halt, the study says, the consumer is more likely to try samples if they are sent to their homes.

So, what makes this model so successful? Dejane Poil, head of retail marketing and innovation at Introducing!SA, pointed out that “Caxton Local Media delivers over 3-million newspapers each week via 120 titles. We have a tried-and-tested distribution model, delivering a credible printed product to homes, to many communities within SA.” With a distribution chain that is highly effective and reliable, and with the closing of its magazine division, there was a gap in the market for a “lifestyle content destination”, as well as a sampling delivery mechanism.

Sangweni took it to a more practical level, asking Jacqui Hansen, research strategist at Spark Media: “How does Introducing!SA deliver a solution to me?”

She said it offers two sampling solutions, mass sampling and premium sampling, and is currently focusing on mass sampling.

“With mass sampling we start with the quantity needed. We then dive into the client’s target audience requirement – to do this we use our smart targeting process.” She said the smart targeting process is a collaborative effort between them and the brands. “Brands can supply us with preferred profiles which we can match to our existing database which we use to pull target profiles. We can accommodate campaigns targeting wide, mass audiences to the more specific audience.”

As Qureshi mentioned, the safety issue has been the catalyst for at home sampling, but “safe sampling” goes a bit deeper than this. Poil elaborated: “When we say safe it’s threefold: it’s the actual safety of the product; it’s ticking the Covid safety compliancy box; and it’s return on investment [ROI] for the client – so peace of mind for client that their product is in safe hands.”

The question of ROI for the client was brought up by Sangweni. “How do you track and analyse if a campaign was successful?”

Hansen explained that their measures include physical distribution and a level of verification. “This includes things like supervisor reports, ‘mystery shopper’ photographers who do random spot checks, actual engagement with the sample and feedback from our readers and, of course, letters, e-mail and social media posts and comments or pics.”

Sangweni wrapped up by asking whether the panel believed that in-home sampling would remain a thing or simply fade away as people get vaccinated and things return to “normal” again.

Qureshi said: “I don’t have a crystal ball, but it’s also important to understand that we don’t know how long the vaccine will remain effective. They are already talking about the fourth wave hitting in November or December. Regardless of what I’ve just mentioned, consumer behaviour has changed; the fact is that we have become very focused on hygiene and safety and though traditional sampling may start trickling back , in different formats, in-home sampling remains safe, hygienic, engaging and effective, and I don’t see in-home sampling disappearing any time soon.”

To watch the full discussion, click here.

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