Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why You Should Give Better Samples

I'd like to take a break from nails to talk about something I've been thinking about lately: free samples. We all love getting things for free, but I'm fascinated by the business behind them. Companies don't just give away product because it makes people happy. There's a business purpose behind them. I'm not in marketing, but I know what I like, so I figured I'd put my thoughts out into the universe on why full or large size free samples are a good idea on both sides, not just for the person on the receiving end.

Since I'm more on the "just for fun" branch of the nail blogger community (therefore I rarely receive nail-related samples), most of the free items I receive start from websites like This has allowed me to see quite a few types of samples. Overall there are three types, and each has different qualities that impact whether it will achieve the end goal of the company that sent it: my purchasing the product. I love trying new beauty products, but I'm hesitant to spend the often hefty price tags that come with them on an untried. Samples are a huge way to win my trust and show me that other products just won't do.

Tiny Foil Packets
Foil packet type sample, with Nintendo DS for reference

This is the sample type least likely to result in a purchase. This is not out of spite or stupidity, just that I usually don't feel like I really need a product after one use. In the example above, I got three foil packets- shampoo, conditioner, and leave in treatment. Only the leave in treatment made an impression, because the others were too small. Each had about a half dollar size amount. For my thick, coarse curls (think Corrine Bailey Rae), that was enough leave in treatment, but wasn't close to enough shampoo or conditioner. I had to supplement with my regular products. This means I have no idea if the sampled product is any better than what I normally use. I might buy the leave in (it smells fantastic!), but probably won't go out of my way or pay more for the shampoo or conditioner.

Consumer fact #1: I love trying new beauty products, but if your sample is too small for me to know it's it's a must have, I won't be switching-especially if it costs more that what I'm already using.

Medium/Large Samples
A 4 ounce sample bottle of Bio True
This seems to be the trend with samples, and I'm pretty pleased about that. Medium/large samples aren't full sized, but they give you enough to figure out why this product is better than others. With the example here, Bio True contact lens solution, I literally didn't know I needed it. I've been using store brand solution for years because it costs way less than other brands like Bio True. I didn't think there was much of a difference between brands. Contact solution is contact solution, right? Apparently not. I've been using this sample for a few days now, and I much prefer it to my old brand. This sample has at least 2 weeks worth in it, and I fully expect to switch brands when I run out. I'll still use the store brand stuff to remove eye makeup (beauty hint: a cotton ball dipped in contact solution removes eye makeup gently and thoroughly, and feels great on tired eyes), but Bio True just makes my contacts feel better.

Consumer fact #2: To get me to buy your product, I need to know it's better. Give me enough in my sample to let me get an honest appraisal, and I may even throw the old stuff away. It's very common for me to request samples of products when I'm thinking about switching or not sold on the one I'm using.

The Full Size Sample
Full size Nubian Heritage sample
*Cue hallelujah chorus* This is the holy grail of samples. You usually have to do something to get them (surveys, join a mailing list, etc.), but I don't mind jumping through a few hoops for a full size sample. They're also most likely to win me over to a product I wouldn't have used otherwise. This is because if I get a full size product and use the whole thing, I'll most likely see it as a need by the time I'm done. The Nubian Heritage lotion I raved about is a perfect example of both how effective this is and why full size samples have a bonus over medium/large samples. In addition to writing a blog post and tweeting how much I love this stuff, I took a healthy sized sample of this lotion to my mom, since I had a whole bottle. This lotion has become a must have, so I fully plan to buy again, and if she likes it, I may buy her a bottle, too. I went from having zero interest in buying this product to planning to buy two more bottles. This stuff is expensive-but now that I've started using it, I'm willing to pay it. Full size samples have a higher up front cost, but for smaller companies, it may actually cost the same or even less than creating a run of oddly sized product packages for decent samples, and the slow burn loyalty can really help build a brand.

Consumer fact #3: Giving me enough free product to get me hooked: good. Giving me enough to share with people I know will get hooked with me: great.

I love trying new products and brands, but I just don't have the budget to try everything. If I find something I like well enough at a reasonable price, I tend to stick with it. The thing is, health and beauty products is an area I'm willing to splurge on if I really like something, but I won't pay full price for an expensive product that I don't know is better than the one I've already got. If I've got a great coupon, it's on sale cheap, or I've tried and loved a sample, it's game on.

For those of you who want to get in on free samples, I highly recommend Freeflys. While there aren't usually a ton offered, every one that I've requested has been exactly as described on the site, Freeflys tells you up front whether something is required (gifts with purchase, in store vouchers, survey, etc) and I have never been asked for a credit card or referred to a site that wasn't legit. Do you have a favorite site to sample new products?

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