Sampling has become Covid-Marketer’s Trojan horse


During the lockdown, UK advertisers have pulled a staggering £1.1bn in spend. Spend on TV fell 37%, Press by 42%, radio 34.5% and out-of-home practically dried up with an 85% reduction.

While these figures make for tough reading for the ad and media industry, spare a thought for anyone in the experiential marketing business. With no one venturing out, groups of more than six being made illegal, the onslaught of Covid-19 continues to be unrelenting in its cruelty.

The thought of getting anything other than hand sanitiser, in the hands of consumers seems to be losing battle.

Despite all the barriers that have been put in place to keep people safe, you’re never going to stop people buying things. And we’ve seen some pretty seismic changes in how we shop over the past six months alone.

Everything from panic buying of loo roll to a surge in demand for deliveries of stationary as the world suddenly discovered it could work from home.

Consumer behaviour changed almost overnight. They found a way to get their hands on what they needed without too much difficulty.

But with consumers self-selecting only what they need, brands are still struggling to introduce new and relevant products to people. A task made all the more difficult by locked front doors, a hesitance to engage with anyone outside of social bubbles and doubts over the sanitation and cleanliness of packaging.

Marketers have had to start thinking like consumers, and it’s led to some simple, yet brilliantly engaging tactics which are delighting consumers by putting new brands in their hands in an unexpected way.

It sounds simple, yet there’s more to it than just handing out a few freebies.
Sampling agency Relish can prove that with the right products delivered through the right partners to the right people at the right time can be one of the most effective ways to affect consumer purchase decisionmaking.

Ben Bestford, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Relish Agency adds “For many of our clients, sampling is proving to be one of the most powerful tactics during the lockdown. Our TRY. LOVE. BUY approach has seen increases in purchases from samples of over 300%. And we do that without any pestering or hard-sell. In the consumer’s eyes, they have received a little something extra for nothing and that goodwill goes a long way when it comes to deciding to make a purchase.”

And if you think sampling is a simple as popping a few freebies in a box, there’s far more to it than that. Who gets what sample is vitally important and looking at customer data and legacy propensity models means the recipient feels they’ve been considered further helping the decision to buy.

“We also go to great lengths to gather online feedback from the people who receive our samples. This helps us and our clients determine what to try next. And in the constantly changing world, we’re in today, it’s as close to up-to-the-minute feedback as you’re likely to get from your customers”, adds Relish’s Bestford.

So where does this leave us as we face the run-up to Christmas and our busiest retail events of the year? Econsultancy has just published results of a survey that shows 58% of UK consumers say they’re shopping more online than they did before Covid-19. That’s only going to increase in the current climate combined with continued restrictions. That’s a lot of parcels being delivered to a lot of homes.

If Sampling isn’t a serious part of your marketing strategy going forward, you may find your brands are left out in the cold. To find out more about how you can access Relish Agency’s extensive portfolio of retailers, contact them on