We’ve all walked by the person handing out a new weird and wonderful tasting chocolate in the supermarket or department store (don’t mind if I do!). Some of us may have walked by two or three times. But when almost everything has moved online, how can you make this tried and tested marketing strategy work for your eCommerce business?

Offering your thoroughly researched, lovingly crafted product for free might seem totally counterintuitive. After all, someone has to pay for it. And when it comes to a freebie (free sampling), that cost is usually borne by your small business. But don’t let that scare you off free sampling.

73% of customers said they would likely buy a product after trying it. And, according to Shopify, free samples have the ability to boost your sales by as much as 2,000%

Free product samples are a great way to:

  • Enhance your brand
  • Build customer loyalty
  • Influence basket size
  • Grab attention in a crowded online market
  • Generate new customer leads
  • Get bang for buck on shipping

Of course, getting it right is important – successful sampling requires you to think laterally. You’ve got to formulate a plan about how and when to give free samples to your customers.


1. Using free samples to enhance branding

Free samples

In today’s hyper-competitive business world, it can be tough to hit on marketing strategies to make your brand stand out from the crowd. 

Companies are constantly searching for interesting and creative ways to get the word out about their products.

While you can try coming up with something new and novel, why not try the tried and true methods?

That’s where free samples come in.

“From a brand perspective you can reach a lot of people quickly with samples and you’re getting them into their hands and homes which works and we have always seen good results from them,” – Flora & Fauna founder and CEO Julie Mathers, InsideRetail

As a cut-through technique to build brand awareness, offering free stuff is a powerful tactic that your customers won’t soon forget. It can also increase the chance of them choosing your product over another next time they’re shopping around.


Ship your samples with Sendle


2. Create customer loyalty through reciprocity

Another reason to consider sending out free samples is that it builds customer loyalty over the long run.

The reason for this is based in human psychology. Specifically, shoppers that get some stuff on the house are more likely to become loyal customers than those who have not.

The psychological concept of reciprocity explains this particular truth.

Simply put, when shoppers get free stuff (say some delicious pickled thing at the farmer’s market, or a trial size of your bestselling tea thrown in when packing their online order), they believe they’ve been given something for nothing.

This leaves them feeling obligated to reciprocate (or give back in kind) by buying the item in the future. And, voila, you’ve got a new and loyal buyer! 

Kidizen seller Lisa Willem likes to keep a little collection of freebies on hand to pop in with each order. As a marketplace, Kidizen is all about getting more value and wear out of babies and kids clothing – they grow so fast, the secondhand opportunities are really limitless.

“I’ll hunt through my container of free enclosures and try to add something fitting, whether it be stickers, a small toy, hair bow, etc. For example, if the child loves owls, I’ll try to add something owl-related.” – Lisa Willem, Momizens (Kidizen seller)

For Lisa, a little freebie added to each order is a moment for personalisation, brand reinforcement and creating return business.


3. Fill your basket, get a freebie!

Free samples can be a powerful tool for increasing basket size, too.

If you dangle the carrot of free samples when your customer makes a purchase (or spends a minimum amount), you can influence how much they spend in a single transaction.


Screen shot from Ethique.com.au showing free sample offer

Trying new products for free is front and center on plastic-free beauty bar brand Ethique’s website.


You may choose to offer a free sample only when your customer reaches a particular spending threshold, or (like in the case of Ethique’s current offer) with every purchase.

If you take the route of offering freebies only when a customer spends a certain amount, try to choose a figure that’s easily, but not too easily, reached. This may be slightly more than your most common two products added together, and is a great way for you to clear last season’s stock or bin-ends.

The freebies your customers choose can also tell you a lot about your products.

Want to test something fresh from the production floor? You could offer it for free in exchange for a review, or simply take a look at your analytics around freebies to get an idea of what’s trending and worth developing into a full-size product.


4. Grab attention using clever plugins and social media

Capturing attention

Getting a start-up or new small business off the ground can be hard work.

It’s especially difficult these days for emerging eCommerce companies to get “airtime” given we live in an era of information overload.

In this context, offering free samples can be a great way for consumers to take notice of a new player in the market.

In a physical store, this is pretty simple. Like the chocolate-in-the-supermarket example, it’s easy to grab someone’s attention when you’re physically in their way, handing them something that they can see, smell and touch (while standing next to your logo, supersized). Job done!

But, when you move into the online space, getting those eyeballs and hands on your goodies becomes decidedly more complicated. This is where plugins and social come in.

Plugins for your eCommerce store, like those offered for WooCommerce, have the ability to target specific customer segments, manage how much you spend on samples and which of your pages they appear on.

Social media can also be a brilliant part of your marketing mix when it comes to offering free samples. Add #freesamples to your social post and you’ll see the likes and comments come flooding in.


5. Lead generation is the currency

Don’t neglect the power of free samples when building out leads. Sure, give away your stuff for free, but do your utmost to capture addresses, emails, and phone numbers in exchange.

Because free stuff isn’t exactly free, and customers know this.

Taking this approach – instead of just handing out samples without getting anything in return – allows you to follow up and potentially close the sale at a later time.

Just like that your free sample turns into a powerful marketing tool with a potentially big pay-off.


6. The cost of shipping free samples

It’s not gonna get there itself, so how do you make the logistics and shipping aspects of free samples a viable choice for your small business?

The beauty of samples is that, when compared with your regular product, they can be relatively compact and light.

Throwing a couple of tidbits for your customer to try into the parcel you’re already shipping (along with their 100% carbon neutral return shipping label) is a great way to get them to try more of your products while making the most of the shipping you (or they) are already paying for.

If you’re shipping anything like tea, coffee, cosmetics, fabric swatches (for your bespoke pillows) or pet accessories in Australia, you’re likely already more than au fait with Sendle Pouch, our 250g small weight break that packs a punch.

The 250g Sendle Pouch is a brilliant way to get free samples into the hot little hands of your new best customer for an incredibly low price.

Starting at $3.85 (ex GST and fuel surcharge), Sendle Pouch is the perfect way to send complimentary or free products – or all of your light items (they don’t even need to be small, just under 1.5m long).

Start shipping with Sendle

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