Depending on your business – from a café to a restaurant, retail shop to fitness club or spa – your sampling opportunities will vary.

Active in-store sampling provides opportunities for employees to engage customers in conversation, provide information about products and help build loyalty.

Active sampling is essential to your overall success. “Active sampling” means coming out from behind the counter and interacting directly with your customers as you offer samples.

Sample to customers waiting in line. If there isn’t a line, sample to seated customers. If there aren’t customers inside, sample to potential customers passing by outside your store.

In-Store: The Waiting Customer

Sampling to customers waiting: in-line to order, at their table waiting for service, at the bar or waiting area waiting to be seated.

All of these customers are “pre-purchase.” There is an opportunity to influence what they ultimately purchase through sampling.

If you have the type of restaurant where people wait in a lobby or at a bar for their seat, have a server bring pre-portioned samples. Bring appetizer items, side dish, or dinner specials for the customer to try. If a customer says they like it, suggest they order it when their server comes.

This may increase average sale through customers trading up from what they usually purchase. It will also increase the speed of service having customers seated already knowing what they wish to order. (That being said, we strongly advise against rushing customers to “turn tables.” That is a No-No.)

If customer line up to purchase, offer samples to those waiting. Sampling to customers in line is an opportunity to surprise and delight customers, can impact their purchase decision and potentially result in a higher ticket or an incremental purchase.

In-Store: At the Point of Sale (POS)

Just before the customer makes their purchase, especially when they are:

  1. undecided,
  2. looking for something out of the ordinary,
  3. or as an add-on to their purchase.

Provide sips or bites of key products. This is an excellent opportunity to drive interest in this purchase, and perhaps the next.

In-Store: At Table

Send an employee around with a tray prepared with sips or bite-sized samples of featured products. Consider: entrees, food or drink specials, side dishes, or desserts.

In-Store: On Sales Floor

Many smart wine and beer shops offer tastings on a regular basis. Who wants to pay $35 for a bottle of wine they dislike? Allowing customers to sample and try-before-they-buy creates happier, more satisfied customers.

Tazo Tea Indoor Sampling

Within the Tazo Tea Store in Seattle, WA, this cart offers customers two types of tea to sample. A very smart cart as it features a space to write about the product, a place to display the product on top, disguises two thermal containers, a cup dispenser, and trash can. Brilliant!

Olive Oil Sampling Station & Tasting Bar

One of our favorite sampling ideas is Williams-Sonoma’s olive oil sampling station. They feature several varieties of their olive oils (open to sample) and offer bits of bread for customers to use to pour their own onto the bread for tasting.

It is typically situated right near the cash registers where someone can answer any questions customers may have.[Image Source: Williams-Sonoma Website]

In-Store: Sampling In Front of Store

Sampling in front of the store helps build incremental transactions and to bring new customers into the store. Welcoming new customers is easy with a free sample, and it allows you to highlight featured products.

Sample outside your store when there are not many customers waiting in line. This will invite new customers into the store.

Active Sample outside the front of the store to increase transactions and bring in new customers. It can give you the chance to sway the choice of customers who were already on their way in, as well as bring in passers-by who perhaps weren’t planning on coming into the location.

Tazo Tea Outdoor Sampling Cart

One of the best Passive Sampling tools we’ve seen is this great cart for the Tazo Tea store in the University Village shopping center in Seattle, WA.

This cart is a converted popcorn cart and sits outside where customers who are passing by may choose between two product samples.