As a tried-and-true retail strategy, demos are a great way to drive product trials. The try-before-you-buy approach is especially popular for food and beverage brands, where the buying decision often comes down to the power of a compelling experience. ThirdChannel research shows that, overall, store sales rise up to 36 percent during the week of a product demo or event.
We’ve come a long way from setting up a folding table in a grocery store and handing out cheese puffs in Dixie cups. Demos are an opportunity to engage today’s shopper with something that grabs their attention away both from their shopping routine as well as the dizzying array of competing brands they encounter while walking down the aisle.
An engaging demo can help a brand jump off the crowded store shelf and into a customer’s consciousness, offering a unique experience that introduces that customer to a product that might become a long-term favorite.
How do brands level up in their consumer sampling approach? By creating highly curated, immersive brands experiences, led by hyper-knowledgeable brand representatives with access to real-time data that helps them continuously improve and deliver the ultimate experience for shoppers.
For example, one leading natural beverage brand tested several different demo strategies and found that the option that drove the best sales involved the combination of a unique brand experience and a concurrent promotion. After two months, the brand came away with a few important takeaways:
Presentation Matters (and Promotions Help Too)
Brand-right representatives who were matched to a brand through ThirdChannel helped set up three different types of sales environments in four Whole Foods stores:
- A promotional sale
- A normal demo
- A “smoothie cart” demo – a big branded counter on wheels complete with a flashy umbrella, a full collection of the brand’s beverages, and two brand representatives to staff it
In total, representatives were able to engage 1,849 shoppers and distribute 1,824 samples in 10 days. Additionally, 178 of those shoppers made a purchase after trying a sample, for a conversion rate of 9.6%. Of that total, 128 – or 72% - were buying something from that brand for the first time.
But, which activities led to the highest sales? Running a promotion by itself drove a 46% lift in sales compared to a normal week for that brand, while a demo by itself lifted sales by 26% compared to the baseline. Pairing a demo with a sale provided better results, at 108% growth.
Things really took off during smoothie cart week. The smoothie cart’s eye-catching presentation led to a 122% increase over a normal week. Pairing the cart with sales made the biggest impact: an impressive 226% sales lift.
The Battle for Shopper Attention
So, what’s important about these findings? They demonstrate how product trials lead to brand affinity, familiarity and overall sales.
Some products simply need to be tried in-person for a shopper to discover and purchase. But, customers are bombarded with merchandising and promotions for tons of other brands, making it hard for a single company to stand out.
A demo is a great chance to steal a few minutes of their attention and get them interested in something new and exciting. In fact, an analysis of separate data from that same natural beverage brand found that, over a four-month period, average sales per hour were about 8% higher during demo events compared to non-demo days.
Additionally, unique demo experiences – like the smoothie cart – are uniquely capable of grabbing shopper attention and driving overall sales. The smoothie cart led to nearly double the number of customers engaged, samples distributed, and products sold per hour compared to a normal demo.
Ultimately, unique brand experiences ensure that customers are both intrigued to try your product, and incentivized to buy it.