Sampler has brought UNFI aboard its digital product sampling platform.
The grocery wholesale distributor is using the platform to help brands generate greater trial and consumer awareness at a time that’s challenging to promote new products. Because the pandemic forced grocers to pull the plug on in-store samples, brands have been looking for new ways to reach customers. With Sampler, CPG brands can send product samples to the homes of digitally targeted consumers.
“When the pandemic hit, we saw a massive surge in the channel because brands realize that sampling is a necessary part of building a brand and that consumers don’t feel safe sampling products in store,” says Marie Chevrier, CEO and founder of Sampler, which launched in 2013.
While some in-store sampling has returned, Chevrier notes that shoppers are still spending less time in stores. “They want to get in and out, and so they aren’t stopping at the few sample tables that are being held in store.”
The digital platform allows brands to remarket to the consumers they send samples to. “Brands are finding that because they connected with the consumer digitally first, it makes it easy to launch a strong path to purchase,” says Chevrier, a 2017 Star Women in Grocery winner.
“You can send the sample to the consumer, you can follow up five days later via email to see how they felt about it, and then you can send a coupon. Following that, you can retarget them on social media and share their reviews on your own social media channels. So, there are a lot of powerful executions that can come from that first touchpoint.”
As part of the partnership with UNFI, Sampler is developing new features that will serve the emerging natural products food industry, which Chevrier says is a big percentage of the types of brands that like to work with Sampler.
“Supporting innovation and new ideas has always been a part of our company DNA," said UNFI president Chris Testa, in a press release. “UNFI sells over 275,000 unique products from thousands of national, regional and local suppliers. Working with Sampler, we can help deliver a solution for brands wanting to generate greater trial and consumer awareness for their products. This new marketing vehicle can be customized by demographics and region providing an ability to support product distribution to UNFI retailers.”
While Sampler’s focus is on CPG brands, the company is currently piloting a grocery retailer solution with two U.S. retailers. “We’ve been building some great relationships with U.S. retailers and helping them digitize their in-store demos,” says Chevrier.