ALAN HALKUFF SENIOR VP, PROMOTION DECISIONS, CINCINNATI
Trial & Conversion: Marketers generally believe that sampling is a powerful technique, but some are skeptical about being able to verify its effect on their marketing programs Is that a valid concern?
HALKUFF: Measuring the effect of sampling is a bit more difficult than evaluating the impact of more immediate promotion techniques, like displays or TPRs. But there are now valid measuring techniques marketers can apply to the sampling programs.
Your company and other market research firms evaluate the impact of a range of consumer promotions. How does your company look at sampling?
If we are brought in prior to the program start, we are able to set up test and control households with known purchase histories using frequent shopper data. These households are matched on prior brand and category purchasing. The sampling vendor then delivers the samples and we track household purchasing going forward.
With the frequent shopper data that we receive from over 300,000 households, we are able to help marketers determine if their sampling program achieves its objectives of increasing sales, increasing trial, or attracting competitive buyers.
So it’s possible to determine If sampling programs are responsible for a sales lift of X?
Absolutely. We’ve worked with grocery retailer frequent-shopper program data gathered from loyalty programs since 1989 that permits us to track household purchasing in 300,000 homes nationwide. We get scanner-generated records of household ID, UPCs purchased, coupons redeemed, price paid and date.
How does this tie into sampling?
Let’s assume that a manufacturer tells us that they are running an in-store sampling program in Detroit in specific stores within a chain during a specific week. We have a panel of 25,000-plus households in that market so we can measure shopper’s reactions to the sample because we know which shoppers were in the stores at the time of the in-store sampling effort. That doesn’t mean that every consumer who was in the store at the time actually tasted or accepted the sample, but we know they were in the store.
We’ll use those people as a test panel and as a control panel we’ll use a group of shoppers who weren’t in the stores at the time of the sampling.
We configure a quasi-experimental design matching these people exposed to the sampling to those that were not based on prior purchasing habits of the previous six months in that product category.
What is your key measurement?
It depends on the program objectives, but cost per incremental trier and cost per incremental unit sold are the most common.
What are some of the benefits of target marketing vis a vis sampling?
An example of some of the more obvious benefits of targeting would be disposable diapers to households with infants and dog food samples to households with pets. But with the growing acceptance of predictive modeling, prospective responder households can be uncovered and targeted. This increases the efficiency of the sampling program.
What’s the rule of thumb?
We’ve found no general answer. Sometimes target marketing works very well, sometimes it’s more cost efficient to use a more broad-based method.
Sampling is sometimes used as a stand-alone marketing technique, but more often it’s part of a larger marketing strategy including sweepstakes, advertising, events, FSIs and so on. Is it possible for a marketer to separate the impact sampling makes from other tactics?
Using a variety of testing and modeling techniques, they can determine the effects of each part of the marketing mix, including sampling and couponing. As researchers, the tusk is simplified if we are brought in prior to the program start.
Any bottom-line sampling lessons for marketers?
Very simple. Establish objectives, plan well, and measure results. Eventually each manufacturer will understand which strategies perform against their program objectives.
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