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What sampling strategy is best?

Posted on:
November 3, 2023

A New Era in Sampling: Targeted vs. Traditional Sampling

Sampling has long been a staple in the world of marketing. Whether it’s trying a bite of a new snack at the grocery store or receiving a free product at the train station, traditional product sampling has its merits. However, in the age of data-driven marketing, the landscape has evolved. Enter targeted sampling, a method that’s changing the game with direct to consumer (D2C) sampling. In this blog post, we’ll compare traditional product sampling to online targeted sampling, highlighting the challenges of the former and how the latter provides effective solutions.




Traditional Product Sampling Challenges:

Traditional product sampling, while a time-tested marketing method, faces several challenges that can be addressed through key marketing insights:

Single Touch and the Rule of Seven:

Traditional product sampling typically results in a single touchpoint with potential customers. This approach is at odds with the “Rule of Seven” a marketing concept that suggests a message needs to be exposed to an individual at least seven times before they take action.

These multiple exposures create familiarity and trust. In traditional sampling, where engagement is limited to a single touch, audience conversion can be challenging. The psychological principle known as the “mere exposure effect” is relevant here. This theory posits that people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. The single-touch nature of traditional sampling doesn’t allow for the repetition required to build this familiarity.

Freebie Hunters and Target Audience Segmentation:

Traditional product sampling often attracts freebie hunters, individuals who are primarily interested in obtaining free products rather than becoming genuine customers. This phenomenon can be explained by the concept of target audience segmentation. Marketers need to differentiate between segments based on their interest and potential contribution to the brand. Freebie hunters fall outside the target audience for most brands and, therefore, represent an inefficient allocation of marketing resources. Traditional sampling lacks the precision needed to exclude or filter out these segments effectively.

Random Delivery Timescales and Customer Experience:

In traditional sampling, the timing and delivery of samples can be erratic. This unpredictability contradicts the service-dominant logic (SDL) of marketing, which emphasises the importance of delivering a consistent and positive customer experience.

The SDL theory posits that service is the primary basis of exchange and value creation in marketing. Erratic delivery timescales can lead to customer dissatisfaction, disrupting the ideal service flow and experience. Moreover, in the context of customer journey mapping, delivery timing plays a critical role in ensuring that customers have the right experience at the right time. Traditional sampling’s random delivery timescales can interrupt this ideal customer journey.

Slow or No Analytics and Data-Driven Marketing:

Traditional sampling often lacks efficient analytics or real-time data collection, it’s difficult to pull information from passersby or busy shoppers.

Traditional sampling’s lack of analytics can lead to a slow and cumbersome assessment of campaign performance, hindering marketers from making timely adjustments based on consumer responses. Effective marketing campaigns require continuous feedback and adaptation, a principle closely aligned with the concept of agile marketing, where decisions are based on data and changes are made swiftly based on insights.

No Customisation for Brand Experience and Personalisation:

Customisation is a fundamental component of personalised marketing, an approach rooted in relationship marketing. Personalisation involves tailoring brand interactions to individual preferences and behaviours.

Traditional product sampling rarely allows for such personalised, branded interactions due to the one-stop shop for interactions. The absence of customisation impedes efforts to create a unique and memorable brand experience for each recipient. In a world where customers increasingly expect personalised interactions, traditional sampling falls short of meeting these expectations.

No Focus as Interaction is Incidental and Strategic Marketing:

Sampling interactions in traditional methods are often incidental, lacking a strategic approach. Marketing strategies built on customer relationship management (CRM) and customer-centricity advocate for a well-thought-out, strategic approach to customer interactions.

This includes designing engagements that align with the overall marketing strategy and objectives. Traditional sampling, due to its happenstance nature, may not effectively contribute to a well-defined strategic plan.


In summary, modern marketing demands a focus on personalisation, precision targeting, data-driven decision-making, customer experiences, and strategic planning – traditional sampling lacks these in an effort to reduce cost for mass coverage. Transitioning from traditional to online targeted sampling allows marketers to apply these principles more effectively in their campaigns. But what about broad digital marketing?




Traditional Broad Digital Marketing:

Expanding on the challenges of broad approach digital sampling is another option for marketers, including subscription boxes and in-package samples, looking into this reveals further insights into these marketing methods.

Data Quality is Low and lacks precise Targeting:

Broad digital sampling methods often result in data that lacks depth and accuracy. This can be attributed to the wide-reaching nature of such campaigns, which may not include robust data collection mechanisms. This data quality challenge underscores the importance of precision targeting.

Data-driven marketing and the customer lifetime value (CLV) theory, stress the significance of using high-quality data for effective targeting to hold customers within a brands influence. Low-quality data can lead to misaligned campaigns and an inability to reach the most valuable customer segments.

Freebie Hunters in Digital Sampling:

Freebie hunters, attracted by the promise of free products, continue to be an issue in broad digital marketing. The concept of the “bait and switch” is relevant here. Customers are often attracted by a low-cost or free offer but then end up purchasing a more expensive item. In the context of broad digital sampling, freebie hunters often engage with no intent to become paying customers. The challenge lies in distinguishing these freebie hunters from genuinely interested leads, and ensuring the consumer journey is clear – that free items are available and require no need to purchase further.

Random Delivery Timescales Persist:

Much like traditional sampling, the timing of digital sampling can still be erratic. This inconsistency contradicts the principles of service-dominant logic in marketing, as discussed earlier. SDL emphasises a seamless and consistent customer experience. The unpredictability of delivery timescales in broad digital sampling can disrupt this ideal customer journey.

Lack of Real-time Analytics in Digital Sampling:

Broad digital sampling campaigns frequently suffer from the absence of real-time analytics. The importance of real-time data analysis is highlighted in agile marketing, a theory that promotes rapid adjustments based on data insights. The lack of such analytics can prevent marketers from making timely changes to campaigns, ultimately impacting their effectiveness.

Low Customisation and Personalisation:

In the context of broad digital sampling, customisation and personalisation may be limited. Due to brands being strung by partners’ other priorities, whether that’s selling their own products or grouping boxes for customers, the dearth of customisation in broad digital sampling can lead to less personalised user experiences. In this era of increased consumer expectations for tailored marketing, broad digital sampling may struggle to meet these standards.

Duplication of Samples Given:

Distribution challenges in broad digital marketing can lead to inefficiencies in managing sample allocation. This can result in the distribution of duplicate samples or irrelevant products to recipients. Inefficient distribution is at odds with the principles of resource allocation to maximise outcomes. Duplications or misallocations can undermine this efficiency.

Lack of Limelight in Broad Campaigns:

Being part of a broad digital sampling campaign can present the challenge of your product getting lost in the shuffle. This scenario is consistent with market segmentation. In marketing, segmentation is crucial for targeting specific customer groups. Being part of a large, undifferentiated campaign can prevent your product from receiving the attention it deserves.


In summary, broad digital sampling, while presenting its own set of challenges, shares some common issues with traditional sampling. To overcome these challenges and make marketing more effective, marketers must consider the application of key marketing theories and principles. Data quality, personalised targeting, real-time analytics, and efficient resource allocation are crucial for the success of both traditional and digital sampling strategies.


Online Targeted Sampling: A Solution to your Sampling Challenges

In the realm of marketing, where precision and efficiency are paramount, targeted sampling emerges as a powerful solution to the challenges faced by traditional and broad digital sampling methods. By harnessing the principles of online targeted sampling, brand marketers can address these issues head-on and optimise their campaigns. Let’s explore how targeted sampling is the right route for brand marketers:


Precision Targeting:

Targeted sampling epitomises precision in reaching the desired audience. Drawing from data-driven marketing principles, it allows for accurate selection of recipients based on their demographics, behaviours, and preferences. The result is a more engaged and relevant audience, steering clear of the freebie hunter phenomenon. Marketers can apply segmentation and profiling techniques, aligning their campaigns to ensure that each sample serves a valuable purpose.

Engagement and Feedback Loops:

One of the standout features of targeted sampling is its ability to foster ongoing interactions and gather immediate feedback and reviews. This is aligned with the concept of agile marketing, where rapid adjustments based on data insights are encouraged. Brands can establish feedback loops with recipients, driving continuous campaign improvement. This real-time interaction aligns with the 7 touch rule, reinforcing the importance of multiple engagements for conversion.

Predictable Delivery Times:

Say goodbye to random delivery timescales. Targeted sampling ensures that samples reach the right audience at precisely the right time. This reliability, in line with service-dominant logic, contributes to a consistent customer experience. Brands can synchronise their sample deliveries with recipient preferences and the moments that matter most.

Real-time Analytics:

Data analysis takes place in real time, allowing marketers to make swift campaign adjustments as needed. Real-time analytics echo the core principle of agile marketing, where data insights are pivotal for making immediate changes. Targeted sampling campaigns, guided by robust analytics, align with the idea of a data-driven marketing strategy.

High Customisation:

Targeted sampling excels in customisation, offering personalised brand experiences for each recipient. This personalisation resonates with relationship marketing theory, where tailored interactions build stronger connections. With targeted sampling, you can customise your message, imagery, and even the product selection to ensure that every sample is a reflection of your brand and its values.

Strategic Focus:

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of targeted sampling is its intentional, strategic focus. Campaigns are designed with specific objectives in mind, aligning with the principles of resource allocation in marketing. By targeting the right audience, at the right time, with the right message, you ensure that your sampling efforts are part of a larger, well-thought-out marketing strategy. This strategic alignment brings you closer to your marketing goals.


In conclusion, targeted sampling not only addresses the inherent challenges of traditional and broad digital sampling but also elevates marketing strategies to new heights. By employing precision targeting, fostering continuous engagement, ensuring predictable delivery times, leveraging real-time analytics, embracing high customisation, and maintaining a strategic focus, brand marketers can unlock the full potential of their sampling campaigns. Targeted sampling is the definitive route for those seeking to enhance their brand engagement and drive meaningful customer relationships in the digital age.



While traditional product sampling and broad digital marketing methods have their place, targeted sampling is raising the bar. It addresses many of the challenges faced by traditional methods and provides a highly efficient, data-driven, and personalised way to engage with your audience. In a world where data quality, customisation, and precision targeting are paramount, the choice between traditional and online targeted sampling is clear: adapt to the times and embrace the future of marketing with targeted sampling.

If you’re interested in looking at how targeted sampling can support your marketing and product research teams, reach out to us at, or alternatively book a call directly with our agency team here.

About the author

Roland Spencer

Roland serves as the Head of Marketing at Sampl, a dynamic product sampling agency. Based in the vibrant city of Brighton, he brings extensive expertise in marketing and content development. With a passion for guiding tech businesses towards success. Roland thrives on crafting innovative marketing strategies and delivering exceptional results. When he’s not immersed in the world of marketing, you can often find him watching Formula E, playing football, gardening and cooking.

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