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An empirical investigation of in‐store sampling promotions

Carrie Heilman (McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA)
Kyryl Lakishyk (Católica‐Lisbon School of Business & Economics, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Lisboa, Portugal)
Sonja Radas (The Institute of Economics, Zagreb, Croatia)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 27 September 2011




This paper aims to investigate the impact of in‐store sample promotions of food products on consumer trial and purchasing behavior. The authors investigate differences in the trial rate for free samples across different products and consumer types, as well as the impact of sampling on product and category purchase incidence. The results of this study are relevant for retailers and manufacturers who invest in in‐store free sample promotions.


The authors use data from a field study, which leveraged an actual free‐sample program implemented by a US grocery store chain. Data was collected on six different products promoted by in‐store free samples over six different weekends. The data collected included consumers' trial and purchasing behavior with respect to the free sample, as well as their attitudes towards the free sample that day and free sample promotions in general.


Free sampling is very effective in inducing trial, especially among lower educated consumers. For consumers who are planning to buy the product in the promoted category, free sampling can encourage switching from the planned to the promoted brand. For consumers who do not have such previous plans, free sampling can “draw“ them into the category and encourage category purchase. Samplers' interactions with the person distributing the sample or with other samplers at the scene also seem to boost post‐sample purchase incidence.


Despite the importance of free samples as a promotional tool, few studies have examined consumer trial and purchasing behavior with respect to in‐store free samples. This paper presents one of the first known field studies that examines this topic.



Heilman, C., Lakishyk, K. and Radas, S. (2011), "An empirical investigation of in‐store sampling promotions", British Food Journal, Vol. 113 No. 10, pp. 1252-1266.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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