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brand experience brief: samplinglab

Here’s my newest Brand Experience Brief, a video audit and analysis of a new or interesting retail or restaurant concept — and this store certainly is interesting.  SamplingLab is a store where you can try free samples of products and give your feedback to the companies that make them.  For product companies SamplingLab offers a step up from typical brand activations like giveaways on the street corner or at a festival and it’s a way to collect insights outside of traditional market research which often takes place in an artificial environment.  Take a look:

BEB SamplingLab from Denise Lee Yohn on Vimeo.

other brand experience briefs on unusual retail concepts:

transcript:

Here’s a cool retail concept to check out!  SamplingLab is a store where you can try free samples of products and give your feedback to the companies that make them. Right now there’s only one SamplingLab store based in Portland, OR, but I could see this idea really taking off.

The concept is pretty simple:   Product manufacturers sign up to showcase a product or two in the SamplingLab storefront.  Customers sign up to become SamplingLab members and then each time they visit, they select a sample to try and fill out an online survey to give feedback in store or later on their mobile phone.  Products range from food to personal care to household goods to pet products and more.  On the day I visited, about 10-12 different brands of food and beverages were available to try.  Customers are limited to one sample per day and are asked to fill out the survey within 48 hours.

The products are a mix of well known brands like Vita Coca which was testing a coffee product, and local brands like Rain Shine Sweet.  Most products came in full sizes, not the small, skimpy ones you usually associate with samples. Also some displays included info cards or sales sheets or coupons that you can take with you.

The store itself is well-designed – stylish enough to be a cool place to visit, but neutral enough not to distract from the products. There is a station for you to sign up for membership on the spot as well as a space to hang out if you want to try the sample on the spot too.

The staff at SamplingLab helps the brands put up nice displays of their products, create signage to promote and describe the offerings, and develop the online survey to get at the issues and feedback they care about the most.  The staff also enters the sample each member picks into their profile so the survey is automatically linked and the customer can take the survey seamlessly.  For companies SamplingLab is a step up from typical brand activations like giveaways on the street corner or at a festival and it’s a way to collect insights outside of traditional market research which often takes place in an artificial environment.

The limitations to the feedback are that the samplers are not qualified members of the brand’s target audience, so companies have to filter the feedback understanding that it might not represent the customers they’re seeking.  Also because the samples are free, the setting doesn’t reflect real value perceptions – companies can only ask people in the survey for their opinions about the prices.

The concept lends itself well to social media and offers incentives and rewards to members for sampling and social sharing.  It seems like the perfect store for Millennials who like to try new things and share them with friends.  So I bet we’ll see more SamplingLabs or other concepts like it soon.

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