Friday, June 25, 2010

Sample Genius

Anyone who has read much about Sam Walton, the founder of Wal Mart will know that he loved merchandising.     What is merchandising though?  BusinessDictionary.Com has this to say in regards to Merchandising.

Activities aimed at quick retail sale of goods using bundling, display techniques, free samples, on-the-spot demonstration, pricing, shelf talkers, special offers, and other point-of-sale methods. According to American Marketing Association, merchandising encompasses "planning involved in marketing the right merchandise or service at the right place, at the right time, in the right quantities, and at the right price."

I summarize this in my mind as "enticing people to buy (lots of) your stuff".  There are of course many different ways to do this.  For instance, putting your product or service on sale, advertising and setting up a display if you are a retailer.  A variation of the display idea that I really like is the demo/sample tables that at places like Costco & Trader Joe's.

One of the less talked about motivations to buy a Costco membership is all the free samples you can partake of while shopping.  I really like the variety and the fact that they seem to do a good job of training the people behind the table.  Not only do they generally manage to offer up the samples without seeming pushy, they also know the products and are able to answer questions.  In some or perhaps all cases the people doing this job probably work for the company that makes the products being offered.

On several occasions my wife and I have purchased products after trying a sample.  The fruit bars at this display were winners for us and we brought a box home. Will this be a long term thing?  It wouldn't be the first time we've become repeat purchasers of a product we sampled at Costco.

Trader Joe's 
I'm a big fan of Trader Joe's. They have great prices and all sorts of really cool stuff that is either difficult or impossible to find anywhere else.  Our local store has a table at the back where they demo products. Recently they did something I hadn't seen before.  They demo'd a salad that used four different products that they had for sale.  The picture above shows the "recipe" and the items themselves were displayed as well. We tried the sample, liked it and ended up purchasing all of the items to make the salad for the Friday night potluck my wife and I attend regularly.  It turned out great and received several positive comments.  What more can you ask for?

Final Thoughts
Everybody likes free stuff.  Food and drink items are especially enticing as we get an opportunity to try before we buy and impulse purchases are a big part of the grocery shopping experience.  The concept of combining multiple products into a composite item struck me as very clever.  Rather than buying just one item we bought several.  As this was a salad there was a chance we'd get creative and substitute or purchase additional items. I suspect Sam Walton would have approved of this approach

Trader Joe's is famous for their store brands, so this is much easier for them to pull off than most retailers since they don't have to deal with potential fallout from external vendors over their choices or pairings.

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