“Tryvertising” or trying-before-buying was first spotted as a global trend by Trendwatching.com in 2005 and continues to proliferate until today; more consumers are making up their minds about brands based on their experiences and less so the messages conveyed to them. This upward trend reflects the findings in Grey and G2’s Eye on Asia – Retail study which uncovered that within the deep melting pot of in-store communications, a smorgasbord of tactics ranging from packaging, leaflets and brochures to scripted storekeeper advice, it is trial packs which are ranked by Asian shoppers as the most memorable brand interaction in-store. 

Clearly, the potential of the trial pack is great, particularly in higher investment (and therefore riskier) categories such as beauty and health supplements. According to Grey and G2’s Eye on Asia – Retail study, almost 33% of Asian shoppers who purchase beauty products and 30% of shoppers who purchase health supplements prefer brands that have trial packs available. Trial packs are also particularly relevant in this day and age when there is truly an abundance of choice, and a positive product experience can make or break the sale. However, despite this potential, the power of the pack is still under-leveraged and has considerable room for growth.

When we think of trial packs, the first thing which comes to mind is often “sample”, one which allows shoppers a taste and feel of the product prior to committing to a purchase. But upon further investigation, there are many other roles which the trial pack can play which can further build on its potential. Here are some examples:

The Brand Experience 

Beyond just the product experience, the trial pack also has the power to deliver an engaging brand experience. After all, how often does something have the attention of the shopper for more than a few seconds?  All too often, trial packs are “two-dimensional” – here is the product and written on the back is what it can do for you. Rarely is the brand promise also delivered. For example, perfume samples are usually given out in tubes folded in cardboard with a short descriptor. If the perfume is one which stands for romance, how often is romance actually felt by the receiver?

The Reward Program 

At beauty counters across Asia, trial packs are often given as extras or rewards after a purchase – the bigger the purchase, the more samples are given out. Shoppers love this because to them, it is about getting something free out of their investment, regardless of whether they actually want the sample or will even use it. So if the trial pack is already being used as a “reward system”, what else can be done to truly maximise its role? The essence of a reward is a “meaningful act of recognition”. So how can these post-purchase samples be leveraged on further to draw the shopper back for more?

The Advocate 

Many loyal customers love to share samples with their friends but few are getting recognised for it. I know someone who absolutely loves Kiehl’s and out of her own free will, will give some of the samples she receives to her friends. She will even provide feedback if she has already tried the product to her family and friends. Yet, to my knowledge, not much is being done to reward, or even harness, shoppers like her. Shoppers love to get users’ feedback on products and advocates love to share them. Is there an opportunity for the trial pack to be a vehicle which connects them?

Clearly, despite its strengths and the fact that it is already leaving an impression with shoppers, the trial pack still has room to enhance its purpose and meaning. The brand experience could be better, the reward experience could be greater and it could potentially be a stronger word-of-mouth catalyst.

Thanks to how fast technology is moving along these days, the possibilities are endless. Think about using QR or barcodes that link to reward programs, or Augmented Reality to dimensionalise a brand experience. Well, these are just a few examples. The burning question is, who is brave enough to do it.

Contributed by: Remona Duquesne, Group Planning Director, Grey Group Malaysia