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'Free' supermarket built for sampling

August 19, 2014

In Copenhagen, a new grocer, dubbed Freemarket, offers products for basically the price of a review.

Customers register on the store's website, place an order, and then pick up the "free" products at the store, according to a BBC report. The shop has a limit of 10 products per month. Members also receive gift certificates and special discounts at stores across the country.

The caveat is that shoppers must review the product within a short period or see their membership cancelled. A fine is charged in order to have the membership reopened. Freemarket also charges 19 kroner ($3.40) a month to "cover the cost of the physical operation," according to the Copenhagen Post.

While helping brands test products, the "free" samplings also support word-of-mouth efforts, amplified by social media, that can "help break a product and get it into traditional stores," according to article.

The BBC report said the store is an example of "Tryvertising". In Japan and Hong Kong, "sample labs" packed with cosmetics, food and household goods have been expanding since the middle of the last decade. Similar sample stores have opened in Europe in recent years.

In the U.S., free sampling can be found in magazines, at grocers and on street corners, with some tied to survey requests. The internet also has a number of sample-for-reviews websites, often driven by brands. But beyond a periodic pop-up location from a brand such as Procter & Gamble, stores dedicated to free sampling haven't arrived.

Discussion Questions:

Why haven't sampling stores arrived in the U.S.? Does "tryvertising" in general work better or differently in other regions?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

What's the likelihood that sampling stores will be fairly common in the U.S. over the next three to five years?


In-store sampling has been described by some as the single highest ROI shopper marketing vehicle. I'm more bullish on sampling done in traditional stores (where people can actually purchase), the gradually emerging sampling kiosks you increasingly find in high-traffic areas, and highly-targeted samples distributed with online orders. But I'm sure a concept store based on the similar premise would work fine in the U.S., as evidenced by its popularity in formats like the membership clubs, Whole Foods, and others.

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Keith Anderson, VP, Strategy & Insight, Profitero

I'm intrigued by the idea of "tryvertising" stores in the U.S. There is no denying that trying before buying is one of the most effective means of influencing shoppers. So, why not a store that invites consumers to test drive a few products all under one roof? I would imagine linking it with a robust online shopping experience for immediate ordering and delivery (or in-store pickup just around the corner). This concept really gets my creative juices flowing.

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Dave Wendland, Vice President, Hamacher Resource Group

This is a very interesting concept, but it doesn't seem like it has a sustainable business model. Retail space isn't cheap. Likely, people will tire of writing reviews for product samples. Brands may stop participating if they are unhappy with the reviews.

It seems like more of a pop-up store concept to me than anything long-term.

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Ken Lonyai, Digital Innovation Strategist, co-founder, ScreenPlay InterActive

How do you reach customers and have them try new products and line extensions? A sampling store might be the ticket. Then they create word of mouth buzz/personal reviews. The challenge is how to turn that sample into a regular purchase elsewhere for the CPG company.

In the U.S. the model has been to do the sampling live in the shopping moment to deliver a high conversion rate. The cost is covered by the CPG company, and there's no lag between tasting/buying, and no further work on the shopper side to write reviews. Just buy and enjoy (and spread the word if you want).

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Mohamed Amer, Global Head of Strategic Communications, Consumer Industries, SAP

With the explosion of product reviews by consumers here in the U.S., I feel this is one trend that is not really all that different from a cultural perspective between Europeans and Americans. I think there is no reason why this type of store couldn't take hold here. U.S. consumers love sampling and they love sharing their opinions. I also believe that existing stores could make a great effort to move toward this type of store by highlighting their sampling programs even more than they currently do.

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Retail Industry Analytics Marketing Executive, IBM

One fears that "tryvertising" may be perceived in America as marketing's opium for the underachiever. Of course it will work better in some regions than in others, but how many people want to invest their time in this way?

Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

I don't think this creates the type of shopping experience that most consumers would think is worthy of their time investment. Sampling in-store works because the sampling experience adds excitement in the aisle, gets shopper attention, spurs product interest, and a critical aspect of the sample process is that the sampled-product is located conveniently nearby for immediate purchase.

Samples from pop-up booths, beach give-aways at spring break, etc. all have their place in certain types of product promotion but as a store concept, I don't see long-term value.

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Larry Negrich, Director, Business Development, TXT Retail

I agree with most of what has already been said, however I am left with some questions about the Freemarket. How are the reviews actually used? Are they all published? Are they curated? Or is this a means for manufacturers to co-create with consumers to improve and better design products?

What the purpose of this type of sampling store is will determine whether it's worth the investment. Whether it would work or should be used in the U.S. is unclear. There are already many means to successfully sample goods and engage consumers. I'm not sure that these types of stores would garner anything more useful than the data and feedback already available.


I'm unclear on the specifics of this, i.e. is this just a service the store offers, or is this all the "store" does? (And if it's the latter, then I think the phrase "lab" is a better description.)
Nevertheless, whatever the details, I'd have concerns about the integrity of the reviews. Even if the people try to be honest, isn't there a very real possibility they will think—even if only subconsciously—"better say something good or I'll lose my membership"? Or are the reviews anonymous, and if so, how do they prevent freeloaders who would simply write gibberish?

In short, I guess I just think the idea is <>.


I think that a SampleLabs or similar "tryvertising" concepts would work well in certain locations here (e.g. Union Square in San Francisco, The Grove in Los Angeles). However, echoing Ken's comment, retail space is not cheap. I also believe that membership costs would be off-putting for the general public, at least initially (even a marginal fee).

Nathan Soohoo, Lead Analyst, Venture Scanner

Sampling is a tried and true way to introduce new products and this model takes great advantage of social media. Like all sampling models, I suspect it will appeal to a small but influential group of consumers.

Christina Ellwood, CEO, Moreland Associates

I see sampling more commonly deployed when you can tie immediately to a sale for impulse working in the US. Not sure given the cost of store space and inventory in the US, whether it makes sense for a manufacturer to sponsor a store like that or for people to get to their car to drive to a sampling store.

Maybe it will work in a really high-density population area like Manhattan where people can make a short trip to do pickup.

Otherwise you are better off doing "basket filler" type samples together with online fulfillment like Amazon to get the sample out.

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Kenneth Leung, Retail and Customer Experience Expert, Independent

" ... Marketing's opium for the underachiever?!" Well, I think that tryvertising/advertising/sampling will attract a certain type of person. Someone who looks for free things, bargains, instant gratification—and it probably would, indeed, curry favorable reviews. I also believe that sampling or coupons in stores, next to the real merchandise, is one of the best-selling tools ever created. I don't have the figures, but I'll bet the conversion rate is mighty high.

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Naomi K. Shapiro, Strategic Market Communications, Upstream Commerce

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