Keys to Successful Food Demos
Nothing makes a shopping experience more bearable than being greeted by a warm, smiling face and getting asked to try a free sample. In fact, many of us go to specific grocery stores because they offer this kind of service. People love food, people love free, and that means people definitely love free food. Major brands and small businesses alike get a lot of benefit from offering free product samples during food demos. Food demos of your product not only offer the customer a very important “try before you buy” aspect of retail, but it can also be the highlight of their day instead of an otherwise mundane shopping experience.
The Food Demo Effect
Think about one of the biggest reasons people love shopping at Costco. Their in-store food demos are incredibly well known among customers and across the internet (there’s a blogger that went a whole week on just eating samples). Through food demos, Costco has convinced their consumers that their stores don’t just have a lot to offer, but that it’s a fun place to be. These sample programs paid off. Because Costco not only boosted their sales, they increased the rate of first-time buyers for a given product that they were sampling. And, the food demos also promoted brand loyalty for their store and for their products. And as we all know, brand loyalty in this food business is everything.
Psychology of Food Demos
Your demo provides a consumer with more information about your product and makes the shopping experience more pleasant, but there is also a relevant psychological function behind offering free samples— the psychological phenomenon and scientifically-validated persuasion principle of reciprocity.
Behavioral economist Dan Ariely says “Reciprocity is a very, very strong instinct. If somebody does something for you, you really feel a rather surprisingly strong obligation to do something back for them.” When someone hands you a free sample of chocolate, it makes them feel obligated to return the gesture which ultimately, leads to the increase in sales mentioned above.
In addition to reciprocity, getting a taste of that free sample of chocolate could invoke other latent desires. So not only does the customer feel a sense of obligation and desire for reciprocity, but they would get a very real and tangible reminder of how much they enjoy chocolate. These are powerful psychological impulses that work in your favor when you do food demos.
In effect, doing food demos can help your business grow— or even stay on top of the game— tremendously.
The Impact of Food Demos
In 1990, an investigation into the effects of in-store sampling found that in-store food demos not only boosted the products’ short term sales but also decreased the product sales of a similar competitor.
After concluding the study, the authors suggested that having an in-store food demo contributed to a short term sales increase, a decrease in competitor sales, and that sampling was an effective method of getting the customer to make a final decision to purchase the sampled product.
According to Mariano Events, a nationwide experiential marketing agency based in Rochester, NY., and Los Angeles, CA that specializes in executing high-quality sampling events for food, beverage and wellness brands, in-store demos and sampling events are powerful ways to boost sales while building brand & product awareness. Demos have proved to increase a product’s daily sales more than 500%, not to mention the value gained from exposing diverse consumers to your overall brand.
In addition, vendors could use this opportunity to educate their consumers on their brand, which is also an effective way to increase brand loyalty.
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Important Considerations about your Food Demo Host
There are many things to consider in preparing a food demo for your product. From finding the right person to host your table to selecting visually attractive aesthetic for your table, your presentation can make or break a consumers choice to purchase your product. A great experience at a demo can inspire long term brand loyalty, while the reverse is just as true. While it might seem like common sense that you would want your food demo host to be knowledgeable about the product and have a positive, encouraging demeanor, unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Do not let this happen to you.
Because most purchasing decisions are made with emotions first, and logic second, take the necessary time to either choose or develop the correct person to host your demo. Having an individual with the perfect blend of wit charm and enthusiasm, that possesses a strong sense of aesthetic and knowledge about the brand will help you leave a positive impact on your target consumer. Remember, making a connection with your consumer is the key to building trust and promoting loyalty to your brand.
Tips For the Hosts
Your ideal host will want to engage with customers and encourage them to try your samples.
Engagement should be their primary focus in their interactions as it is critical to the trust building process. Eye contact, handshakes, or even a friendly pat on the shoulder give your consumer the impression that they are part of social exchange, and not viewed as another dollar sign. Having a name tag for your host is also recommended, as it will enable the customer to put a name to the face they are interacting with.
Encourage your host to ask the name of the person they are interacting with because this is an easy way to garner trust with the customer. Learning a customer’s name reinforces the idea that they are part of social exchange and the customer will feel important and respected. At some point, your host will be talking to multiple customers at once, so being able to maintain a conversation while engaging with everyone simultaneously is also an important skill to look for in a host.
If a customer that thinks the food demo host doesn’t know enough about the product or the company behind it, they will not leave the food demo with a good impression. Information is also important to this process, your host should have plenty of literature about your product, including ingredients, manufacturing processes, product certifications, and general information about the company, including where the company is located, who runs it, website info, social media links, etc. It is for this reason that we generally suggest that the food demo hosts used are someone who works for your company, or that the host is *very* knowledgeable and well vetted before they do food demos for your products.
Tips for Choosing a Product Demo Company
In the beginning, most food demos are conducted by individuals who work for the company. However, as companies expand, considering a food demo company can be vital to a brand’s growth. However, outsourcing to a demo company is not met without its own set of challenges.
It’s useful to know that some demo companies manage hundreds, even thousands and tens of thousands of demonstrators in several states. Meaning, the size of your brand may impact the quality of work, and amount of attention your brand receives.
While it’s helpful to work with a demo business that has a background in the grocery industry, the most important skills a demo business must have include strong organizational skills, highly-effective people skills, and a broad knowledge base about the brands they demo. Most importantly, you’ll want to find a group that has passion, or a group that has been used time and time again by brands you know and trust, that work with retailers and brokers that will help you reach your business needs.
Recommendations for outsourcing your food demos to find demo companies you can trust will be the most important to help you ensure that you are choosing a company that will help you acheive your sales and growth goals. Our complete list of recommended Food Demo Companies:
Tips for Food Demo Display
A customer will make a decision about your brand or products in a very short timeframe. The first impression of your table is critical, as that brief moment will determine whether or not a customer will choose to try your sample. A visually attractive display is meant to break through the everyday noise that your consumer experiences on a daily basis. Your display (and your host) should be inviting to your consumer and encourage them to come and try your sample.
Promotional information, including educational pamphlets, recipes, ingredient lists, and social media and website links, is also an important element to your demo. Keeping the actual product at your table is also highly relevant, as having successfully convinced a consumer by trying and liking your sample, they will generally inquire as to where they can purchase more.
Having your product readily available at your demo makes purchasing the product convenient. If you are unable to keep products at your food demo display, be sure to show a satisfied sampler where they can find your product in the store.
Display Your Grain-Free, Paleo, and Keto Certifications Prominently
Assuming you are promoting a Certified Grain-Free Gluten-Free, Certified Paleo, or Keto Certified product, your host may require further information on the Paleo diet or Keto diet as well. The majority of Paleo Foundation certified brands ask specifically for this information for demo hosts:
Some customers will have strict dietary restrictions, and will ask for information to alleviate their concerns about those restrictions.
Customers most often ask the difference between your product and your competitors, so be sure that your host has this information, and that you are displaying your brands’ certifications on a placard. Third-party certifications increase consumer confidence, brand trust , and sales more than any other form of signaling. Yet it’s common that brands forget to include this piece in their food demo!
Dont let that happen to you, either
Other Considerations for your Food Demo
For maximum exposure to consumers, running your food demo at peak traffic times is highly recommended. Consider the best time based on your product; shoppers that are coming from work right before dinner are far more likely to try a sample than a shopper that just ate.
Depending on your product, the time of the week is also something to consider. A more hedonistic choice like ice cream would perform much better on a Friday afternoon or weekend than on a Monday morning on January 1st. Instead, a more utilitarian option like ground beef, would be better suited to a weekday evening.
Based on your product, the location of your table is also important, as being in the correct section of the store can improve your chance of a successful demo.
Choosing a location next to similar or competitor products increases the likelihood of a consumer choosing your product over the competition, especially after a successful engagement that resulted in a customer sampling your product.
Sneaky sneaky, but it works.
After the Successful Demo
Once you’ve put all the pieces together, you’re ready to run your food demo! As we mentioned previously, sampling increases short term sales by a significant amount. Make sure that your store’s managers know which products you are sampling so they can have enough product to accommodate the increase.
If you are a sampling product that comes directly off the shelf, coordinate with the appropriate store managers so they know exactly what needs to be restocked and what was used. These managers know that food demos bring an increase in sales, and the relationship between you and them is mutually beneficial, so be sure to thank them!
We wish you the best of luck on your food demo!