Consumer trial is fundamental to new brand & product success

Aperio FMCG ConsultingConsumer trial is fundamental to new brand & product success

Launching a brand through consumer trial and sampling is critical to its success within the first year, yet many FMCG companies do not have a clear understanding of consumer trial barriers and drivers.

According to Michael Wood, Director of Aperio FMCG Consulting, a business consulting company focused on accelerating growth of FMCG brands in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, the first step to success is having a very clear understanding before you launch of what potentially could be the trial barriers and ensuring you develop your marketing plan around trial drivers.

“Sampling could be an effective answer, however if you don’t fully understand your barriers or how to most effectively sample, you could end up with an unproductive exercise that does not deliver,” he says.

“Consumers are habitual and changing their habits is tough. So when you are planning to launch a new brand think about consumer habits. Getting consumers to try your new brand is an essential step in breaking that habit and ensuring brand success.”

He explains the common barriers to trial success.

Insufficient brand awareness: The communication plan isn’t strong enough to build awareness with your targeted consumers.

Brand is not visible or available: Most trial takes place in-store, for trial to happen shoppers must be able to both see the brand and find it on the shelf.

Brand is not seen as relevant: Consumers and shoppers don’t see the brand or product as being relevant to them which results in little motivation to purchase.

The need to change the habit is not strong enough: They are already happy with their current brand and don’t understand or recognize the benefits of change. “I am satisfied with the current brand I use”.

The benefit is not convincing: Shoppers either don’t believe the benefit can deliver or are unclear about what makes the benefit unique or relevant to them.

Confusion on choice or usage: Shoppers are confused as to which product is the right one for them or because they don’t understand the benefit they don’t understand the usage.

Value: Product benefit is not worth the price.

“At Aperio we have worked with many brands helping them overcome trial barriers by designing and executing trial drivers,” explains Wood.

“For example, you have a strong product, it delivers superior performance but consumers are not sure how to use your product, and you want to increase purchase intent and drive conversion rates from competitors. In this case sampling could be an effective answer, however if you don’t fully understand the barriers or how to most effectively sample you could end up with an unproductive exercise that does not deliver.”

He explains that sampling is highly effective if a product has a noticeable superiority to competition; offers superior value to the competition; or is a superior product but but a weak advertising campaign or message.

Wood outlines what would make a successful sampling campaign:

Where the product benefit can be experienced in a few uses. Consumers need to be able to see the benefits quickly and easily. The sample size needs to be big enough for consumers to get the product experience but not too big to take them out of the market.

The product has a short to medium term purchase cycle. Sampling a product that has a purchase cycle of 1-2 a year doesn’t make sense.

Clarity on the primary consumer target. Products should target those with the highest potential to buy.

Products with a cost effective and efficient system. Sampling is an expensive exercise and brands that have effective systems to reach targeted consumers are more likely to succeed.


“There are some highly effective drivers which if tapped into make for highly successful sampling occasions,” says Wood.


Life changing moments or emotional times: when people’s lives change, giving birth, getting married, graduation and so on.

At aspirational or inspirational events: sports events, concerts etcetera.

In-store sampling: is very effective as shoppers are open to trial, furthermore if you can sample the product there is a much higher chance of purchase intent.

Influencer programmes: using influencers to sample and trial your product, for example new shampoos in a hair salon, toothpaste at your dentist or sports nutrition in your gym.

Request-based sampling: a programme where consumers have to request samples or even pay for samples usually has a very high conversion rate.