The psychology behind free samples: why freebies keep customers

By January 15, 2018General

Free samples are great, but the concept of giving something you’ve invested in away for free can seem somewhat daunting for many businesses. After all – if your customers aren’t paying for your products, then you are.

However, that simple fact shouldn’t be enough to dissuade you from the benefits of product sampling. In fact, free samples can generate a huge amount of sales for you over time, sometimes boosting profits by as much as 2000%!

Product samples allow you to introduce your new products to unfamiliar audiences, foster loyalty with customers and expand the knowledge your customers have about your products.

Here, we’ll look at the psychology behind why product sampling keeps customers coming back for more.

Helping customers make choices

When it comes to buying something, your customers go through something called the “buyer decision process”, when they need to make a purchase. They begin by recognising that they have a problem or desire before they start seeking out a potential solution.

A huge amount of information can influence a shopper’s decision when they’re making a choice in the saturated marketplace. Everything from price to availability can play a part.

Product sampling can help your company to cut through some of this noise, convincing your customer to make a purchasing decision that works in your favour. Because your customer can try the product before they buy it, the risk of purchasing something new is diminished.

The rule of reciprocity

Another psychological phenomenon that causes product sampling to work to your advantage is something called the rule of reciprocity. Basically, when you something nice for someone, it makes them feel as though they should be doing something nice for you in return.

When your business gives free samples out to customers, they feel compelled to do something for you in response, like purchase a product, or even talk about your company to their friend. This creates a sense of obligation in your customers that keeps them coming back for more after they’ve tried your product.

Improving perception of your brand

Ultimately, free samples improve customer perception about your brand, making people feel warm and fuzzy about your company through reciprocity and convenience. Samples aren’t just for attracting new customers or introducing new products to the marketplace.

When they’re used properly, your samples can also be the secret sauce that keeps your clients coming back in the future.

Hotcow is a non-traditional creative agency that specialises in experiential marketing that goes viral. Our campaigns generate buzz through crowd participation, PR and content sharing. Contact us on 0207 5030442, or email us on