Product demos are one of the most important drivers of growth for food and beverage companies - especially for those bringing a new product to market. They help brands connect with consumers and win interest at the point of sale - two keys to standing out from the competition.
A poorly executed demo, however, can have the opposite effect, turning shoppers off from your brand and failing to get them to give your product a try.
To help you execute the perfect product demo, we enlisted the help of Kathryn Berta, area sales manager for Health-Ade Kombucha. In this post, she shares the seven secrets that help her team succeed at every in-store sampling event.
Before The Demo:
1. Become an Expert on Your Product
While your first priority might be giving out samples, teaching shoppers about your products is a close second - especially if you're a new brand. Be prepared to answer questions about the product you're giving away, and arm yourself with at least a general knowledge of your brand's mission or history.
Pro Tip: If you're new to a certain product, at least familiarize yourself with the information on the label. With allergy information, ingredients, and usually a brief story about the product, the label can be your best friend when you're in a pinch.
2. Get to Know Store Guidelines
Before you get to the store, take a quick look through the retailer's demo guidelines. Some require reps to wear gloves or hats, while others might require allergy warning cards. Whatever quirks the retailer has, be sure to review them at least a day before the event. That way you'll have time to track down any extra supplies or clarify rules with store management. (We put together a handy playbook with the differences you need to know between working with convenience stores, markets, grocery stores, and big box retailers. Give it a look in our post here!)
Neighborhood markets will have different guidelines than convenience stores or big box retailers.
Day of The Demo:
3. Arrive Early!
The old adage: "If you're not early, you're late," is certainly true when it comes to doing demos! Do your best to arrive to the store about 15 minutes before your scheduled start time (any earlier might be inconvenient for the retailer, so be reasonable).
The early arrival will give you time to check in with customer service, go over store guidelines, and get set up with enough time to grab a glass of water before go time!
4. Find Your Product on The Shelf
After you've checked in with customer service and set up your demo table, take a quick walk through the store and find your product on the shelves. While it might seems like just a small extra step, it can actually go a long way toward boosting sales on demo day.
If shoppers want to buy more than you can offer from the booth, or if they want to try a different quantity or flavor than the ones you have on hand, you'll want to be able to direct them straight toward your product. If you have time, it might also be worth spending a few minutes merchandising the shelf before the event so the shoppers are greeted with a well-organized display!
5. Say "Hi" And Catch Their Eye
Once you start actually giving away samples of the product, your biggest challenge will be drawing people to the table and engaging with them. This can be easier said than done (even if you're giving away samples of something everyone likes), especially if shoppers are looking down at their phones.
Grabbing someone's attention can be as simple as making eye contact and saying, "hi!" while one of these on its own might not be enough to draw someone in, very few people will keep walking if you combine the two!
Pro Tip: When you ask shoppers if they want a sample, try referring to your product by its brand name, rather than just the category. For example, Kathryn says, "Would you like to try some Health-Ade today?" rather than simply offering samples of kombucha. Using the brand name makes shoppers more likely to remember your specific product, and helps separate your items from your competitors.
Give away photogenic samples and you might win some free social media promotion.
6. Recruit Store Associates
You might represent your brand while you're at the store, but it's the store employees who can represent your brand after you leave. Call them over, offer them free samples, and get to know them during every demo. If they feel a connection to your brand or enjoy your product, they'll recommend it to shoppers whenever they're on shift, or at least will be able to genuinely say: "I've tried that, and it's really good!"
7. Collect Feedback
One of the hidden opportunities of product demos is to see how shoppers respond to your product when they see or try it for the first time. This insight can be helpful for marketers, label designers, and food scientists alike. Take advantage of this opportunity by making notes of memorable sound bites or quotes, and sharing them with the team after every event.
Pro Tip: If you hear an especially shareable quote, jot it down and incorporate it into your social media posts for the day. If you don't feel comfortable quoting a specific person, try using a hashtag like #OverheardAtWholeFoods, and attaching the quote to a photo of your booth or product.
Preparing an in-store demo does not need to be a difficult task. Whether you are on your way to your next in-store demo or getting ready your first one, think about these three simple secrets when planning.