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    Bring Socially Conscious Consumers to Grocers' Tasting Table

    Leverage sampling events to boost awareness, engagement

    By Scott Monette, founder of 100 Percent Wine

    Consumers’ taste for socially conscious products represents a gold mine for grocers. Socially committed brands are growing at four times the rate of their traditional counterparts, according to a recent Nielsen study, and forecasters predict that sustainable, local products will be even bigger hits during 2016.

    But if customers are to bite on these up-and-coming brands, you must introduce them to the products through in-store samplings. Research shows free samples can increase sales tremendously, with samplings raising frozen pizza sales by 600 percent and beer sales by 71 percent.

    Similarly, a Cornell University study found that samplings increase the chance by 93 percent that a consumer will spend an additional $10 buying wine (and make it 92 percent more probable that a consumer will repurchase wine in the future).

    This year, take your grocery store’s sales figures to new heights by using the persuasive power of tastings to highlight socially conscious products. Here’s how to do it:

    Master the Social Sample

    1. Get the word out. Marketing is key because 64 percent of customers want to shop sustainably but don’t have time to sort through every grocery product to find the most socially responsible options. Harness your store’s social media, your circular, and your in-store sound system to call customers’ attention to the event. Ask vendors to promote the event as well: They’ll jump at the opportunity for additional exposure.

    2. Distill the product’s story to its essence. The average consumer spends just 41 minutes in a store, and you’re lucky to get a minute or two of that time at the sampling booth. Customers frequently ask the same questions, so build your short presentation with those answers. In less than a minute, you must explain how the product is unique, how it meets shoppers’ quality standards, and how it will improve the world. Out of the roughly 500 tastings our brand conducted last year, we use the shorter pitch about 75 percent of the time, so get it down pat.

    After you’ve created the short pitch, develop a medium presentation that lasts about two minutes. Finally, craft a longer spiel of about three to five minutes for those who want to chat.

    Short talks may lead to quick sales and more engagements, but longer discussions can lead to lasting relationships. Let the customer decide: If they want to hear a quick pitch, try a sample, and move on, that’s fine; if they want to learn more about the brand, that’s great, too.

    3. Lead with a socially impactful question. Whether you’re meeting someone who just wants a bite or a shopper who wants to talk in-depth about the sampling product, start by asking a question that emphasizes the product’s unique value proposition. For instance, my company leads with, “Would you like to try a sample of our socially conscious wine?” rather than “Come try a sample of 100 Percent Wine.” This boosts consumer engagement in two ways: The question prompts a customer response while the message quickly tells the customer what’s different about the product.

    4. Reflect the product’s personality with signage. Signs are simple, effective ways to build tasting traffic. My company uses multiple signs for samplings, including one that’s 6 feet tall to draw customers and a “Drink Wine, Help People” sign in a large font to make our message clear. We also use smaller cards to tell our story in greater detail.

    If you don’t have signs for the product, ask the vendor. Signs should draw customers with bright colors, quickly tell the product’s story, and offer customers the opportunity to engage as much or as little as they wish.

    5. Host ‘Socially Conscious Saturdays.’ Show your customers that your store values social consciousness to attract that kind of crowd to tasting events. Lucky’s Market in Columbia, Mo., hosts Impact Days and donates 10 percent of the day’s proceeds to a predetermined charity that helps children or promotes healthy lifestyles. Publicize the event, and invite vendors who fit the bill. Ensure each vendor sends representatives, as it’s unlikely your supermarket staff will be able to handle a dozen product samplings at once.

    To capitalize on the trend of socially conscious grocery shoppers, break out the samples. If you do it right, everyone will want a bite.

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