Solving the problem of physical product experience in the digital age to help consumers – Times of India

December 3, 2022

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Swagata Sarangi is Co-Founder, Smytten.
A consumable product’s unique taste, smell, look, or feel makes it special. This is precisely why product sampling has remained a tried and tested marketing strategy in the marketing mix of thousands of brands for decades, as it allows consumers to experience these unique qualities first-hand.
However, brands relying on traditional forms of product sampling like in-store activations have had their share of learnings (including pain points like high costs) that come with it. This also includes the massive amount of sample waste and duplication or ‘double-dipping’ with over 90% of samples handed out randomly. There are multiple logistical on-ground challenges like staffing, building installations & most importantly, monitoring the user experience, which in turn limit the scalability of in-store sampling. There is no way to track the consumer once they walk away with the sample, which makes re-engagement almost impossible in such cases.
The paradigm shift in consumer behavior with rapidly increasing digital adoption & the decline of in-store activations due to the pandemic has together given rise to new and innovative ways of getting products into the hands of the consumers. Many of these formats are taking over the conventional formats, as they come with huge benefits like advanced user targeting, consumer insights as well as feedback.
One of the most creative and incredibly effective alternatives to in-store sampling is Augmented Reality (AR) Try-on technology. Augmented reality (AR) is the real-time integration of digital information with the user’s environment. Unlike virtual reality (VR), which creates a completely artificial environment, users of augmented reality (AR) experience a real-world environment with generated perceptual information overlaid on top of it. Over the last decade, AR has significantly changed how consumers shop and discover products before making a purchase by testing it out. This technology superimposes computer-generated images over real-world scenarios, making it a realistic & immersive experience. For instance, product trial plays a critical role when it comes to shopping for a beauty product. With AR try-on technology, an innovative alternative to in-store sampling has emerged, which gives potential consumers the chance to see how a product like lipstick or eyeshadow would look on them using advanced face tracker algorithms that detect facial features by letting them try filters on their mobiles/computers. This data is superimposed on the device to create an interwoven experience in which digital data alters the user’s perception of the real world. Overlaid information can be used to supplement or mask a natural environment.
However engaging this method might be, it lacks the tactical aspect of the experience one gets by trying a product in real life, which is more sensorial in nature. To solve the same, digital product sampling brings the best of digital marketing like advanced targeting, consumer feedback & various retargeting options and ties it together with the tangible interaction that comes from  a 

Physical sampling experience. Apart from giving traditional in-store sampling a complete digital makeover, digital sampling enables the consumers to discover a new product at the comfort of their own home, where there aren’t any other distractions. Brands leveraging the power of digital product sampling have the opportunity to layer their targeting and ensure they reach the consumers with the right intent (to buy and love their products). It also gives them a chance to test the product at the initial stage of launch & capture user feedback from the target audience.
Digital product sampling offers D2C brands a chance to redirect their marketing dollars away from untargeted & unscalable tactics to a more data-driven & measurable approach, especially at a time where in-store product sampling strategies are becoming increasingly costly and inefficient.
In-store product sampling has been the ‘bread and butter’ marketing tactic for many brands for decades. However, rapidly changing consumer behavior and the demand for consumers to test products before a purchase is stronger than ever before, which has paved the way for new innovative & effective alternatives that are reshaping how users go about product discovery. Hence, building a data-driven, highly immersive and scalable sampling experience can significantly impact a brand’s reach, awareness and ultimately revenue.
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Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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