Implement Your Most Successful Gen Z College Sampling Program in 2020

By Barnes & Noble College

The Key to CPG Sampling Program Success

We had it drilled into us in college marketing class: moving the consumer along the purchase path from awareness to consideration through to trial and ultimately to purchase. Now, in the trenches of reality, we say, “Ahh, it’s not as easy as the textbooks made it sound!”

Well into the new year, you’ve got a whole warehouse full of samples. A smartly executed product sampling program WILL move consumers along that path to purchase – quickly and efficiently. Placing your samples in the hands of consumers within the most relevant context and at the most opportune time will yield highest conversion rates.

What’s more, Gen Z college students tell us that they love samples, so including a sampling component in your 2020 college marketing strategy is super smart. These insights are proven to drive purchase, delivering successful sampling program results.

1. Gen Zers are keenly receptive to new brands as they transition to new life stages. Back-to-school time and graduation both signal points of market change for CPG consumers. Brands that help ease these Gen Z life transitions will win lifelong loyalists.

Here’s how CPG samples come into play during these points of market change:

        • Back-to-school: College students clearly make their own purchase decisions at this point in their lives. They’ll be stocking up for the coming year, so sampling is a very effective tactic to win them over. These 18-to-22-year olds are looking for personal grooming and make-up brands, food items, and household items like cleaners and laundry detergent and will scoop up your samples.

        • Graduation: It’s the ultimate achievement every college student works towards. Graduates will be celebrating, reflecting and making plans for life beyond college. They want to look and feel their best at grad formals, on graduation day, and when they show up to new jobs – and they want to sample new personal products like shampoo, make-up, and deodorant.

2. Gen Z wants convenience, so distribute near the point of purchase.
Closing the deal, so to speak, is all about making it easy for Gen Z to buy your product once they’ve fallen in love with your sample. When choosing distribution partners and tactics, consider retail presence where you can secure POP proximity. Expand your retail presence even further by building events around your program. Think beauty makeovers, food tastings and free pours, and staffed demo kiosks. Engaging the college consumer where they shop makes it a no-brainer when they are ready to purchase.

3. College students form brand preferences during memorable moments.
From college acceptance to graduation, the college journey is full of memorable moments. College game days are such moments, remaining fondly in the hearts and minds of 18-to-22-year-olds long after they leave campus.

College sports viewership continues to skyrocket. Last season 46.9 million fans flocked to college stadiums to cheer on football teams and 31.4 million attended college basketball games.

These numbers prove that game day is big among college students. Whether fans attend in person or watch solo or with friends from their dorm, these are truly memorable moments. And college sports fans spend big on food and drink — before, during, and after games – when they’re receptive to new brands to extend the day’s excitement.

Here’s the opportunity for CPG samples. Optimal timing for distributing snack food, cookies, candy, and beverage samples is just prior to college game days. Including a special offer or coupon will drive purchase as fans eagerly shop for game day party food. Amp up your program with digital and in-store promotions and use social media to engage fans while they’re consuming your product during the game.

Linking to memorable, positive events extends the halo effect to your brand, quickly placing it into grocery carts. Plus, your brand will get maximum exposure in these very social settings. And remember, there are memorable moments to leverage all year round. Depending on your target college consumer, these moments will vary.

Want more sampling tips? Check out our Guide to Successful Product Sampling.

A smart sampling strategy will get your brand accepted into college and straight into Gen Z’s hands. Ask us about our turnkey sample distribution programs that reach 3 million college students.

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