product sampling best practices: acquisition vs. retention campaigns

May 27, 2022


Digital sampling campaigns are the most successful when they are customized to a brand’s specific goals. In this article, we will take you through five key aspects of a sampling campaign and discuss how you can tailor each to two common campaign goals: new consumer acquisition and retention.

1. Product & Sample Type

The first step in a sampling campaign is to identify which product is best suited for your goal. For a new product launch, for example, it would make more sense to target existing consumers. Allowing existing, loyal, or engaged consumers access to something new, ahead of everyone else, is a good tactic to ensure they feel special and rewarded for their loyalty.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to reach new consumers, we recommend sampling a fan favorite product that has proven success, social presence, and prior consumer reviews to build excitement and engagement and instill their confidence in the brand and product.

Additional considerations for the sample type include:

    • Ensure your sample includes enough product for the consumer to test the shade, efficacy, etc.
    • Larger or deluxe mini samples may be more enticing for participation in acquisition campaigns and allows consumers to try the product multiple times to encourage purchase.

2. Channels and Tactics

Where and how you reach your audience should differ between acquisition and retention campaigns. In order to reach new consumers, we recommend expanding your digital media strategy to underutilized channels with a new or different audience or leaning into partnerships (i.e. publishers or brand collaborations) or relevant influencers to leverage their audience and credibility.

Influencer does makeup while recording live stream

To tap into your existing consumer base, activate a sampling campaign through your brand newsletter, or capture in-market consumers, such as website or virtual store visitors, through strategically and contextually placed sample offers embedded directly into the experience.

In addition to where you’re reaching your audience, there are further targeting considerations for acquisition vs. retention sampling campaigns. When you are looking to reach new consumers, we recommend building lookalikes based off of the highest value segment of your existing consumer base. Be sure to exclude existing consumers and past campaign participants, and as we mentioned earlier, tap into new channels with a new or different audience.

For retention campaigns, you can make an assumption about the people shopping on your website. These consumers are loyal to or familiar with your brand in some way – offer a sample as a part of an on-site experience to set up a good relationship.

Looking for a cost effective option for driving retention? Activating your existing lists, such as a newsletter audience can offer big savings on media. This tactic also serves to surprise and delight your loyal consumers.


3. Ad Creative

When scrolling through a social platform, consumers unaware of your brand may scroll past your advertisement. In this case, an eye-catching, thumb-stopping ad is imperative to catching their attention. Adding a recognizable face to your ad, such as an influencer or celebrity can also add a level of trust to a previously unknown brand.

Whereas when you’re sampling to an existing audience, they are less likely to scroll past your ad as they recognize your brand and are therefore more likely to engage.

Keep in mind that in the era of social entertainment, video is king. Videos are 2.5x more impactful and engaging than static images or text alone (Social Media Week, 2022).


4. Data Capture

With Apple’s implementation of App Tracking Transparency (more on that here and here) and the death of third-party cookies, having access to first-party data is more important than ever.

Digital sampling campaigns can certainly be a vehicle for collecting such data, but you must be strategic in your approach.

How do you build first-party data collection into sampling campaigns?

We are glad you asked! At abeo, we have a few ways of collecting first-party data:

  • Form capture – At signup, we build additional questions into the sample redemption form, such as quick and easy multiple choice or demographic information.
  • Behavior capture – The consumer goes through a landing page experience to find their sample match. The data collected in this scenario could include quiz responses and responses to skin diagnostic and shade finder tools.


Asking any amount of questions is valuable to you as a brand for collecting insights, but there is a sliding scale of how many you can ask based on how loyal and engaged the audience is.

For collecting data in acquisition campaigns, we’d recommend leaning into data capture in the signup form while the consumer is actively engaged and enticed by the sample offer.

You have the opportunity to collect information from existing consumers under the notion that it’s beneficial for them; you’ll be able to build a better profile and in turn offer them tailored content and personalized recommendations in the future. Existing consumers are also a great audience for review generation, letting them know that their feedback will help them receive better product recommendations in the future is key to driving the behavior.

As a general rule of thumb, if you’re looking to collect information that takes more time to complete, it’s safer to request this from consumers who already like your brand or enjoyed their product experience.

5. Email Content

We believe it’s important for sampling campaigns to serve as more than solely a transactional experience. We recommend engaging consumers by welcoming them to the sample and brand experience, building education and excitement, and ultimately delivering calls-to-action that are in line with your KPIs. 

At abeo, we certainly encourage product education across all campaigns, but when creating an acquisition sampling campaign email, ensure you’re focusing on email content that welcomes consumers to the brand, showcases brand values, and builds overall education as this is their first touchpoint with the brand. Conversely, in a retention campaign, you can make an assumption that they understand the brand and its values and hone in on product education.


Interested in in-depth digital sampling campaign best practices? Reach out to our team.

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Sampler acquires abeo. Read the press release here.