Research conducted by a leading freebies and offers Web site has highlighted the increasing number of companies using product samples as part of their online marketing strategy.

Olay, Ariel, Garnier, Pampers and L’Oréal are just some of the household names distributing samples in an effort to drum-up support for their products. So far this year, anti-wrinkle cream, tea bags, perfume, moisturiser, along with numerous other items have been offered free of charge via the Web.

According to the recent study conducted by www.freebielist.com, a site specialising in reviewing free stuff online, approximately 50% of people who sample a product will likely purchase the item in future. Of these, 25% can be expected to purchase the product more than once. Figures also show that over 65% of respondents would feel more confident recognising the sampled item ‘on the shelf’.

The research found the trend is particularly prominent in the beauty industry. Two in three cosmetics companies are now offering samples or competitions as part of their online promotional campaigns. In 2004 the number was only one in three. The study also found that word of mouth is an important factor, with over 25% saying they would recommend sampled products to friends and family.

Andy Varley, founder of freebielist.com, said:

“{{Companies offering free samples can gain competitive advantage by increased brand awareness}}. Over the past eight years we’ve witnessed steady growth in the uptake of these methods and experienced first hand the powerful effect samples have on consumers.

“One of the most interesting observations was that of prominence. Consumers who request a sample online or participate in a competition aimed at enhancing a brand’s image, are more likely to recognise the item in store and be able to make informed decisions as to whether the product is suitable for them.”

The trend to acquire something for nothing has been compounded by an increasing number of companies using television advertisements to draw consumers’ attention to product samples. The most recent campaign by Whiskas tempts viewers to text-in their address to obtain a sample. Others currently running freebie advertisements include Tena, Olay and Twinings.

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