Major Retailers Give Free Samples With Curbside Orders

Manufacturers seek new ways to introduce products to consumers.

March 18, 2021

Curbside Pickup Samples

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—During the pandemic, Walmart began carrying a new fruit-flavored hydration powder from startup Cure Hydration. Yet packets of the electrolyte drink often lingered in the rear of stores as employees worked to quickly replenish high-demand items, such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

According to CNBC, Cure Hydration’s founder and CEO, Lauren Picasso, decided to get her products into shoppers’ baskets, arranging to tuck free samples into Walmart’s curbside pickup orders. The samples lifted sales, while costing less than store demonstrations and scaling more easily across about 1,000 stores.

While some in-store sampling has returned, it is greatly limited and hampered by prepackaging and safety protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a result, CPG manufacturers have been getting creative with the ways they get their products in front of customers.

Major retailers are capitalizing on the surge in demand by charging brands for access to their shoppers and the data they’ve gathered about customer preferences. Plus, they enjoy the added benefit of delighting customers with freebies.

For years, CPG companies paid retailers for prime real estate—such as special displays and endcaps—to help them grab shoppers’ attention. But that’s changed as more shoppers pick up their purchases in the store parking lot.

Online grocery sales in the U.S. are expected to exceed $100 billion for the first time this year, according to eMarketer, all after growing 54% in 2020. Those habits are expected to outlast the pandemic because it’s a more convenient way to shop and will continue to be so after more Americans are vaccinated. eMarketer expects that more than half of the U.S. population will be online grocery buyers by next year, and online grocery sales will be 11.2% of total U.S. grocery sales by 2023.

Adding samples to bagged purchases is a moneymaking opportunity for stores like Walmart, and the retailer is looking for new streams of revenue while managing the extra costs that come with online orders, such as shipping purchases and picking grocery orders off shelves.

Big brands are taking notice. General Mills has increased the number of samples that it has paid to place in curbside orders at retailers such as the big market brands.

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