By Hannah Campbell, Operations Director at The Work Perk

A recent study by Grant Thornton reveals the outlook for exporting businesses is strong, especially across Europe. However, market access issues remains the most common barrier facing international exporters, affecting both small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large companies alike, with each new market presenting its own cultural nuances that brands must thoroughly understand if they are to appeal to consumers.

This is particularly true with the launch of any new product, particularly with edible FMCG items. ‘Different strokes for different folks’ just about sums this up and highlights that what appeals to consumers in one country, will not necessarily be so popular within other regions. Palettes vary from one market to the next, and brands must understand the specific tastes of their target audience if they are to compel them to (regularly) purchase their products.

However, testing a product within a new market, amongst a targeted demographic, can be challenging. Other than investing in expensive export intermediaries such as trading houses, representatives and foreign distributors, how can brands get their product into the hands of the target consumer and ask for their opinion on it?

Sampling campaigns

The workplace is an ideal place to target consumers and glean their feedback on a specific product, and many employers across the UK have opted-in to receive complimentary items that are passed onto their employees. While at work, consumers are not faced with any competing marketing messages and are, therefore, far more likely to engage with a product and give it a try. Brands can then obtain feedback directly from their target audience via a simple online questionnaire, and establish opinion on everything from flavour and texture, to packaging and price point.

The key thing that makes workplace product sampling so ideal, particularly from a marketing perspective, is the high level of targeting it allows. Employers hold a detailed level of information on their employees, meaning brands can sample their products amongst a targeted group of consumers, say mothers, aged 30-35, within a certain salary bracket and living in a specific region.

Par example…

A client of ours, a Swiss company called Global Functional Drinks (GFD) that produces soft and energy drinks internationally, has launched two products into the UK market in the last year. GFD conducted a large-scale sampling campaign across UK workplaces that provided the marketing team with a detailed understanding of the opinions of a highly targeted audience, including their feedback on the flavour of the products, their propensity to purchase them, and where they would wish to purchase the product. It was thanks to the execution of this highly targeted sampling activity that GF Drinks was able to drive trial of their products at launch stage whilst also benefiting from some consumer feedback directly from its target consumer.

Brand awareness

As well as providing feedback on the product, sampling campaigns are an effective method of driving brand awareness and spreading positive word of mouth about a specific product. There is also the likelihood that recipients of free samples will share details of the product via their social media channels, tapping into vast online communities and further driving awareness of the product.

Look before you leap

The opportunities for brands to introduce their products into new markets are endless; however, the message is clear: look before you leap. This means having a detailed understanding of your target consumer, their likes and dislikes, and how you may need to adapt your product to appeal to them. Sampling is the ideal technique for brands to get their product into the hands of target consumers, encourage them to try it and gauge their feedback. Collective opinion from new markets can then be used as a guideline to adapt products as appropriate, to ensure they hit the sweet (or savoury, as the case may be) spot with consumers.