A product sample is an item that a company gives away in order to convince consumers that its goods are worth owning. Usually, there is also a hope that giving away the free item will generate some word-of-mouth advertising. In many cases, consumers are targeted specifically because of their interests, and they may even receive their product samples through the mail. Usually, the traditional version of a product sample can only work if the item is relatively inexpensive and disposable in some way, but there are other strategies that can compensate in situations where this isn't the case.
When companies use a product sample, they’re usually hoping that the targeted consumers will enjoy the product enough to tell their friends about it. There is also a general belief that giving away free samples is a good way to steal customers from other companies. People who are loyal to a particular product may be very hesitant to even try something new unless they can try it without having to pay anything.
Sometimes companies take great pains to specifically target certain customers for a product sample. Since they’re giving something away, there is often a concern that the money may be wasted if they don’t carefully choose the recipients. In other cases, the targeting can be almost automatic. For example, if the company puts a hamper into the proper grocery aisle for its product, customers interested in the correct kind of product will naturally walk past the hamper and will, therefore, be likely to pick up one of the samples.
In some cases, the use of a product samples isn’t really a natural fit. For example, if the product in question is particularly expensive, it would generally be impossible for the company to afford the expense of offering free samples. Another example would be in cases where the product is a service of some kind. Even in these situations, there are still often ways to provide customers with a sample of sorts. For example, a free trial can be offered for services, or expensive products can be set up on display inside a store, giving customers a chance to try them out.
Some consumers specifically search for free product samples as a way to save money. They will look for any offer they can find on products they use on a regular basis. There are even special services targeting these individuals on the Internet, showing updated lists of companies offering free samples with links to the pages where people can sign up.