Product sampling, a promotional tactic long employed by brands looking to enter a new market, release a new product, or increase existing sales, has recently been applied in the online context. This seems a viable strategy given the Internet’s capability to reach a wide audience and track consumer responses. Furthermore, firms may acquire product consumption experience information from the consumers who are given product samples, and use it as word-of-mouth (WOM) to further stimulate sales. However, our understanding of the effectiveness of employing this strategy in the online context is limited. By analyzing product sampling campaign data from a leading e-commerce store in China, we show that administering product sampling online can lead to increased sales, but only for experience products and not search products. Additionally, publishing product consumption experience information from product sampling (i.e., product sampling reviews), alongside usual consumer reviews, can stimulate sales of experience products directly and indirectly through enhancing subsequent consumer reviews. However, it is interesting to note that when product sampling reviews were overwhelmingly positive, they instead lowered subsequent consumer reviews. This implies that firms hoping to influence consumer reviews through positive product sampling reviews need to be wary of their negative repercussion.
Yao, Xinlin; Lu, Xianghua; Phang, Chee Wei; Huang, Lihua; and Ba, Sulin, "ADMINISTERING AND CAPITALIZING ON PRODUCT SAMPLING IN AN ONLINE CONTEXT" (2014). PACIS 2014 Proceedings. 97.