Free Samples Get us Everytime – 3 Scientific Reasons Why We Can’t Say No

Free samplingFree Samples have long been an extremely successful way for businesses to increase the exposure of their product and increase sales, in fact, some studies show that free samples can ramp up sales by as much as 2,000 percent. But what is it about them that always hooks us and sucks us in? the answer to this can be found in the field of behavioural economics.

Here’s 3 reasons why Free Samples work for retailers and get us EVERYTIME!

  1. Reciprocity
    Reciprocity is a behavioural economics principle that dictates that if you receive something from someone you are most likely to repay the favour. You’ll probably recognise it as sampling wine at a deli and then feeling strong pressure to buy the same delicious (or not) drop you just tasted. A classic case study about this gives waiters a clever and easy way to get bigger tips. The study found that a waiters tips increased 3% if they gave their dining guests a mint, and a big 14% when they were given 2 mints, and if the waiter left 1 mint with the bill and hurriedly returned to offer a second mint, the tips increased by an amazing 23%!
  2. Removes risk
    The ability to try before you buy sets us at ease by reducing the feelings of risk. “I like it, so I feel safe spending my hard earned cash on it” Infomercials use this to great effect with their ‘Iron clad 30-day money back guarantee’.
  3. FOMO – Fear of missing out
    It may be some kind of cave man instinct based on scarcity, but more than wanting something, we don’t want to miss out. I can’t count the number of times I have taken a freebie when it was of no use to me, I’ve got a whole drawer filled with branded pens, USB drives and corporately branded bottle openers.



As well known behaviour scientist Dan Airely puts it, “Zero is not just another price….Zero is an emotional hot button – a source of irrational excitement.”

Retailers use this fear to drive sales by creating fake scarcity by advertising ‘limited time’ offers and ‘limited stock’ offers. Think Briscoes, Rebel Sport or even KFC with its Double Down Burger ‘available for a limited time’. In the case of the last couple of examples, an old Japanese proverb rings true, “There is nothing more expensive than free things.”

That’s it for now, I’ve got a drawer full of junk I need to clean out!