Retail heaven: try before you buy

Most shoppers are keen to snap up a bargain when they head to the mall, but now a new concept known as 'tryvertising' means consumers can take home goods for free. finds out more

A shopper wandering the aisles of new Dubai outlet Sample Central pops a packet of mint candies in her shopping basket along with an innovative kitchen gadget from a well-known manufacturer, a ketchup with an unusual chilli flavour and some delicious smelling hair shampoo. The shop joins flagship stores and top-flight restaurants Dubai’s Festival City mall.

However, Sample Central has a point of difference in that it is a retail store where everything is free. Dubai, as one of the world’s shopping hubs, is a strategic market for Sample Central, a concept store that already has outlets in Europe, South America and Asia. “We believe that consumers are ready for something new and different,” comments Anthony James, founder and global CEO of Sample Central. “Consumers certainly don't mind trying something as long as it makes sense to them.”

‘Tryvertising’ or try-before-you-buy style brand marketing impacts the consumer landscape by placing products within people’s everyday world. Items commonly come in the form of beauty samples placed in the pages of glossy magazines, the coffee on a long haul flight or the Playstation console in the room of a hip hotel. Taking that concept one step further, a slew of retail outlets has followed, including Darling Delicious in the Netherlands, and Sampleplaza in Shanghai, where consumers can go shopping for free.

For a nominal annual membership, Sample Central gives users of its store the choice of what they want to sample, five products at a time. The store’s customers ‘pay’ for products by airing their views via a questionnaire. “Your opinion is your currency,” comments James. “If a Sample Central member likes a product they become influencers or brand advocates.”

Keen shoppers are both better off in their wallet and ahead of the curve with regards to new products hitting the shelves. The gains are certainly two-way and the businesses that put their brands on the shelves of this type of shop gather valuable insight for how to develop and market everything from haircare to coffee beans. “Products experienced by real consumers in a true shopping environment, with no influence allows our partner brands to make real business decisions,” comments Sample Central’s James. “We are igniting conversation and interaction between brands and consumers.”