Business

Marketers use sample shop to gauge consumers

by Junko Suzuki

Kyodo News

For consumers looking for freebies, its hard to beat the Sample Lab! store in Tokyo.

For businesses desperately seeking precise marketing data, it’s hard to beat the detailed questionnaires that the store’s members fill out on the free products they take home.

Since the store opened July 25 in the fashionable Omotesando district in Shibuya Ward, on the third floor of a glass-walled building, consumers — predominantly young women — have flocked to its sample cosmetics, food and alcoholic beverages.

The enterprises offering the samples find it an effective marketing tool to gauge consumer reaction.

“The rate of response to the questionnaires is high, and their content is good. It is effective for gathering information,” said an official of Nissin Food Products Co., which has been displaying its products since the store opened.

An official of alcoholic drink maker Takara Shuzo Co. said, “The results of questionnaires from information-sensitive people who have become members by paying fees are extremely precise.”

“The merit is that the questionnaires are answered by targeted people actually trying samples,” said an official at Q.P. Corp., a producer of mayonnaise and salad dressings.

Sample Lab! is run by Melposnet Co., a leaflet distribution company in Taito Ward, Tokyo. It wasn’t happy with conventional sample distribution on the street because this method makes it difficult to reach a targeted market segment, and debriefing surveys are impossible, a company official said.

This led to the idea for a store dedicated to distributing samples.

With membership, targeted people depending on age and interests can be narrowed down. Therefore, the official said, “It is possible to gather targeted people who enterprises want, carry out interviews with them and make detailed surveys.”

People 16 and older who can fill out questionnaires in Japanese become members for ¥1,000 a year and pay a ¥300 admission fee each time they come in. In return, they can start out by taking five products a day from the store’s shelves.

“I always bring home drinks and food,” said a 22-year-old man who became a member after learning about the store on TV.

A 36-year-old woman who works nearby and has visited it four times said: “In addition to samples, there are products already marketed. This is welcome. As points are piled up, the questionnaires are not bothersome.”

One of the features of the store is that members gain points based on how many times they visit and their responses to questionnaires. The product-specific surveys are e-mailed to their cell phones the day after they take an item.

The number of products that members can take increases with the number of points, a system that boosts the response rate to questionnaires.

Melposnet is planning to open similar stores in Osaka and Nagoya.