Sam's Club Automates In-Store Sampling

Sam’s Club’s ongoing partnership with Chicago-based retail innovation company Freeosk offers CPG manufacturers an automated method for sampling in stores.

The startup’s eponymous, sample-dispensing kiosk made its debut at Sam’s Club in 2013 and has since been installed in over 650 locations.

The white-and-orange kiosk is designed with a modern look and depicts the Freeosk logo. Positioned near packaged food aisles in stores, the kiosk is equipped with a digital screen that runs ads promoting the product currently in rotation. Shoppers receive a sample of the SKU by scanning their membership card; the kiosk also stocks the sampled product.

Freeosk at Sam's Club

Sampled products have included packaged foods from brands such as Mars Inc.’s Goodnessknows as well as trial-sized SKUs of personal care and household items. A representative for Sam’s Club told the Chicago Tribune that brands pay to sample their items through the kiosks, and that products are switched out regularly.

Freeosk founder Matt Eichorn told Fast Company in 2013 that by asking shoppers to scan their membership cards, the kiosks can track who is sampling products and aggregate this information with sales data, allowing brands to measure the impact. The data also helps the retailer figure out what products shoppers like, Sam’s Club spokesperson Dianna Gee told the Institute.

Freeosk, which boasts Sam’s Club sister-chain Walmart and supermarket Giant Eagle as other customers, announces products currently being sampled on its website, and Facebook and Twitter pages.

The dispensing kiosks complement Sam’s Club’s existing Tastes and Tips sampling program, and annual sampling events that spotlight fresh and prepared foods and seasonal dishes. 

“We will always have human member engagement,” Gee said. “It’s important for us to elevate the member experience through interactive, workshop environments that show members how they can use our products.”