I participated in a sampling exercise last week, and really liked what I'd tried. But then there was no way to find out how to buy the stuff, no matter how hard I tried.
The product was a bar of soap shaped like a leaf, and I found it in the bathroom of the room I'd just checked into at a Southern California Westin. Needing to wash my hands (yes, I dutifully try to obey the CDC's dicta), I ripped off the clear cellophane wrapper, turned on the faucet, and did my thing.
The soap was great. First off, it smelled wonderful, and lathered up in an instant. But the leaf shape was what truly delighted me; it felt great in my hands, fitting in my palm like no other hard-edged wedge of soap could. I was sold. I wanted to buy this soap.
Only there was no way to do so.
There were signs plastered all over my room. Many of them had to do with recycling, offering me the opportunity to reduce my shower spray, reuse towels, even recycle paper at the desk. Cards explained the TV, and why my pillows were the cat's meow. But nothing talked about the soap.
I thought of retrieving the plastic wrap from the garbage, but I'd shredded it. The labels on the shampoo and conditioner bottles were elegantly austere; I guess I could have tried to go online and search on what I found, though the thought didn't occur to me at the time. When I left, I checked in the lobby boutique. Nothing.
I couldn't believe there wasn't an easy, immediate way to buy.
Has this ever happened to you in a hotel room? Maybe a desk lamp was really cool, or the sheets were particularly comfortable. A hair dryer might have blown away the competition. Whatever. I know that some hotel chains have gone so far as to create catalogs to retail stuff in the rooms (I believe the W chain does this), but it's all about branded merchandise, and there's nary a deal to be had.
No, I'm talking about operationalizing those purposeful sampling opportunities that happen every day in hotel rooms around the world.
That leaf of soap wasn't in my room by chance; some company made the effort, and paid money to put it there. So why wasn't something printed on a card or the label that said "text blah-blah if you like it, and we'll give you a discount on your first purchase from web site so-and-so?"
Taking it a step further, why couldn't (or wouldn't) marketers create communities for product trial based on traveler use?
- Imagine if using a lamp came with an optional questionnaire, for which guests were rewarded with purchase deals (and frequent visitor points)
- Maybe the entire stay could be configured as an optional product trial experience, offering the willing a variety of ways to be heard and rewarded?
- It wouldn't have to be junky or overtly commercial...why not integrate it into the branding of the hotel chain (a la "our visitors are opinion-leaders and trend-setters, so staying with us includes engaging them on their tastes and interests")?
Visitors might even buy something like soap shaped like a leaf. I know I would.