16 October 2020, 10:43 AM
  • With sampling a no-no right now as the pandemic rumbles on, here’s how to maintain positive sales and customer experience
Counterpoint: Alternatives to Sampling

Online opportunities
Svetlana Kukharchuk, AKA The Cheese Lady, suggests that while in-store sampling opportunities are no longer part of her repertoire, she is still offering her customers extra value by providing free samples with products ordered from her online shop. “We are still able to offer samples to our online customers quite easily by including them with the person’s online order,” she says. When it comes to providing this service, it would be easy to go down a rabbit hole of personalising each and every cheese or chutney sample to the products in the customer’s basket. But Svetlana has chosen not to go down this time-consuming route. “We actually do not have one criterium that we follow,” she says. Instead, “it can be as simple as including a sample of our Cheese of the Month or including a sample of cheese that I think will complement the customer’s selection best or help broaden their cheese horizons.”

Tell the story
Although it’s no longer possible to provide physical samples of cheese for customers to try before potentially buying, at least for the near future, it is possible to employ smart selling techniques in-store to avoid a drop in sales and upselling. “In-store it is more challenging,” says Svetlana, “but that is where our storytelling comes in nicely. As professional cheesemongers, we are able to describe our cheeses fully using our words and our customers are happy with that.”

Justin Tunstall, cheese consultant, suggests adding a personal touch to your selling technique. “Add some staff names to point of sale written recommendations. For example: “Gary, our affineur, loves this aromatic, fruity and succulent cows’ milk blue with sourdough, fig conserve and a glass of porter”. This approach can be applied to conversations with your customers, too. “Bring verbal suggestions alive and own the recommendation,” he suggests. “It is far better to substitute “That’s a traditional combination” with “I enjoyed some of that last weekend with…”. Enthusiasm goes a long way, and Justin suggests rehearsing upselling ideas so you and your staff are fully confident when it comes to selling minus the crutch of physical samples.

Recommendations are important. “Medal winners are reassuring - make certain that staff know the awards success of the range on display,” Justin continues, and be sure to display cheeses’ accolades in the counter, so if you’re occupied customers are able to see for themselves which cheeses are award-winning.

This is a time for tasting notes to really come into their own, suggests retail consultant Edward Berry of The Flying Fork, and if resources allow consider online tasting sessions. “Encourage customers to buy the cheeses, then taste with them,” he says. He also suggests offering a selection of pre-packed samples to purchase - a strong sell and attractive price point could lure customers to spend money on something they’re used to experiencing on a complimentary basis.

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