Written by James Scherer
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The Ultimate Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization: Chapter 2: Try Before you Buy


Your prospective lead or customer is shopping around more than ever before. They're visiting your site, taking a look and, even if they love what they see, going away to compare it with every one of your competitors (or deciding if they need to buy at all).

To optimize your conversion rates, You need to stand out. You need to give them the full and complete picture of what you can do for them and what they stand to gain. You need to show why you're heads and shoulders above your competitors.

Let's take a look at how psychology can help you with that.

#3. Product Sampling

One of the most influential factors which effect on purchase behavior (in both the B2B and B2C spaces) is sampling.

Whether we’re talking about Free Trial plan or a cube of cheddar on the end of a toothpick, people’s brains are fond of the “Try before you buy” principle. There’s a couple reasons for this:

  • Firstly, sampling (or trialling) interrupts the naysaying internal monologue running through all of us throughout the buying process. There’s no room for concerns like “they probably don’t have X,” or “I’m sure it’s not as good as Y,” if you’re experiencing the product first-hand.
  • Secondly. sampling creates a feeling of obligation (even guilt) towards the source of the sample. This is an entirely subconscious emotion, but is nonetheless effective. The source of the sample has given you something for free. People are built to give something in return.

Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist from Duke, phrases it this way: “Reciprocity is a very, very strong instinct. If somebody does something for you, you really feel a rather surprisingly strong obligation to do something back for them.”

Psychological Case Study

We’re all thinking about Costco, so let’s take a look at it. Do those red tables with microwaves and aproned employees actually have an impact on sales?

The short answer is... probably. To be honest, the only source we have of numbers related to Costco’s sales as a result of sampling is from the sample company itself (Costco doesn’t handle its own product demonstrations, but rather outsources them to a business called Interactions).

But, so long as we take these numbers with a pinch of salt, things look good...

Average Percentage Increase in Sales After Product Samples in 2014, by Product Type:

conversion rate optimization

That’s an average increase of 322% in sales after sampling was implemented. We also have to consider that Costco has been offering samples for as long as any of us can remember, and that should tell us something in itself.

How you can use this psychological factor for conversion rate optimization:

  • When you create an ebook, create two PDFs: one complete, email-gated PDF and another one of the introduction, first chapter, or glimpse from the middle. Offer this (like Amazon Books does) with the CTA “Take a Look Inside!”
  • Give your leads access to your business’ dashboard and tools, even to the point of creating campaigns. Place your Plans & Pricing Page only after they hit “Publish.”

Further Reading on Trying Before you Buy:

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Written by James Scherer

James Scherer is the content editor at Wishpond. When he's not writing or designing for Wishpond he's risking his life biking around the city. Reach out to him on Twitter @JDScherer.