The Original Agency specializes in creating captive audiences that can be targeted by advertisers for monetization. When the opportunity to build a property using the excellent Samples.com domain came about, we jumped at the opportunity.
We believed Samples.com could tap into a core consumer passion: namely, receiving physical goods for free. Coupons and savings-related properties allow members to lower their monthly expenses by getting everyday CPG items for free or cheaply. If we could find a way to send users samples on a regular basis, we knew we'd be able to quickly scale our audience.
It immediately became clear that we'd need to build tools for advertisers to target engaged consumers, as well as offer a paid membership plan for users who are particularly passionate about sampling.
The business would need to operate on equal footing in the B2C space, providing a compelling experience for users, while also serving the B2B market by enabling brands to easily reach their target customers with samples and other advertisements.
Creating a membership platform compelling enough to engage users daily became our top priority. Industry research and competitive analysis revealed how many users (hint: it's a lot of users!) would interest large CPG brands, so we set our sights on that audience number and began surveying our target audience to determine the V1 feature set.
While we developed a frictionless signup process, split-testing our way to a 70% signup conversion rate, we also required a good bit of information from our members to best match them to sampling offers. By answering questions about themselves, users could unlock premium samples and other offers, creating a feedback loop encouraging members to continuously provide valuable data for our advertisers.
Three core features became central to the free membership tier experience.
We developed Action Center as the main feed of all relevant samples and offers, organized based upon a user’s stated interests.
The Smart Saver program hosts valuable online courses that teach users to save. By completing a course, a user could qualify for exclusive coupons and other savings.
We observed that many older Samples.com users (ages 50+) were confused about how to use the site. Most customer support messages were from older users who couldn’t figure out how to redeem samples or find items of interest. Heatmap data revealed that these users simply did not know where to click.
To address this portion of the audience, we ideated the Samples Shelf during a week-long product sprint. The Shelf would become a guided and curated experience, allowing users to fill their digital shelves with samples once per day and easily redeem their offers.
Customer surveys revealed that a small but significant portion of the Samples.com audience wanted more and better samples, so much so that they stated a willingness to pay for a monthly subscription service.
We created both a digital and physical-goods subscription. The digital subscription unlocked premium sample and other savings opportunities, while the physical-goods subscription guaranteed a monthly samples box. We rapidly grew this program to over 15,000 members within the first three months of its release.
The B2B side of the business was just as key to the product’s success as the B2C features. How could we enable advertisers to reach users?
All of the data users input to qualify for free samples opened up a world of targeting possibilities. We built a set of tools that allowed advertisers to reach users based on almost any targeting criteria, creating custom audiences to reach users via on-site ads, email placements, push notifications, and even SMS messages.
Within 6 months of The Original Agency's direct management of the product, Samples.com grew a membership base of over 300,000 users, 15,000 of whom became paying customers.
“Thinking differently about how to serve our customers helped us grow Samples.com smoothly,” said Ben Stein, Tibrio’s former Chief Product Officer and The Original Agency Co-Founder. Stein improved customer experience across the organization, leading to happier users and ballooning membership on the Samples.com property, officially launched in 2017. “I’m incredibly proud that we were able to build such a robust savings-focused platform and drive it to profitability within a year of version 1’s release. Samples.com’s early successes should ensure Tibrio maintains a strong market position for years to come.”