BarkBox Taps Into Pet Owners' Love of Product Sampling
By Kimberley Coughlin
November 13, 2013

As an animal lover who doesn’t currently have any pets of her own, I’m a huge fan of spoiling ones that belong to other people. So when I received a Gilt City email earlier this week advertising a three-month subscription to BarkBox for a discounted rate of $44 (normally $72), I pounced on it quicker than a cat could climb into a cardboard box.

BarkBox is a subscription service that sends dog owners monthly packages packed with dog goodies based on the size of your dog. Customers can choose one-month, three-month or six-month plans and deliveries are made on the 15th of the month. Each box contains at least four items and, according to the BarkBox website customers can expect to receive “anything from toys, bones and all-natural treats to hygiene products and innovative new gadgets!”

You’re essentially getting a box of samples each month and if you decide to go ahead and purchase a full-size version of the product you get them at a reduced rate. For retailers, BarkBox is a great way to get consumers to try your products. The product promotion doesn’t end there though; customers post monthly review videos to their YouTube channels, blogs and websites. Customers can also post pics of their pups trying out their BarkBox goodies to the company’s Facebook page, giving the brands they feature even more face[book] time. If you have a product you’d like them to review or a unique opportunity you think they should hear about they ask that you email them.

Now the question is what can independent shops learn from the BarkBox concept? For starters, people love sample products. With that in mind, local stores can work with their suppliers to offer a sample of the month. This would bring customers into the store for the free product and, if they’re anything like me, once they’re inside it’s hard to walk out without making a purchase. Customers could then bring the packaging from the sample back at any time over the course of the next month for a discount on the full-sized product.

Another option would be hosting pet parties that feature different products each month. Customers would bring their animals in, let them test out the toys and treats, and receive an item discount on the featured products. While this option asks for more of the customer’s time, it allows for pet owners to see, in store, if their animal will actually like the items. It also offers the social aspect that online shopping is lacking. Stores could then post pictures of the parties on social media, which would allow owners to tag their pets and encourage other customers to join in on future fun events.

Have you experienced success with samples? How did you get your customers to give something new a try?