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New Marketing Approach Lets Consumers Test Products First (January 23, 2007)

Trial products at a presentation (Luke 19 Co.)
A new kind of business in which trial products are distributed to consumers is booming. Rather than just handing them out indiscriminately, though, the aim is to target specific consumers and get feedback from them about the products. Consumers, for their part, are pleased with the opportunity to test a product for free before purchasing it. Products soon develop reputations via word of mouth using this system, so more and more companies are adopting this approach.

Swapping Test Goods Online
In the summer of 2005, a virtual store called Sample Department Store appeared online, providing sample goods. After becoming a member, a consumer receives virtual currency called "sampler" that can be used on the website. Answering surveys and introducing the site to friends will earn the user more virtual currency that can be exchanged for products of their choice, including health foods, makeup, everyday goods, and even hotel vouchers. Already over 150,000 people have signed up, and more than 250 firms are providing sample goods. These companies, in return, receive data about their products from the customers who requested them, as well as survey information provided by members after using the products.

New products are presented in an event at a hotel (Luke 19 Co.)

For registered members, there are presentations of new products held at hotels and other locations several times a year. The participating firms are happy to be able to convey the products' features directly to consumers, and they can look forward to word-of-mouth advertising, especially from women. A spokesperson for Luke 19 Co., the company that operates Sample Department Store, says: "The sample products are not passively accepted. The key is that registered members and participating companies are actively involved in the process, and this is why both sides support this approach."

The Maquia Salon (Shueisha Inc.)

Synergystic Marketing
There is a salon in Tokyo's posh Ginza district that lets customers enjoy doing themselves up as they wish using makeup samples. The salon was begun by Shueisha Inc. at the same time it launched its beauty magazine Maquia, and the makeup products introduced in the magazine can be tried for free at the salon.

Another company that conducts market research on registered members for products aimed at women is Hime & Company. At a salon in Tokyo's Kita Aoyama district that costs ¥300 ($2.60 at ¥115 to the dollar), customers can try sample products and retail products that the salon receives money from the manufacturers to display. This new form of advertising appears set to expand in Japan.

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Copyright (c) 2007 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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