Sampling innovator SoPost plans US expansion
The technology company that helps brands run their online product sampling campaigns first launched in the UK with its first campaign in April 2014, before opening its New York office in 2016.
“We have had a global outlook since day one,” Grubin told us. “Coming from the UK, the US felt like a natural next step—it is a big market that is culturally quite similar.”
Marking five years since it first entered the US market, SoPost is now leveraging the connections and relationships it has made to date to build more partnerships with brands that are looking for sampling support.
SoPost focuses on smart sampling, which means getting the right sample to the right person and ensuring the experience is as personalized as possible. To provide unique solutions, the brand needs to capture and assess relevant information, data and campaign analytics.
Struggling sampling presents change
Detailing how SoPost’s founder characterizes the sampling space in the US, Grubin emphasizes: “Fragmented!”. The main division in the country is between the online and offline beauty sampling markets.
“Brands were slow to innovate with their sampling particularly with the shift to online, but we have seen that accelerate in the past few years,” she said. However, in the US market: “The online sampling is at a pretty early stage—lots of inexperienced vendors, and brands who do not know what questions to ask or how to really measure success.”
Online sampling is now developing, though, with SoPost eager to access the market and grab share at a time when brands are curious to find out more about how it works and the impact it can have on their beauty campaigns. “The pace of innovation is speeding up though—there is a lot more receptiveness to our vision now,” said Grubin.
The congruence of online growth and the beauty and personal care (BPC) consumer appetite for sampling in the US is changing the way consumers want to sample and engage with brands and products. Describing the appetite as “huge” and sampling online “growing at a crazy pace”, Grubin also noted that “people need to try products before they go out and buy”.
SoPost will use its experience in the market to reach more customers. The brand sees a lot of similarities between how consumers engage with online sampling in the UK and US. It notes that the bigger differences are between the US/UK and markets including Germany where consumers are not as quick to engage with online sampling.
Targeting and technology
There are many opportunities for US-based BPC online sampling campaigns. An interest in a highly targeted and personalized sampling experience that can lead to a smooth path back to purchase is a key consumer demand that brands can leverage online sampling to solve.
Additionally, in the US, SoPost has seen a desire for integration with new technology—like augmented reality (AR) and virtual shopping experiences—to enhance digital BPC sampling.
Team-building without compromising trust
To increase and develop its sampling presence in the US, the greatest obstacle facing the SoPost brand is building its team fast enough. “Demand for what we are doing is growing at an astronomical rate and we want to make sure that we realize our growth plans without compromising on our values or culture,” said Grubin.
Specifically related to sampling, one of the big challenges in the market is that the formats brands are working with have been developed for other channels, like instore or magazines. As a result, the sampling brand is spending a lot of time looking at how it can help its partners develop samples specifically for online via leveraging the data and insights it has, with sustainability also being hugely important.
What is next in the brand’s US strategy?
Looking ahead to the future, Grubin confirmed the brand is “really focused on high-quality growth”. SoPost now plans to make its platform more suitable for a wider range of customers, including smaller brands, and further broaden the channels it can deploy its technology through.