- A South African startup will start setting up vending machines in malls around Gauteng soon.
- But you won't be paying for the stuff inside using money – just information.
- Trial Run Media says companies are desperate to get their products in consumers hands, and its machines offer a 'dirt cheap' way of doing that.
- For more stories go to www.businessinsider.co.za.
Getting people to try new products is hard – especially when times are tough and money is tight. Nobody wants to pay for a new brand of, say, washing powder, without trying it first.
So companies try to give away samples for free, but that is hard and expensive. Typically it means negotiating space in a store, training a brand ambassador, then accosting people who just want to get their shopping done. Even if it works, the company that gives away the free stuff has no further way to communicate and drive home the sale.
And yet, says South African startup Trial Run, people love getting free stuff as much as companies love getting them to sample stuff. It's just the delivery mechanism that doesn't work.
Which is where machines come in.
During the course of this spring, more than four dozen malls across Gauteng will see new vending machines arrive in various public spots. They will look – and largely function – just like any vending machines that sells chocolates or cool drinks, with one major difference: everything in them will be free.
As long as you are willing to part with some private information.
Trial run has named its machines ABIE, short for Automated Business Intelligence Engines, and the sales pitch to consumer companies is a "dirt cheap" form of marketing: R1,000 will buy then 540 "leads" – consumers they can communicate with, and hopefully turn into customers.
For those consumers, the deal comes with free stuff.
Here is how it works.
The machines will be placed in malls, and stocked by Trial Run with samples from its customers: consumer companies with stuff they want people to try.
Each machine is due to have a wide range of products available, the better to entice a wide range of potential consumers.
If you spot something you like, you have to go to a website to claim it.
Now it is time to part with some personal information, the better to market at you after you get your goodies.
This is the tricky part of the transaction, for both sides. People are quite willing to part with, at a minimum, a cellphone number in return for free stuff, Trial Run says. Consumer-focussed companies keen to build relationships, on the other hand, are good at not exploiting private information, and at honouring requests to unsubscribe from marketing material.
Handing over your details gets you an SMS with a magic number...
... which goes into the machine.
And out comes your stuff.
After that, Trial Run says, its customer, which just gave you free stuff, may contact you a couple more times with follow-up marketing. Because the idea is to turn you into a fan of the product, that company is unlikely to annoy you, Trial Run says. It is more likely to offer you a discount or some other incentive – and will go away if you opt out.
Samples will be limited to one per phone number, because companies only want to hit consumers up once. But there are may ways to use the system, including offering multiple free items in return for more information, and more chances to market to you.
In the first phase free-stuff vending machines are due to come to these Gauteng malls:
14th Ave District Shopping Centre
Atterbury Value Mart
Bryanston Shopping Centre
Centurion Lifestyle Centre
Cresta Shopping Centre
East Rand Mall
Fourways Mall Shopping Centre
Key West Shopping Centre
Mall of Africa
Menlyn Shopping centre
Sammy Marks Square
Woodmead Retail Park
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