August 8, 2012, 2:45 PM

Beyond the Rack adds a little something extra to orders

The flash-sale retailer regularly adds samples to packages right before shipping.

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Beyond the Rack, a Canadian flash-sale retailer of apparel, beauty and home products, routinely adds a product sample and coupon to boxes containing consumers’ online orders right before sealing and sending them out the door. The samples “surprise and delight our customers,” says director of marketing Richard Cohene, who likens their effect to a child getting a lollipop after a haircut.

Cohene says he hasn’t tracked how including a sample, usually a female-targeted beauty product like shampoo or suntan lotion, influences repeat visits or purchase behavior since the e-retailer started adding samples to packages about two years ago, but he has heard positive feedback from consumers.

Beyond the Rack gets the samples through a program arranged by International Direct Response Inc. That company works with consumer packaged goods manufacturers to match product samples with e-retailers that sell to those manufacturers’ target audiences. Doug Guyer, co-founder of IDR, says the match usually falls along demographic lines like gender or geography. IDR would match a men’s razor blade to an e-retail site that primarily sells to men, for example. If a sampled product is only available for sale in the United States, it’ll only be included in packages shipped to U.S. consumers.

Guyer says other retailers have seen consumers’ likelihood to buy more often from a participating retailer go up 3% to 4% because of the inclusion of a sample. He says that other than providing the sample and coupon, IDR and the manufacturer are absent from transaction, which means consumers interpret the sample as coming from the e-retailer and remember that the next time they shop online.

IDR pays Beyond the Rack a distribution fee that covers the e-retailers costs for storing and packing the samples; the samples themselves are free to the e-retailer. Cohene says the small size and weight of samples, such as a 2-oz. bottle of Nexxus shampoo, hardly affects the cost of shipping. He declines to disclose the fee Beyond the Rack receives but describes it as minimal, adding that the real benefit is how consumers think of Beyond the Rack after receiving an order. “People do like it,” he says.

Beyond the Rack is No. 174 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide.

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