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No Promoters During COVID-19, So This S'pore Firm Built A Vending Machine For Free Samples

“There’s nothing better than free stuff” is a common philosophy that most Singaporeans share.

This is evident from the snaking queues for freebies and sales, or walking around the supermarket to snack on free food samples.

Admit it or not — deep down, everyone has a kiasu side to them.

However, Eevann Seah of Elitez Asia told Vulcan Post that despite the love for freebies, about a third of Singaporeans still hesitate to approach a promoter giving out free samples.

This is why Eevann and his team is confident that Auntie Sam is bound to win over the hearts of Singaporeans.

Free Samples From Laksa To Beer

Auntie Sam is a vending machine that dispenses samples. It is free for anyone with a registered Singaporean phone number.

All users need to do is register for a free account to be able to claim a free sample each week. One can also pay a small fee of S$0.99 to dispense three samples a week.

According to Eevann, there are at least eight to 14 different samples put out each week. This week, customers can treat themselves to a can of Carlsberg beer, or instant laksa from Prima Taste.

In the past six weeks, it has dispensed samples from well-loved food and beverage brands like Loacker, Kellogg’s and Ribena. It also features products like toothpaste and body wash.

Auntie Sam is currently located within NTUC FairPrice at Ang Mo Kio Hub, and users of the machine can earn Sam points just from dispensing free sample and leaving product reviews.

If users decide to buy the product from NTUC after the free sample, they can upload a receipt of their purchase to receive 10 points.

Despite being around for only six weeks, Auntie Sam already has more than 9,000 subscribers, and over 20,000 redemptions have been made.

According to Eevann, even though the crowd at Ang Mo Kio Hub consists of a more mature demographic, they are more attuned to scanning QR codes due to Covid-19.

Therefore, signing up to collect Auntie Sam’s samples is not too daunting for them.

Auntie Sam’s Larger Cause

Auntie Sam is an initiative by Elitez, which is a human resource firm that specialises in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) as one of its core services.

Some of their services include deploying promoters to promote various products for clients in supermarkets.

However, when Covid-19 hit, brand sampling became impossible although it was still a crucial aspect for many FMCG companies.

Having a vending machine that could dispense samples was a cheaper and more straightforward alternative for brands to continue advertising and raising awareness about their products.

Furthermore, the cost of displaying samples in Auntie Sam is lower for brands, as compared to paying the standard rate of S$12 per hour for a human promoter.

“We are also giving customers the power of choice. For example, with cereal, they can choose to eat it however they like at home, as compared to having to consume it right away at the supermarket,” said Eevann.

However, Auntie Sam might have a short lifespan if it’s not integrated into the hearts of Singaporeans fast enough.

Eevann worries that once food sampling resumes, brands might focus all their attention back to pre-Covid processes to “catch up on what they missed out on.”

Will Auntie Sam Replace Human Promoters?

Eevann is of the opinion that Auntie Sam is a hybrid of above and below-the-line marketing.

Above-the-line marketing refers to advertisements that are largely non-targeted and have a wide reach, such as bus stop ads.

On the other hand, below-the-line marketing advertising is targeted, much like a promoter at a supermarket.

While customers can interact with Auntie Sam, they can also view advertisements via the machine.

However, Eevann told Vulcan Post that there are “some things humans can do that machines will not replacet.”

These include explaining the unique selling points of products to customers, giving them a highly personalised experience.

Furthermore, many promoters have regular customers and are able to build long-term relationships with them.

Where Will Auntie Sam Go Next?

Auntie Sam is slated to make an appearance at Jurong Point this November.

The team aims to roll out the vending machine to at least eight locations islandwide by the end of 2020.

However, they do not plan to stop at just FMCG products. Eevann shared that make-up samples might be on the agenda too as the team aims to partner with stores like Sephora.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is also part of the plan.

Much like the mask vending machines that have been rolled out around the island due to Covid-19, the team plans to roll out Auntie Sam machines with basic necessities for low-income families.

They are also in the midst of developing an application which will be an “ecosystem of sampling”, where individuals can share about the products they sampled with a wider community.

“We want to build a lifestyle whereby when Singaporeans think about free sampling they think about Auntie Sam,” said Eevann.

Featured Image Credit: Auntie Sam

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