50 Ways to Become a Product Tester and Get Free Stuff
Free samples have evolved from freebies in supermarket aisles to items that arrived with a newspaper or magazine subscriptions to free perks for influencers and loyal customers. Free samples are now tailored to specific tastes, demographics, and shopping styles and not typically given away as rewards: They're offered to people that companies believe would make great product testers. Offering free stuff is the easiest way to turn your core audience into your quality control group without having to actually pay people for their labor. If you think you could help improve a company by becoming a product tester — or just want some free samples to test — here are some of the best ways to start racking up freebies.
Influenster culls online reviewers in the grand mobile tradition: It turns the experience into a game. After a few boring steps such as filling out a profile, they unlock badges by answering questions, reviewing products, and sharing reviews on social media. Badges — "techie," "bookworm," "wellness," "sweet tooth," etc. — clarify the kind of items consumers will test. Some "sampling" is done online, but mainly consumers are sent goods in a "VoxBox" and write reviews to get samples from other marketing campaigns.
Gen.Video sits between companies such as LG, Braun, and Sonicare and social media influencers and basically gets those with a big social media presence paired up with the right brands. There's a fairly high bar for "influence"; if you register and turn out to be a match, however, Gen.Video vows there will be no end to the testing and unboxing.
If you're looking to get free stuff as an influencer, Oprah Winfrey's O Magazine is a fine place to start. Not only are O Mag Insiders attached to Oprah's brand, but they also get products before they hit shelves, access to private events, and gifts. They have to be vocal about their support for both the magazine and the products tested, though.
This service and app is based primarily around consumer surveys, but Toluna lets you register and eventually get samples. An eight-step application determines your profile; the number of surveys you take and reviews you post determines your influence. It takes a while to get to tangible samples, but partners including Procter & Gamble and Kellogg's come through eventually.
BzzAgent has been at this for nearly 20 years and has given away hundreds of thousands of products during that time. It's also raked in data from reviewers' profiles, surveys, social media, and activity. If you ever wondered who's taking the time to type out those Amazon reviews or like products they see on Facebook, it's BzzAgent reviewers who help with campaigns for L'Oreal mascara, Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen, Prego sauces, and more. It works so well that Procter & Gamble has ditched its in-house sample program to use BzzAgent reviews instead.
The Johnson & Johnson Friends and Neighbors program keeps all of the makeup, shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen, bandage, and other product testing in house. There are product tests, focus groups, discussion forums and online surveys to complete, and filling out one survey is all it takes to join. You'll get to test products; some testers will get an honorarium for their time.
Want to play some new Xbox games for free? Microsoft Playtest allows it, but there's a catch. Anyone can fill out an online signup form (kids 12 and under can do so with a parent's permission) and wait to be contacted … but they'll have to go to Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, for the hands-on part. If you make the trip, you'll get a "software gratuity" for your trouble.
PinchMe keeps it simple. Users create profiles to determine what kind of samples they'd like, and can also pick samples. New stuff comes in every Tuesday, and reviewers get choices ranging from Skittles candy and Starbucks coffee to Bioré masks and Glad trash bags — all reviewers have to do is try products and share reviews. There's no obligation to keep going if you get bored.
CrowdTap turns reviewing into a game, but makes it a little more difficult to get samples than some other services. Consumers earn points by taking polls, filling out questionnaires, uploading photos, and leaving comments on Amazon products. Reviewers can cash in those points for more samples from Lysol, Almay, Dagoba Organic Chocolate, and other partners, or trade them in for gift cards from retailers such as Walmart, Target, Amazon.
The Pink Panel makes potential reviewers fill out an extensive questionnaire, but rewards them with samples of facial cosmetics, moisturizers, lip shades, eyebrow, and eyelash products, neck creams, and more. Reviews turned around within a certain amount of time might be rewarded with a $50 Amazon gift card.
Good Housekeeping and its parent company Hearst know there's a lot of competition out there. That's why they're always looking for people to fill out their roughly 16-page questionnaire and weigh in on free samples. They want your opinion and will dangle prizes to get it.
Glamour Magazine's Glamspotters program is a little more free-handed with samples than other magazine groups and panels. Users have to fill out a multi-page questionnaire to get free samples for sharing opinions on fashion, beauty, entertainment, relationships, and careers. Sometimes insider access to certain events is offered.
Swagbucks, an online survey and video scheme, doles out rewards for the amount of time you're willing to spend on those distractions. It'll give you gift cards and even cash based on how much of a company's legwork you're willing to do for it — though on your birthday you get 55 "Swagbucks" just for existing.
Are you a homeschool parent/teacher? Do you want to spend less on materials for the classroom? HomeSchool allows parent-teachers to test books and classroom items for free, as long as they provide feedback. While the material is untested, home school families have the ability to mold what goes into their classroom at minimal cost.
This footwear and athletic-apparel company wants people to test its shoes, clothes and sports bras, but also wants to make sure its target demographics are doing the testing. Brooks offers applications for sneakers, apparel, and bras. It also has testers sign an agreement and matches them to a list of criteria. Testers also have to be prepared to give certain products back upon request.
Amazon product testing may be the oddest program out there. Like Walmart, you have to pay Amazon to sell you samples. Unlike Walmart, Amazon applies the price of those samples to future purchases — basically giving you an Amazon gift card for trying its products, but holding your money as a deposit. It can't call them "free," but it's an interesting way to test products and ensure return business.
Nike isn't looking for someone who's going to maybe wear their products a couple of times and put the shoes in a closet: It wants athletes to test gear under athletic conditions. There are different rules for adults, teens, and young children, and it doesn't always mean you'll end up with free gear. Keep sending Nike feedback, though, and chances are it'll keep sending products to try.
Meredith doesn't just want parents' input for Parenting product testing: It wants to hear from the kids as well. Parents have to apply along with their children to be considered for sampling, and those chosen get to try out toys, games, books, DVDs, CDs, video games, health products, bath products, and adult health and beauty products. They'll also get trial versions of strollers, carriers, furniture, and items for feeding and diapering.
Sorry, Hearst Communications, but Conde Nast still publishes the standard-bearer for global style. You have to answer surveys and join panels to get Vogue Insiders products, but Vogue doesn't necessarily want reviews — it wants discussion, feedback, and opinions, not just rote online reviews that any supermarket-aisle reader could cobble together.
BSM Media's MomSelect asks mothers to register for freebies and product testing, select programs, and let companies send samples for personal use or at parties. MomSelect bundles all the data from that testing and hands it back to companies. The company may get paid for this service, but the "mom influencers" get first crack at products before they hit shelves.
Reebok may have the most strenuous product-testing requirements of all sneaker companies.You have to submit your shoe/apparel size, demographic profile, geographic location, and an activity and athletic profile. If selected, you'll be offered tests to choose from and be emailed instructions. You have to test the product for a specific amount of hours or miles each week for three to six weeks, keeping detailed logs. At the end, you send back a questionnaire and get a free Reebok product in return. If you don't run, walk, play, or train daily and can't meet weekly requirements, you're out. Oh, and you aren't an influencer — so no blogs or social media posts about products.
Just assume that every fashion and style magazine has a program like this. InStyle Trendsetters is much like programs at Glamour and Vogue: You'll evaluate products, offer opinions, and maybe even win some prizes along the way. Most importantly, you'll get to weigh in on the magazine itself.
Aimed primarily at women, SheSpeaks makes consumers earn their product testing. Users have to take part in forums, participate in surveys, and basically drive traffic to the site before they can be rewarded with products such as movies, strollers, sunscreen, toys, and other stuff that needs market testing.
Harnessing the power of "mom influencers" isn't exactly a unique idea in product testing. MomsMeet lets mothers register through a quick survey, sends products, and asks that they share opinions on the site and on social media. It also has a membership tier for bloggers who want to feature sample products such as chickpea spread, edamame crisps, and baby shampoo on their sites.
General Mills has long run its Mills Advisory Panel to determine which products make it to store shelves. If you've had Cheerios, Yoplait, Nature Valley, Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, or Häagen-Dazs, you've had General Mills products and might have an opinion worth sharing. It starts by sending in an email address.
Franklin Foods focuses on exactly one product: Greek cream cheese. If you're of the mind that this is what bagels have been missing throughout their history, Franklin Foods wants you to sign up for in-home product testing and reviews of its new packaging. Those who join will be the first to get new products, and will get coupons and recipes.
Spices are costly and not exactly something consumers want to wager a full-price trial on. McCormick Product Testing lets consumers try smaller packs of spices and weigh in on quality without having to invest in a jar that may sit on the shelf unused for years. While folks near McCormick facilities in New Orleans or Hunt Valley, Maryland, have more opportunity to test, other consumers can still fill out the application for nationwide testing or online surveys.
If you own a Roku streaming device, its product testing program will allow you to test features and content such as games and channels for free. Roku admits that buggy new software may crash a device, but those willing to fill out an application and sign a nondisclosure agreement can get more out of their Roku than they may have anticipated.
Getting into Kellogg's K-Insiders program isn't all that easy. First you have to join Kellogg's Family Rewards program. Then you have to hope you buy enough Kellogg's products for them to notice you and invite you in. Kellogg's really wants the most loyal fans to have their say, and this exclusive test panel is how they go about it.
What makes someone an "influencer?" In the world of Smiley360, an influencer is someone who takes a whole lot of surveys before qualifying for free samples. Once that happens, it's all about linking up with brands on social media, sharing reviews online, and doling out coupons. It's real effort for some free Advil, Goldfish, or OxyClean, but such is the price of influence.
In an age of influencers and online everything, L'Oreal keeps its product testing remarkably old-school. Tests still take place on site in New Jersey or Ohio, though some products can be tested at home. The latest test included hair care, hair styling, hair color, cosmetics, skincare, and sun care products.
Sephora takes a different approach to product testing. It will give away free samples, but uses some of the best as rewards for purchase or as birthday rewards. Beauty Insider club members get even more samples with their purchases, but the success of that product testing is based largely on whether shoppers come back for the full sizes.
Want to test the new "Call of Duty," "StarCraft," or "World of Warcraft" game before they're out and get gift cards, apparel, or even video games for your trouble? Activision is more than happy to have you fill out an application and test some games — if you can get to its headquarters in Santa Monica, California. That may seem rough, but some companies don't let the public test games at all.
Specializing in bras and shapewear for full-figured women, Glamorise is more than happy to have consumers test its garments. It will want your measurements, the sizes you typically wear and the clothing you most often buy, but it will also keep sending trial garments for as long as you'd like to keep sampling them.
A joint venture between ratings company Nielsen and consumer marketing company IRI, the National Consumer Panel asks consumers to use an app to scan the barcodes of everything they buy on a weekly basis. Nielsen and IRI get consumer data, while consumers who sign up get points toward cash, gift cards, or even electronics.
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