Everything you should know about managing “phy-gital” samples

4 minute read

Gina Gulberti

Sample loans or gifting to fashion journalists and/or other key influencers are two of the most common strategies used by marketing professionals and communication specialists within the fashion and retail industries.

And, According to our latest State of Influencer Marketing Report, 94% of those surveyed believe that influencer marketing is extremely effective in driving actual sales. Being able to feel physical products and try them on - to “live” the brand by having the items in their own hands - provides influencers with a unique experience that they will share and promote with their audience. Additionally, with Western brands expanding into new markets such as China, different ways of effectively promoting new products are emerging such as live-selling - which can drive millions of sales in just seconds. This is why a management strategy for all of your samples is so important. 

Nonetheless, in a 'see now, buy now' world, people are becoming more selective with the information they consume as the gap between traditional and digital is closing, and consumers care more about a brand's values and the way in which they communicate.

When the time comes to develop successful sample lending or gifting strategy, the key is to find the perfect balance of the two, while meeting the various needs of your various opinion leaders. Such influencers may include celebrities, VIPs, digital influencers, leading print editors and others your brand will collaborate with on new campaigns orcollection launches.

But let’s explore this a bit further. What is the advantage of working with physical and digital samples within the scope of your brand’s overall loans or gifting strategy? What opportunities do they provide you with? Before going any further, we wanted to show you all the information in a simple infographic that summarizes the benefits of management of physical and digital fashion samples. Here we go:

Any fashion PR or marketing manager would love to dress a popular celebrity in their brand. For Versace, this was the case when Doja Cat attended the latest VMAs wearing a mini dress from the designer as she picked up her award for Best New Artist. Dior successfully generated publicity with All-Star Influencer, Chiara Ferragni, who managed to drive high levels of MIV® for their recent digital fashion show - even though she wasn't in attendance - which you can hear Social Media and e-Reputation Director Gary Pinagot speak about in our recent summit. As brands realize they have a myriad of interactions with the media and other digital opinion leaders, their key objectives are to have high-quality assets to share with the fashion world through social media, and capitalize on short-lead coverage to enrich their overall brand image.


A PR team’s strategy for getting their brand’s collection featured on the cover of Vogue is certainly different from when a PR team is promoting a collection to digital editors on the web. Evidently, the timeline will be quite diverse for each scenario, and whether a digital or physical sample is needed will also vary according to what type of content is being created, the kind of buzz desired, or even the style of the collection itself.

An industry between the physical and digital space

Recently, the global playing field has changed, and fashion, luxury, and beauty marketing teams are under more pressure to tighten their budgets and maximize their investments.

So what exactly is the secret to ensuring you don't waste any editorial opportunities, or lose money due to lost samples? The key is to achieve a perfect balance and develop a system that enables you to improve the management of both physical and digital samples. This is what we call a "phygital strategy"!

As stated in our recent digital summit, by FHCM's Executive President, Pascal Morand, brands have accelerated digitally at a much faster pace. Advancements in technology that would have previously taken 5-10 years have happened in a matter of months, and brands have been fast to adapt to new digital formats in order to respond to a changing and temporarily halted market.   

"Phy-gitalization" is a trending strategy that we are seeing leveraged by many top luxury brands. As this has always been a slightly traditional sector with brands deeply rooted in their heritage with a long-time allegiance to the nature of exclusivity, the luxury industry is now trying to approach 'millennials' and reach a wider audience. To accomplish this, luxury brands are now implementing a combined physical and digital strategy. As we highlighted in our own State of the Luxury Segment Report, 45% of today’s luxury consumers are also technology consumers.  

This is the case for many of the leading luxury brands such as Chanel, Burberry and Tiffany & Co. For instance, Tiffany uses a strategy that they call "phy-gital". The brand leverages a wide range of traditional marketing tactics that date back to the brand’s early days. These tactics include the famous Tiffany Blue Box with their patented white satin bows, and the unique shade of Tiffany Blue that doesn’t even appear in the colour catalogue in the United States. At the same time, the brand is also known to effectively utilise many digital and innovative strategies. An example is their impressive  “Engagement Ring Finder App”, which enables users to view the brand’s complete collection of rings and wedding bands, share them with their friends and family, and even set up in-store appointments to try-on the jewelry… all done directly within their app.

samples management

Four advantages to utilizing both physical and digital product samples

To better understand the advantages of a well-balanced sample loan and gifting strategy, here are the four benefits we highlighted in our infographic:

Physical samples

  • Allow you to dress celebrities and maximise brand impact through their appearances in the media and at highly publicised events.  
  • By lending physical samples and/or gifting products to Instagrammers, Youtubers, bloggers, and other key digital influencers, your brand can stay relevant and achieve maximum exposure on social media. Keep in mind that many influencers receive multiple gifts or samples from major brands, so you should customize the packaging and include a personalized message that will make your product unique and special.
  • Physical samples are great to present at events. This allows editors and influencers to feel the physical product with their own hands before anyone else has a chance to.
  • Stylists at fashion magazines are always searching for new outfits and accessories to be featured on their upcoming covers and in articles. Your physical sample strategy should focus on leveraging these wonderful opportunities whenever they pop-up.

Digital Samples

  • Having a digital catalog or gallery gives writers and influencers a quick and easy way to access your collections anytime, anywhere. Whether it’s 3 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning, influencers can access your digital assets at their own comfort and convenience.
  • With digital assets, you can share specific items or styles included in your latest collection by simply clicking on a link.
  • By uploading all the multimedia content of your collections to the same location, you can organize a file or create a virtual press room that houses your most valuable assets for easy access to your various influencers and press constituents.
  • Improve internal management systems by linking your digital samples to the requests of your physical ones. Using an image gallery linked to your sample system, will speed up the process and integrate physical and digital samples together...and all the data tied to the two.   

In an interview, Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, talked about the industry’s digitization process and the challenges it brings, saying “I’m always hearing the same thing: It’s all moving too fast and it’s way too precarious…Yet we now have greater access than ever to the people we wish to communicate with thanks to social media and technology and far more information than we will ever be able to use.”

Nothing is just physical, so not everything should be just digital. Simply put, we must know how to take full advantage of the resources technology has given us and find a happy balance, while providing a high degree of efficiency that our industry values and bring out the best of both physical and digital.

So, what do you think? Are you developing a dual samples management strategy by using both physical and digital samples? We would love to hear about your own experiences.

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