Written by Stuart Foxman

One day, Milad Zabihi opened his mailbox and found diapers. It was a product sample, and might have been useful except for one fact: he didn’t have kids and wasn’t expecting one.

The diapers arrived in his mail two other times after that. Likely, the sampling was based on Zabihi’s postal code, and maybe the manufacturer generated interest from other residents. Yet for Zabihi it was a miss.

“I never asked for it. This was more a push than a pull. And it’s still a big problem,” says Zabihi.

His new venture is looking to re-invent product sampling. Zabihi is the CEO and co-founder of Peekage (peekage.com). The Toronto-based platform aims to help consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies reach specific groups with relevant sample offers.

In this model, consumers pull goods instead of having manufacturers push them. When people sign up, they have a profile. Peekage will allow CPG companies to narrow down their target audience by choosing from 100-plus demographic and psychographic filters. Consumers will see offers if they’re in the right target audience for a particular brand. They’re then free to pursue the offer.

Zabihi calls Peekage a “gamified” platform, in that consumers have to agree to share their thoughts on the product samples. This will give the CPG companies useful insight.

Peekage started in February 2019, and launched in November 2019. By early 2020, Peekage had closed deals with a few CPG companies and was working on the logistics. “We’ve seen huge interest,” says Zabihi.

“Companies want to understand the performance of the campaign, and understand consumer behaviour so they can optimize marketing,” he says.

To Zabihi, offering direct access to Peekage users will help CPG companies in four ways.

One, they’ll drive brand awareness by getting their products in front of the eyes of new consumers. Two, they’ll boost sales by allowing customers to try a product before committing to buying it. Three, they’ll build brand loyalty. Four, they’ll gather valuable feedback. Peekage’s proprietary algorithm uses a “truthfulness” score to filter out low-quality responses, so that CPG companies can collect and analyze rich information.

Peekage will also allow CPG companies to track their campaign’s performance in real-time, including sales, and review conversions and social engagement.

Zabihi says that MaRS, the Toronto startup service and support hub, was helpful in introducing Peekage to a number of technical services. The company received a boost in March 2020 when it was accepted into Techstars Toronto, a top seed accelerator. That gives Zabihi access to funding and mentorship.

Before co-founding Peekage, Zabihi was the Toronto-based chief operating officer for the biggest ride-sharing platform in Latin America. He co-founded a previous startup: a social network that, using machine learning, recommended events to users based on their tastes and mood. Zabihi has other work experience in marketing.

Zabihi says that technology has disrupted most marketing channels over time, and he hopes to do the same for product samples. “We want to create a more personalized experience for users, and help them make informed purchase decisions,” he says.

Photo credit: Glenn Lowson