A mid-nineteenth century shopkeeper would, without doubt, find it ridiculous to treat all of his visitors to a bite of a new product now available in his shop. What good would it be to give it out for free, when it could be sold? And the more expensive, the better!
In the twentieth century, the business market in all of the civilized world got oversaturated. The millennia-old approach of buying something cheap and selling it expensive would no longer work - a potential customer had a few offers to choose from. What good would it be to buy something expensive from one retailer, when you could walk around the corner and buy the very same thing for a lower price? That groundbreaking moment was described in detail in Emile Zola's 'The Ladies' Paradise'.
Industrialization and mass production forced businesses to think harder and be creative in order to stay profitable.
Este Lauder was the first one to come up with the idea of large-scale free sample giveaways
That's, actually, exactly how she launched her beauty business. For a single woman making creams in a pot in her own kitchen, it wasn't easy to convince potential purchasers that she was an expert in skincare. In fact, she insisted that her potential customers would try her cream before buying it. With such persistence and focus on giving back, no wonder she invented 'gift with every purchase'.
Free samples work fine until these days. But things got even more complicated as we moved into the twenty-first century. Considering the logistical issues and trade scale, resorting solely to sampling wouldn't be very efficient. There was a call for another new thing.
That's when we got reviews
Reviews of everything, from actual products (think Amazon), to intellectual products (like here), to services (like this). That's another thing a mid-nineteenth century shopkeeper would be very surprised to hear about. Why care about making reviews, if a customer could purchase a product and, if that product suited them, would spread the word?
I suppose the emergence of reviews is a sign of how decentralized the modern society is, and how oversaturated the product and service market is. The selection is too wide to for retailers and manufacturers to fully covered with oral reviews going from one neighbor to another. Besides, not many modern urban citizens now talk to their neighbors.
Review manipulations are omnipresent.
At the dawn of review branch emergence, there was some point in searching for feedback and product reviews from purchasers. But by now, when most of the companies have enhanced the reviews service, there's good news and bad news. Bad news: reviews are heavily manipulated. Good news: because of market oversaturation, there's no monopoly and all businesses have to live up to high standards in order to stay afloat. At the end of the day, it's customers who win.
The moral of this story? None. Old ways are disappearing, new ways are emerging only to live for a little while and die away sooner than predicted. Businesses now have to do their best simply to get buy; to succeed, they need to shake the world. After all, challenges and competition are two very important things behind progress and evolution.