Consumers want their digital promos and print circulars, too

Source: Kroger
Jan 04, 2018

MarketingCharts staff

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of articles from MarketingCharts, which provides up-to-the-minute data and research to marketers.

A whopping 85 percent of households use print circulars delivered to the home and 79 percent use those distributed in stores, according to recent data released by Nielsen. While some think of print circulars as part of yesterday’s marketing, consumer use of these communications has dipped by only three to four percentage points since 2014.

Circulars are not only popular, but also broadly effective in consumers’ eyes. Survey results released late last year found that store circulars were the most influential types of ads encouraging consumers to shop in-store rather than online. Consumers also have pointed to different types of circulars as being their most influential types of local media advertising.

Nonetheless, digital channels are rising quickly. In particular, at least three-quarters of households now use store websites (77 percent) and store emails (75 percent) for product information, with these trending in the opposite direction to print circulars.

By 2019, Nielsen forecasts that these digital touchpoints will have wider reach than print circulars.

Social media and various apps are seeing the strongest growth, breaking into the mainstream in the past few years.

For example, the use of store apps and money-saving apps has ballooned by more than 20 percent points since 2014, up to 56 percent and 52 percent of households, respectively. Meanwhile, more than half (52 percent) now use social media to look at information about products and sales available at stores. As expected, Millennials are the generation most likely to engage with digital touchpoints, per the report

Overall, the survey found that almost half of U.S. households engage with at least eight different print and digital sources of information about products and sales.

“Given these dynamics, retailers can best reach their shoppers by leveraging multiple touchpoints for marketing,” wrote Nielsen in the report. “They should maintain and optimize spending on traditional circulars, since these will continue to be shoppers’ main source of information for the near term. And as consumers seek more information digitally, it’s critical that retailers develop and enhance their digital marketing touchpoints.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will retailers likely have to invest in both print and digital promo options for many years to come, or do you see an end to print over the horizon? How should retailers best judge how to balance the two in the near term?

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20 Comments on "Consumers want their digital promos and print circulars, too"

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Ken Lonyai

There’s a lot of missing information in the Neilsen report. What are the demographics/psychographics of the people surveyed? How were the questions asked?

I see this still as a generational thing. As the generations shift so will the medium. It’s most important for a store to know its customers and decide what medium(s) to use to reach them based on that and not on generic reports.

Also, my observations of in-store kiosk usage for the last 15+ years does not jive with Neilsen’s rosy aisle one 40 percent usage statistic. The fact that they did a survey and not contextual research and simply asked “Do you look at information about products and sales available at stores from the following sources?” tells me to take the report with a huge grain of salt, despite them being “Neilsen.”

Lee Kent

Spot on Ken! This is very much a generational thing. None of the young people I know get a paper delivered to their door and they live their lives phone-in-hand. I am more inclined to say that we really haven’t found a good way to collect promos digitally. There are a lot of options and apps. The next big jump in digital usage over paper will likely come when someone figures the whole usage thing out. And that’s my 2 cents.

Art Suriano
I don’t see print circulars going away anytime soon. It’s all about the experience. When that Sunday edition of the paper arrives filled with several colorful and often appealing circulars, one usually can’t resist browsing through most of them. The reason is the experience which is entirely different than sitting at a computer or browsing on your device. The customer looks at the items the retailer chooses to present, page after page without having to search for what they may have interest in purchasing. There is less thinking involved and, in many ways, the experience is more enjoyable. When the customer does see something they are interested in, they will most likely go online and take it to the next step either with checking out competitor options and prices or simply making the purchase. The circular helps the non-internet customer find what they want as well as those who will then shop online, and that means circulars still have tremendous value. It will be years before circulars will be a thing of the past.
Ken Lonyai

Art: That Sunday paper experience is very age-related and not reflective of the whole/changing population, which is why the papers continue to lose circulation year-over-year.

Sterling Hawkins

It is generational for sure. And at the very least, retailer budgeting should align with usage trends: as print ad interest declines, so should investment; and as digital continues to grow, so should the dedicated budgets. At the other end of the spectrum, retailers have an opportunity to step out beyond reacting to the trends to create digital/social experiences that engage their shoppers beyond the trends that would reasonably happen anyway.

Nir Manor

The topic of digital transformation is on the agenda of all brick-and-mortar retailers as well as any most other business vertical. This is driven by new technologies, competition from online players and FOMO (fear of missing out) However in many cases consumers, especially those that are not digital natives, do not adopt these trends so fast and don’t adapt to the digital age at the pace expected.

Furthermore, one of the important shifts we see today in many countries is that the population becomes older, life expectancy increases and birth rates fall, hence the importance of older consumers is on the rise.

Having said that, it is quite clear that retailers will need to communicate to different consumers in different ways. The omnichannel approach will be supported by both digital and print communications. It is not unlikely that pure online players that already start establishing physical presences (whether via acquisitions, opening retail outlets or pop-up stores), may also start communicating to older consumers via print, to enlarge the target audience.

Peter Luff

Retailers should view online and print as options, not a choice of one or other. Consumers will become numb to communication all in one style, so use the additional tools to attract and engage them as appropriate.

Retailers will also need to adjust their approach for the demographic they are targeting. If the target is the “silver economy,” to expect them to all move online in the short-term may not be the most sensible of approaches. Millennials may allow retailers to move much faster to online predominantly.

My advice is, keep the ability to mix it up!

Kenneth Leung

Agreed. Consumers are not single channel any more. They look at their mobile, they look at their e-mail, they look at the web and occasionally they check their U.S. Postal Service mail and buy a magazine. The Millennials are definitely heavy on digital but there is still a significant shopper population with disposable income that you need to reach and nurture. It comes down to what you are selling and who is buying, not just who the retailer wishes to reach.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

The reality is that shopping today is a journey, not an event. There are many more touch points than in the days of just mass media. Retailers cannot afford to rule out any media, nor can they afford to engage in all of them. Results count. The challenge for today’s retailers is being able to more than measure frequency and reaching customers. Both retailers and brands need to invest in ways to track the customer journey and evaluate those elements that are most effective in engaging customers on a path to purchase.

Adrian Weidmann

Retailers will continue to use the mediums that are not only available to them, including print and digital promos, but that CPG brands will continue to pay for.

During a consulting engagement with a Fortune 50 retailer almost 10 years ago there wasn’t one person in their entire marketing department that felt their free-standing inserts had any real value. They just continued to produce them because no one had the guts to stop the status quo. It was easier to simply continue a process that was considered an accepted as a cost of business.

Retailers and brands should look at the numbers and determine the ROI of these marketing vehicles. As long as someone is paying the freight, they will continue regardless of their efficacy — or lack thereof.

Gene Detroyer

The data surprises me. Anecdotally I don’t see it. There are about 80 apartments in our building. Print flyers are delivered to the mail room and the pile remains there, almost untouched for days and is finally disposed of by the staff. The recycle bin in the mail room is filled with flyers, telling me that as people take the mail from their boxes, they immediately dump the flyers in the recycle bin.

In the study, I wonder what the word “use” means?

Min-Jee Hwang

Completely agree with you on this one, Gene. I also see stacks of circulars sitting in my mailroom. Retailers are finding more clever ways of getting (nearly) digital native customers in-store. The industry was surprised when news broke that Walmart offered lower prices when shoppers bought items in-store instead of online. While this might seem counterintuitive for a loss leader, incurring high shipping costs to send low margin items long distances simply doesn’t make sense. Whether shoppers use physical or digital coupons, the end goal is the same: getting them in-store where they are much more likely to make additional purchases.

Bill Hanifin

The pivotal comment in the article for me was this: “Overall, the survey found that almost half of U.S. households engage with at least eight different print and digital sources of information about products and sales.”

Turns out that of all the marketing buzzword nonsense that is proliferated in the marketplace, “omnichannel” is one that has substance.

The rise of email did not spell the death of print and catalogs. The rise of social did not spell the death of email. And now, it seems clear the rise of the mobile device as the principal entry point for consumers to learn about a brand and its products will not mute the effectiveness of other existing channels.

Using multiple channels to gain maximum coverage of a customer group is wise. Smart use of the data collected through promotional campaigns, blogs, clubs and loyalty programs is the basis to understand how to match customers with their preferred channels.

Dave Bruno

There are so many reasons why I believe the mix of print and digital outreach is likely here to stay for a while. Generational expectations and desires are probably the leading driver, but just as shoppers engage with multiple selling channels, I don’t expect them to ever stop engaging with multiple promotional mediums, either. I believe the opportunity is biggest for those who creatively evolve how they leverage each medium to reach new levels of engagement (and of course, conversion). I think new “hybrid” approaches, where print leads to digital through AR, have great potential.

Ken Morris
Ken Morris
Managing Partner Cambridge Retail Advisors
4 years 6 months ago
While many have predicted a rapid demise of print flyers, the decline has been very gradual. It is similar to predications of the demise of physical stores, which still account for 90% of total sales. Consumers are creatures of habit. What will drive the eventual extinction of print flyers is the younger generations that have grown up in a digital world and will never purchase or read a physical newspaper. As the percentage of total consumers becomes a higher percentage of the population, print will eventually decline at a more rapid pace. Today, the balance of print vs. digital depends on the target audience and the product category. Products targeted to younger demographics can rely on a higher mix of digital marketing. Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) retailers, such as grocers, will continue to rely more heavily on printed circulars. For products that are not impulse or frequently purchased items that require more contemplation or research are better suited for digital marketing strategies. The flyer that promotes a local store’s latest products and specials—has the farthest… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson

Yes, the print vs digital promo redemption is largely demographically-driven. As the youngest Baby Boomers approach retirement age, we will see a natural decline in print media effectiveness. That is still a few years away. In the mean time, retailers and CPG Brands need to continue to blend all types of media and leverage campaign automation tools available today that can make all of these decisions without the traditional gut feel of marketers.

Ken Wyker
When discussing the future of print circulars, it’s easy to think that they will continue to decline until they just go away entirely. However, it’s important to consider that while consumers are engaging less with the printed version, the retailer’s process of developing the print circular is where the weekly offers are created. The medium of home delivery is dying out, but the weekly ad promotional content is as important as ever. Most retailers have long-standing processes and allocate significant internal resources to organize the best offers throughout the store into their weekly ad. The offers represent their best shot at getting customers to visit their store. While consumers may engage less with the print version, the weekly ad offers will continue to be a key source of promotional content that can be delivered digitally. What I see going forward is that retailers will continue the process of developing a printed version of the ad, but the home-delivery element will decline substantially. Most customers will get their copy of the print ad from a stack… Read more »
Rich Kizer
Time moves on. Remember the introduction of ATMs? Many people said they would NEVER use one, they wanted a real person. Flash forward to today, and in many banks, tellers are disappearing. Executives sitting at desks intercept and help the few walk-ins. The Boomers – that incredibly huge generation, changed markets, and the way we would do business. We used to say, “so go the Boomers, so goes everyone else.” I don’t think inserts (or flyers) will ever disappear. They have the ability to achieve not only immediate reactions and sales, but also have a purpose called “thin market messaging,” using the insert as a tool that impacts people later when they remember that particular business has exactly what they need. That being said, there are two dynamics we must all consider that will affect printed inserts: the Millennial impact, bigger than the Boomer impact, is certainly training everyone, and pressuring businesses, into a presence and reliance on the internet, where millions of customers reside. Inserts will always, to some degree be around. The second… Read more »
James Nichols

The availability of discounts in multiple channels has value in terms of reaching different user segments and “generations.” But it also addresses the overarching consumer expectation that they will be able to get what they want whichever channel they decide to use. Just as retailers must adapt to consumers wanting brick, PC and mobile sales channels, brands must adapt to offering promotions in multiple locations so that consumers can partake of them on their terms.

Kai Clarke

Yes, embracing both print and digital media, especially in the grocery channel, is a necessary requirement for retail success over the next few years. This will continue to clarify a digital channel preference in the future, but when this will occur is anyone’s guess.

"Retailers and brands need to invest in ways to track the customer journey and evaluate those elements that are most effective in engaging customers."

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