Consumers want their printed circulars

Discussion
May 15, 2015
George Anderson

Mobile, it’s often said, is remaking retail as consumers increasingly use their devices to hunt for information before they shop. While all the research supports this finding, one information source remains strongly rooted in the past — the printed circular.

According to new research by Market Force Information, nearly half of consumers review printed circulars once a week while 16 percent review them three to four times a week. Eighty percent plan shopping trips based on what they find in printed circulars, 67 percent clip coupons from them and 63 percent use them to compare prices between competing supermarkets.

Market Force’s findings support a survey conducted last year by the Newspaper Association of America, which found 70 percent of people check newspaper inserts to find out about sales. Nearly half (48 percent) said it was easier to browse printed inserts than go looking for the same information online.

Circulars and coupons use

Source: Market Force Information

Research suggests printed circulars are not going away as quickly as some would like. According to a survey of 11,000 mobile users by Retale and Placed, 31 percent, citing convenience, currently use a mobile app to aggregate weekly ads for multiple retailers. Nearly half, however, have not used a digital circular.

Why do you think printed circulars continue to be widely used rather than digital alternatives by American consumers? Does the current state of circulars — printed and digital — mean retailers will need to distribute both types for a long time to come?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Many people like the ease and convenience of reading a circular that is delivered to their home rather than having to go to a retailer’s website. It is still easier (IMHO) to peruse a page in a circular than to do so on most websites."
"Grocery shopping is also a different experience from buying electronics or high-ticket items. Less brand loyalty, less risk if you buy a product you don’t like ($2 vs. perhaps $100) and a high likelihood you are going to buy many products from many categories at once. In those cases, a flier is easier."
"Remember the notion of the "paperless" office? Have a look around your desk this morning and see how that’s going! Therein, you’ll likely discover why we all like to have a lot of things still printed. Yes, digital is great — but it’s not a magic wand for everything, even though so many keep pounding their drums saying it’s the only way."

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18 Comments on "Consumers want their printed circulars"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
5 years 9 days ago

Not every consumer has a smartphone and many retailers have not optimized their sites and ads for mobile devices. For many, it’s easier and more convenient to read a printed circular than to discern an image on a small screen. Printed circulars are not going away for a while.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
5 years 9 days ago

While we see lots of self-serving surveys saying the world is digital, serious studies keep on showing that less than a majority of shoppers are using digital for grocery shopping and very few are actually using digital in the grocery store. Yes, if you want to reach a part of your audience you’ll need print … and digital. Keep in mind, the cost of digital is trivially incremental.

And because you mention Trader Joe’s, George, their circular is a must read — it demonstrates how to promote products in a fun and interesting way. More importantly, it’s effective. Go into a Trader Joe’s a week after the circular and they are out-of-stock on most of those items.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
5 years 9 days ago

Many people like the ease and convenience of reading a circular that is delivered to their home rather than having to go to a retailer’s website. It is still easier (IMHO) to peruse a page in a circular than to do so on most websites. Finally, the circular can be set aside to be shared with others more easily that trying to share a website — especially on a mobile phone.

Warren Thayer
Guest
5 years 9 days ago

Grocery shopping is also a different experience from buying electronics or high-ticket items. Less brand loyalty, less risk if you buy a product you don’t like ($2 vs. perhaps $100) and a high likelihood you are going to buy many products from many categories at once. In those cases, a flier is easier.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
5 years 9 days ago

Have you tried browsing the circular on your computer, on your tablet, or on your smartphone? The eye can scan the pictures on a printed circular page more quickly than those sales images can be loaded and browsed on any device. Quickly viewing a breadth of items to find those of interest is far easier with a circular than any digital reconfiguration I have seen. Of course retailers will need to do both for a long time.

Ian Percy
Guest
5 years 9 days ago
We deceive ourselves about the immediacy and convenience of technology-summoned information. But the truth is that picking up a flyer that’s lying right there on the counter, seeing a favorite thing on sale and tearing out the coupon, is even more immediate and impactful. The real key to understanding this lies in the senses. With the flyer you have something literally “in hand.” Yes, it’s metaphoric, but it’s also real. Digital hasn’t quite reached the “real” ranking yet. What is more precious to you: a love letter written by hand that’s been held, clutched to the chest, folded and unfold a million times, or an email from that same lover? Do you want a magical painting created only one time by an artist who poured their soul into it, or a flat screen on your wall where you constantly swap downloaded digital images of paintings you will never really know? In the same way, physical handshakes will never be replaced by digital ones. Here’s my belief: In sustainable relationships and in sustainable retail, consummation requires… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
Guest
5 years 9 days ago

I think part of the answer is generational — we’ll see how much digital natives demand printed anything, and part of the answer is practical — it’s hard to read some content on a screen, especially a phone screen.

What will undoubtedly happen is that, over a fairly short duration of time, content packaging will evolve to address the latter problem while demographic forces take care of the former.

As to the second question, retailers need to communicate with their customers in whatever way or ways the customers prefer. If they are smart, they’ll find out what those ways REALLY are for their offering in their market and act accordingly.

Tony Orlando
Guest
5 years 9 days ago

RetailWire itself is an online place for us to discuss issues, and it is a tool for all of us to learn from. As a dinosaur in a digital world, we need our circular for our supermarket to generate sales. No matter how you slice it, printed ads will be here long after I retire. You can read it at your convenience with your morning coffee, or read a number of them to determine what you need to buy each week that is on sale.

Digital is great as well, but it is only a part of what we do, and doing both for me is the way to go. It would be nice to abandon the high cost of print, but if our ad is not available for even one day I get calls asking where our circular is, if it didn’t get stuffed on time with the local paper. Both ways are needed, and they must offer great value to get a customer’s attention, as it should be.

Kevin Graff
Guest
5 years 9 days ago

Remember the notion of the “paperless” office? Have a look around your desk this morning and see how that’s going! Therein, you’ll likely discover why we all like to have a lot of things still printed. Yes, digital is great — but it’s not a magic wand for everything, even though so many keep pounding their drums saying it’s the only way.

Roger Saunders
Guest
5 years 9 days ago
Why do people take a train? Why do people read a book? Why do people pay their bills by writing a check and then putting it in the U.S. mail? Some might point to inertia. Others would point to habit. Perhaps you’d call out the mobility of the printed piece as consumers move about their home. The fact of the matter is that advertising circulars in newspapers and via direct mail WORK. They work for consumers who are adept at navigating the omnichannel world, and they most especially work for retailers. Based on the Prosper Media Behaviors & Influence (MBI) Study of over 16,000 adults, out of 25 different media forms included from promotional, traditional, internet/social and other, advertising inserts INFLUENCE their purchase. For example, in the apparel category, respondents call out the top seven of 25 media forms that influence them to buy as: in-store (30,3 percent), word of mouth (28.8 percent), coupons (26.9 percent), email (25.7 percent), TV broadcast (20.7 percent), direct mail (20 percent), and advertising inserts (19.1 percent). Equally important to… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
Guest
5 years 9 days ago

“Why do you think printed circulars continue to be widely used?” Because there are still a ton of us Baby Boomers alive! Until we’re all gone, printed ads will still have some effect on the shopping experience. However, I can tell you that those Millennials are now growing up via mobile, so those devices have become their newspapers for sure.

John Karolefski
Guest
5 years 9 days ago

It’s very simple: Old habits die hard and a printed circular is currently easier to read than a digital one. Also, the changeover will likely be generational. Millennials are unlike other demographics.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
5 years 9 days ago

Limited software functionality and the cost of weekly electronic productions are a huge opportunity to the software value added resellers (VARs) out there. A large portion of retail software is derived from data capture and finance packages that bring little for selling and merchandising needs. The companies that do provide for sales and merchandising almost never align themselves to the inventory and finance packages that dominate the market. This brings incompatible data files into a usually overburdened infrastructure. A uniform data file structure is the answer that is intolerable to the software and hardware giants that consider client control a greater imperative than sales or margin which can be compensated for by selling set levels of vaporware. But that’s just what I’ve seen over the years.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
5 years 9 days ago

Others have hinted at it in their comments here. Some people by nature are simply more tactile than others. And I do not believe this is purely generational. If grocers stop printing and distributing paper circulars, it will be at their own peril.

vic gallese
Guest
5 years 9 days ago

For grocery shopping, print can act as a “worksheet,” which I can lay side by side, compare and contrast offers and plan my week’s menu from. Hard to do that on digital media! I do not see that changing any time soon.

Coupons are another story. My bet would be that digital coupons are gaining in usage quickly and they may in fact become a less prevalent part of the print ad.

Gajendra Ratnavel
Guest
5 years 9 days ago

This is surprising to me. I would really like to know who they surveyed. What age, income level etc. I know a large number of people still use printed media for grocery coupons, but other than that….

Brian Numainville
Guest
5 years 9 days ago

Our research shows that printed circulars are still the main way shoppers check for offers from supermarkets. Is it because that is how these are primarily offered in the supermarket world or is it because a printed circular is far easier to use? Not to say that we won’t move to more digital eventually, but printed circulars seem to have plenty of life left at this point. And they don’t have a learning curve like many of the apps out there today!

Geoff Ingall
Guest
5 years 8 days ago

Try marking an item in an electronic catalogue for future consideration. Try comparing like items in two, or even three competitive electronic catalogues. Then try it in ink.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Many people like the ease and convenience of reading a circular that is delivered to their home rather than having to go to a retailer’s website. It is still easier (IMHO) to peruse a page in a circular than to do so on most websites."
"Grocery shopping is also a different experience from buying electronics or high-ticket items. Less brand loyalty, less risk if you buy a product you don’t like ($2 vs. perhaps $100) and a high likelihood you are going to buy many products from many categories at once. In those cases, a flier is easier."
"Remember the notion of the "paperless" office? Have a look around your desk this morning and see how that’s going! Therein, you’ll likely discover why we all like to have a lot of things still printed. Yes, digital is great — but it’s not a magic wand for everything, even though so many keep pounding their drums saying it’s the only way."

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