Do consumers still use printed circulars?

Once upon a time, value-conscious consumers eagerly open their Sunday newspapers, searching for the ubiquitous print circulars with weekly retail deals. Those coupons and specials helped inform their decisions regarding where and when to shop and what products to purchase.

With today’s rising inflation, consumers seek ways to make every dollar count by taking advantage of special values and promotions, and retailers offer more coupons to keep their prices competitive.

But the consumer landscape is rapidly shifting as savvy shoppers turn to their digital devices to shop online and find retail deals. However, that doesn’t mean print circulars have become entirely obsolete!

Context is the Key

While circular advertising is seeing positive momentum toward to a digital medium, that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain circumstances in which print circulars are still advantageous. Not all consumers are digitally savvy! Senior shoppers may not be used to shopping online or using digital advertisements and coupons. Other younger consumers prefer the print medium, which is easier to read and digest.

Consider the following statistics:

  • A recent study (post-pandemic!) found that 87% of shoppers were reading circulars the same amount or more than a year earlier!
  • For customers who feel inundated with information, print circulars can be easier to digest. Those advertisements that come in the mail or are included in newspapers take 24% less cognitive effort to process than digital marketing.
  • Post pandemic, 40% of consumers were still searching for deals by reading print circulars.

Yes, customers are still using printed ad circulars, but context and age are significant factors in the consumer’s preference. With high market volatility and supply chain uncertainties a multichannel marketing approach to circular ad production will pay off in the long run for retailers.

Digital offerings expand opportunities to reach consumers

The future of retail will inevitably become more digital. Historically, print circulars were included in Sunday newspapers. But with newspaper circulation rapidly decreasing, this is no longer an effective way to reach consumers. Daily newspapers have lost approximately 20 million subscribers in the past ten years. In addition, paid Sunday newspaper subscribers are losing 7% or more households each year, with a combined reach of less than a fifth of American households. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to online shopping. In 2020 and 2021, Americans spent $609 billion more online than the two years before COVID, according to new data.

Younger target groups often rely to a greater extent on digital advertising offers, but if you look at the conversion rate of a personalized advertising e-mail (approx. 5%) compared to a personalized print brochure (approx. 30%), it quickly becomes clear that there is no equivalent digital alternative, especially for personalized print products. At the end of the day, it’s all about reaching consumers where they can access the retailer’s offerings. And this accessibility depends on various factors such as age, life circumstances and situation, both for print and digital media.

Nevertheless, the advantages of digital offerings in terms of sustainability and lower costs are beyond question. For eco-conscious retailers, transitioning to digital circulars also minimizes their carbon footprint and saves money on expensive paper and ink costs, which will continue to rise.

We can therefore conclude that the digital offer is a very useful supplement to the printed brochure and that the importance of the digital catalog will also continue to increase in the future, but from today’s perspective it cannot replace it as the sole advertising medium in the retail sector. The retailer who offers consumers the most touchpoints and whose offers are taken up by consumers in the right situation will continue to be successful. These diverse touchpoints can only be offered by successful and well-thought-out multichannel marketing, which picks up the consumer with both well-designed print and user-friendly digital media.