Readers to the Defense of the Printed Circular

Based on comments from a number of readers, in the grand scheme of mobile commerce, those printed circulars may not be ready for the recycle bin.

Last week in this space, I wrote about the effectiveness of circulars (Mobile Coupons & the Waning Impact of Printed Circulars) based on a stat from digital marketing firm Catalina.

The company analyzed millions of transactions over a holiday shopping period and found that a large percentage of items advertised in the circulars were not purchased at all.

One reader referred to another recent study that showed many back to school shoppers preferred print ads. “There could be other factors, such as industry, age, location, but please, let's not relegate print to the recycle bin just yet,” wrote Greg.



Several readers tool issue with the idea that various forms of mobile couponing would edge out the circular.

“Not so fast,” wrote Gian. “The vast majority of POS scanner systems being used by supermarket chains today can't even read a UPC bar code on a phone, so there's no way they can handle the scanning of mobile coupons at checkout.”

Another reader sees longevity in circulars.

“I think circulars, which are more targeted than given credit for (by zip code at the very least) have some legs to them for a number of years yet, especially with older demographics,” wrote Kern. “Plus, only measuring which featured items were actually bought (during one specific shopping weekend) does also under-measure the suggestive value of delivered print material. Mobile is still an opt-in medium, and therefore less able to draw in new customers from competitors.”

And there was no shortage of ideas and suggestions.

“Digital circulars need to be pushed to consumers, via email and on to their mobile devices (tablets, etc.),” wrote Al.

“We need to create dynamic signatures that allow marketers to populate intelligent circulars based on the transactional profile of consumers. This is NOT about consumers seeking digital coupons; this IS about consumers receiving intelligent digital circulars and shopping from them.”

Added Steve: “Until retailers become willing to truly integrate at POS, the opportunity to exploit the mobile/digital potential is limited. The shopper journey and the "trade" journey to promotional fulfillment must be seamless to be effective. The shopper is way ahead of the marketers and retailers at this stage.”

We agree with that point, about the shopper being ahead of many marketers and retailers.

In any case, it looks like the circular has some staunch defenders.

“Ask any retailer, especially a grocer what drives the most traffic (by far) to their stores: it is printed circulars,” wrote Randy.

And readers saw other attributes as well.

“Print holds still and lets you read it, wrote Cece. “Print does not demand your contact information and purchasing history. People who prefer these experiential and privacy factors don't really care if marketers (or anyone else) think they are ancient and uncool or not sufficiently compliant with orders. They know it's still their money to spend, or not.

So what’s your take? What is the future you see for printed circulars?


5 comments about "Readers to the Defense of the Printed Circular".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Thomas Lynch from None, September 3, 2013 at 10:10 a.m.

    Kudos to you on being open minded enough to post on both view. I think it's really about timeliness. A consumer my receive printed circulars for two year and throw it straight into the trash until that one time when they are looking for an item or service that may trigger them to open up that circular. It's certainly not the most efficient way to market to consumer, and kills a lot of trees, but it's not that much different than display.

  2. Al DiGuido from Optimus Publishing, September 3, 2013 at 11:31 a.m.

    Chuck...need to ask the folks who remain romantic about the future of print circulars how redemption rates are faring these days....What kind of ROI are print circular marketers realizing ? I am not saying the digital circulars are performing TODAY on par with their print brethren...however...ALL of the consumer media consumption patterns in study after study point to the digital interface becoming the dominant intersection between consumer, content and transaction. Let us not be blinded by our love of the old which prevents us from optimizing the opportunity in this new and exciting digital delivery ecosystem

  3. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, September 3, 2013 at 11:53 a.m.

    Thanks, Thomas, I appreciated all the varying viewpoints. Very interesting insights

  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, September 3, 2013 at 11:55 a.m.

    Yes, Al, there are certain trends that are apparent, with the issue of timing of adoption. Thanks for managing that side of the argument; good points.

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 3, 2013 at 1:06 p.m.

    Circulars: All of them in front of you at the same time so you can compare at the same time in a large form, large enough to read and see - can't do that on mobile. You can decide what you want to buy, not what is pushed on you by corporate controlling algorithms. You may find something you didn't think of before you saw it in the circular. You don't need to "redeem" anything in circulars to buy the sale price so there is no record of "redemption". Coupons are another story. There are plenty of people who don't care about saving money by using a few minutes per week for coupons due to laziness, ego, embarrassment, wealth or a combination. (Why don't people save for retirement either but buy houses and cars they can't afford?) Marketing the circulars has all but disappeared and even as you have pointed out, this is a big miss. Print circulars is part of common sense and practicality. Twit it.

Next story loading loading..