When making grocery purchasing decisions, 80% of U.S. households use printed advertising circulars more than they do any digital sources of information, according to a Nielsen Homescan study reported by Food Navigator.
Consumers tend to read circulars at home, where they have an 85% penetration, versus in-store, which has a 79% use penetration. This indicates consumers use advertisements to help them plan what to buy and where to shop before leaving home, but also that they can help guide spontaneous purchases in the supermarket.
Still, digital marketing tools are gradually catching up, with a large proportion of U.S. households visiting retail websites (77%) and checking out targeted emails (75%). This reflects a 3% rise for store websites and a 4% increase for store emails — equal to the declines in circular penetration at home and in stores between 2014 and 2017, Nielsen reported.
As grocers race to enter the online marketplace, there are many assumptions being made about today's digital-savvy consumer, most notably that they prefer online platforms and messages to traditional models. But Nielsen's data showed that when it comes to circulars, the old-fashioned way may be a retailer's best bet — for now.
Coupons continue to be a key part of the grocery shopping experience. According to a study by RetailMeNot, 96% of all consumers use coupons, and Valassis reported that 9 out of 10 millennials use coupons regularly.
However, this behavior is evolving. Research from Inmar found shares of redemption for paper coupons found in the Sunday paper fell 10% between 2015 and 2016, while digital coupons loaded directly to a loyalty account jumped 20% during the same period.
Digital coupons have a clear advantage for retailers. According to a recent study by Forrester Research, 79% of shoppers said they wouldn't purchase a product if they forgot to bring the corresponding coupon to the supermarket with them. There's no chance of an online offer getting left behind or forgotten, boosting a retailer's chances of luring shoppers to the store and getting them to spend more.
A 2016 study from Aptaris and dunnhumby found the most effective advertising and marketing methods to attract more grocery shopping customers include using digital communication in smart ways. The data came from about 70 food retailers representing more than 4,600 stores across 34 states. It noted that digital circulars help draw shoppers online, encouraging shoppers to embrace an omnichannel grocery experience.
As this behavior continues to evolve, retailers could benefit from more strategic digital planning. Tailoring promotions to different consumer demographics through segmentation can be very lucrative — a study by Quotient Technology found digital coupon users are more likely to try new products and then buy those products regularly. Loyalty programs also can help keep high spenders in the store. Inmar found load-to-card coupons grew to a record redemption rate of 6.2% in 2016.
Segmentation allows retailers to target both online and offline circular users and access different types of shoppers in a way they find the most effective. Because of this, it's doubtful that marketing will ever be entirely print again, or entirely digital. Nielsen's research found about half of U.S. households access a minimum of eight sources — both print and digital — to find out about products and sales. It would be wise for retailers to use the best combination of methods for their specific business to bring in the most effective results.