Horst Huber is the CEO and co-founder of the priint Group. A German software company dedicated to printed publishing solutions. He has over 25 years experience in digital innovation, print and publishing. The priint:suite has developed into one of the leading omnichannel publishing platforms for product communication.
According to Horst, while digital transformation has shaken up retail marketing, the role of printed communication has had to evolve from being the dominant medium for showcasing promotions.
But Horst underlines that pure digital communication is not sufficient for retailers to reach all shoppers. A successful retailer should adopt an omnichannel marketing strategy.
“Print is still an attention-grabbing marketing component and a guarantee for success, even as markets change and digital media has become enormously important,” says Horst.
Our experiences and research convince us that print, as a communications medium, will retain its solid place in product outreach if it evolves into a companion and extension of digital communication.”
“The biggest challenge for retail companies now is digital transformation. Retailers have a huge amount of internal processes and legacy systems for managing product data to support their marketing. But print still represents around 20% of customer touchpoints, which supplement digital marketing. So, you need to establish a real omnichannel strategy with consistent experiences across printed and digital channels for your promotions.”
Horst says printed advertising is still a highly effective strategy to trigger shoppers to buy products.
“Print can unlock certain digital walls and help retailers connect with shoppers. For example, if they put a product in their basket, but they don’t buy it, you can send personalized direct mail to remind them of the product or similar products.”
Horst says the accepted truth in retail that digital advertising is the cheapest should be put into context.
“Our customers let us know that often the benefits of the increased conversion rate of printed advertising offsets the costs and distribution speed. So, print is still a competitive choice for retailers.”
Printed advertising is also becoming more segmented. Where previously, retailers would have only one version of a promotional leaflet, they can now be segmented into multiple versions to offer specialized offers to shoppers in certain demographic areas. Horst calls this programmatic printing.
“Retailers can segment their leaflets to areas as small as two or three kilo kilometers. Depending on the number of competitors in the area or the demographic groups can mean that certain products get promoted more heavily than others, or prices go up or down.”
In 2018, the famous German retailers Otto removed their printed catalog. A move heralded as a turning point for printed advertising in German. But Horst says that the death of Otto’s catalog is actually a myth.
“Otto still prints more catalogs than in the past. They removed their main catalog because this didn’t make sense anymore for their business. But they publish smaller and more segmented catalogs.”
“So in the communication strategy of Otto, print is not dead. Print has adapted to digital, to bring more context, to bring more segmented aspects to the catalog. In the same week, Amazon began to print catalogs. Again, pure digital communication is not enough.”
Twenty-five years of experience working with printed advertising has given Horst some insight into how the format can inspire digital marketers to improve their ecommerce setups.
“Retailers need to strike a balance of showing product information with a good shopping experience. The current mindset is to show the maximum number of products on a page. But from a shopper perspective, maybe this is not the best user experience.”
“If you're looking at a digital experience like a website, maybe then you go to the product detail page. You get the information about the ingredients of the product, then you can scroll, scroll and scroll. Because you have space.”
“Therefore, retailers should work creatively to compress their promotions to a restricted space. This way you can transform the digital experience. This is especially important for smartphones. As shoppers prefer not to visit 10 pages to get the information they need to buy a product.”
When asked what marketers working with the printed medium can learn from the digital transformation, Horst says it’s all about data.
“Communication is context-driven and at the end of the day personalized. This is of course a different mindset for the printing and offline marketers. Because they do a campaign such as the leaflet for the week for the next week. And that's it.”
“The traditional mindset of offline marketers is to avoid mistakes because if you made a mistake in the leaflet you printed 1 million copies of, you have a huge problem. But in digital, there is a mindset of trial and error. You use A/B testing, you get started, try new things and get experience and then decide how to proceed. These trial and error principles must be adopted by the offline marketers too.”
Thanks to Horst Huber for participating in this interview. Stay tuned to this channel for more in-depth interviews from leaders in inspirational retail. Take a look at the iPaper Insights to learn more.