The cost of printed leaflets and catalogs: The elephant in the room

September 14, 2022
Rebecca Wine profile picture
Simon E. Pagaard
  • The printed leaflet is an important marketing tool
  • But inflation and supply chain issues has increased the costs of printing and distributing.
  • So, should you kill the printed leaflet? Would you lose out on anything?
  • What are the alternatives to help retailers transition from analog to digital marketing?

It's a big elephant: 

For retailers, the cost of printing and distributing your weekly leaflet is the elephant in the room.

Printed leaflets are still a major tool in your marketing toolbox to drive traffic to your physical stores. It's one of the primary tactics to expose your brand to thousands of shoppers and keep them aware of what you offer.

But it also takes a lot of time and is extremely expensive to produce and distribute. And the recent supply chain issues and inflation is only making it worse.

In fact, we’ve seen cases in Europe where it takes up nearly 80% of the whole retail marketing budget!

So what would actually happen if you scrapped your leaflet tomorrow? How could you reach the shoppers who still depend upon the leaflet to decide where to do their weekly shopping?

Meeting in the middle

In many cases this discussion comes down to a battle between the old and the new.

On one side are  the veteran marketers who advocate for analog channels like the printed leaflet, TV and radio since they are proven formats from the offline world.

On the other side we see the new generation who grew up in the online world and preach Facebook and Google Ads as the only channel needed to reach shoppers.

But what if the answer lies somewhere in the middle?  

The core of the problem

We know the game changed with the introduction of the online store. Now your KPI is not just eyeballs in the street and store visits, it’s also digital impressions and conversions.

But does that mean you can just kill the leaflet?

Surely, not in one go.

You simply can’t afford to lose the enormous reach the format still has. Without the leaflet, you would face a considerable risk to your business.

Instead, you need to build a bridge between the old-school analog marketing of printed leaflets and the new digital media channels.

We’ve seen that for many retailers, digital leaflets (or catalogs) can be that bridge.

Addressing the elephant in the room

The digital leaflet uses the same format that your shoppers understand, but combines it with the growing digital channels to significantly expand the volume of potential buyers.

Although almost all retailers also offer their printed leaflets as online versions, just a few use additional functionalities.

For example, many don't offer additional product information on clicks within the digital leaflet, which can be a game changer.

Without additional product information, retailers are driving shoppers to seek that information elsewhere.

Another under-used feature is enrichments, like videos, animations and shop icons. They can have a significant impact on usage time and conversion.

We’ve seen cases where videos and animations more than double the time spent in the digital catalog. Furthermore, if animated shopping icons are present, a significant amount of shoppers will click on them.

Without enrichments, retailers are providing an unengaging, incomplete shopping experience.

These functionalities of digital catalogs highlight the potential for retailers to add much more value than with print.

To create a more informative, engaging and complete buying journey.

And, in the end, to make the transition away from print easier.

The next step

Remember that although digital leaflets are just one part of your overall marketing mix, they can play a crucial role in helping transition your shoppers from the analog to the digital world.

In the short term, you should invest in your digital leaflet and make sure it’s shoppable.

By making your digital leaflet shoppable, you can use the channel to affect aspects of the shopper journey and help them to transition from print to digital.

We know that this transition won’t happen overnight and any major organizational change may take months or even years to realize the full benefits.

But the results in terms of shopper experience and print cost reduction may very well be worth it.

Especially in the light of the current supply chain issues and inflation.

Want to know how shoppers would react if there were no printed promotions?

Get real-world shopper insights in the European Shopper Survey 2022 here.

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