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    What’s Next For the Supermarket Circular?

    It’s all about utility, marketing expert says

    By Jason Brennan

    In a world where everything is going digital, the printed supermarket circular has become counterintuitive.

    It is time for strategic thinkers in marketing departments to begin making plans for its transition. They must better understand and address how shoppers find and use promotional information, discounts and coupons today. More importantly, marketers must decide where circulars stand in the overall marketing mix, how to best promote products and, lastly, redefine measurements of success.

    According to ECRM MarketGuide, the use of supermarket circulars expanded in 2011 and demonstrated that they were successful. Upon a deeper review, though, the research shows that the utility of the printed circular has changed. It is now only a starting point. Fewer and fewer can be found, and fewer are being brought from home to the store and referenced in the way they were intended. It could be argued that the traditional circular is only at the top of the shopper experience funnel.

    The reality is that supermarket managers and associates alike are hard-pressed to walk down an aisle without dodging a shopper with a smartphone in use. According to a Nielsen Q4 2011 report, 44 percent of mobile users have smartphones and 38 percent are using tools to price shop while in the store. Consider all the tools that are available to consumers: food allergy databases, coupon sites and now mobile payments. Paper and ink cannot compete with these tools for a robust in-store shopper experience.

    Retail innovators should change their mix and understand the circular is a great tool for raising awareness for both product and price, but is limited in utility. For example, Wegmans recently stated that it will limit its circular to twice a month and continue to focus on store brands that resist price fluctuations. Other savvy supermarket advertisers should study this strategy and keep an eye on those that use circulars to promote higher margin lines.

    The shining light for retail circulars is having a better understanding of how marketers can employ novel concepts to enhance the shopper’s pre-store experience. They should also be leveraging passive and active technology with tools like e-mail and social media to foster engagement. The true challenge is effective measurement against hard statistics like open rate, click-through rate, edge rank and app pages viewed.

    All marketers today must measure the effectiveness of every tool we employ. Circulars can still be effective, but should the metric for success change with the times? Moreover, how should we measure these increased costs against new and yet quantifiable media such as social marketing?

    The retail circular is not necessarily dead. It just needs to be re-evaluated in the changing world of integrated, digital, mobile, and social marketing. The bottom line is that marketers need to better understand what the benefits and disadvantages are and how they can better utilize their marketing dollars.

    The time has come to explore new options in bringing consumers the most convenient shopping tools while getting the most out of your marketing efforts.

    Jason Brennan is the founder of Stream Cos., a Philadelphia-based advertising agency.


    By Jason Brennan
    • About Jason Brennan

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