Consumers rely on print

Photo: Stora Enso

While online channels grow, data and retailers tell us that print continues to be an indispensable part of a successful multi-channel retail strategy.

Today’s consumers are proving to be the most sophisticated ever. They shop online (about 15 per cent of all sales in 2017, says statistics portal Statista), in brick-andmortar stores (85 per cent of sales) and across multiple devices – computer, mobile phone, tablet… perhaps all of the above.

Many do their homework, too, before they buy. They watch online product reviews, tap into their favourite social network, field text messages, or rifle through a deluge of promotional email. Again, maybe all of the above.

But data, marketing experts, and etailers together tell us that consumers continue to rely on print to reach and educate them, to help “fill out the picture.” They tell us that there are physical and tactile qualities of print collateral that can’t be matched online, and keep print forever viable. And when print is part of a retailer’s multi-channel retail strategy, it positively affects customer engagement, loyalty and sales success.

Increasingly companies are embracing printed media to round out their omnichannel marketing strategy,” notes Neil O’Keefe, Senior Vice President at the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the world’s largest advertising and marketing association. “Even newer, more disruptive brands which are predominantly online – like Harry's Dollar Shave Club and Blue Apron – have implemented printed media as a part of their omnichannel strategy,” he adds. “They tell us that print best conveys their brand, attracts new customers and retains existing ones.”


Opening book on table


There is strong evidence to back up O’Keefe’s observations. According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), several notable US retailers say that those consumers who include print among their multi-channel relationship spend more money.


For example, department store giant Nordstrom reported a four-fold increase in spending from customers whose marketing exposure included print media. Similarly, menswear retailer Bonobos reported that 20 per cent of their first-time website customers place their orders after having received a catalogue, but significantly spend one and- a-half times more than shoppers who did not receive a catalogue.


Other strong retail brands including J.Crew, Restoration Hardware, and Macy’s, among many others, have ramped-up their catalogues offerings recently in the face of compelling feedback from customers.


Long live direct mail

Still, catalogues are only one dimension of the print media mix in a multi-channel marketing strategy. Direct mail has also seen a comeback of late.


The most recent data from ANA’s Data & Marketing Association’s (DMA) division’s 2018 Statistical Fact Book reports that direct mail usage in media campaigns (in the US) rose a healthy 18 per cent, from 50 per cent in 2015 to 59 per cent last year.


O’Keefe has some insight as to why.

“It’s about personalisation and relevance – they make the difference. The ability to scale a direct mail campaign in order to drive growth is more easily achievable than it is via email or through

mobile app adoption.”


Moreover, while direct mail does have higher costs than its digital doppelgänger, the ANA tells us that the response rate to direct mail is six times higher than from digital channels, coming in at 3.7 per cent versus 0.62 per cent. But perhaps the most surprising aspect of direct mail is the acceptance by the very generation that is the most digital-savvy – millennials.


Young millennials  reading


Millennials: big fans of print

According to a report entitled Millennials: An Emerging Consumer Powerhouse by Quad/Graphics, a leading global provider of print and marketing services, more than half of millennials ignore digital advertising, and instead pay their greatest attention to direct mail and print advertising.


“Millennials who have a strong relationship with technology are embracing well-executed print offers,” adds O’Keefe. Even the US Postal Service has taken note of millennials acceptance of direct mail. In their highly regarded annual publication, the 2017 USPS Mail Moments Review, a full 84 per cent of millennials reported taking time to look through their direct marketing mail, and 64 percent prefer scanning for useful information from their mailbox rather than their email inbox.


Paper or digital? It’s all about relevance

While data, researches, analysts and retailers all tell us that paper in a multichannel retail strategy is as relevant as ever, it isn’t so much about a “digital-versus-paper” conundrum. To appeal to consumers across the spectrum from millennial to baby-boomer, a winning multi-channel retail strategy must do both well.


“Marketers are elevating their sophistication in order to better identify and pair up their best customers with their best messaging – print and digital,” sums up O’Keefe.


“It’s about what is most relevant to their individual interests.”