The Confluence of Retail and Print Marketing

By: Paul Bernstein, Client Marketing Director, Valassis
Published Monday, Feb 26, 2018

The Confluence of Retail and Print Marketing

We’ve read and heard the projections – digital media will continue to thrive as the preeminent form of advertising while traditional media will decline. According to a MediaPost article, offline media and marketing spend will hit $97.8 billion this year while digital media spend will reach $100.8 billion. The article credits a Winterberry Group study with this forecast.1

To quote ESPN personality, Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend.” Let’s take a moment to look a little deeper. Consider the darling of digital: mobile. Marketers understand that they need to have a mobile presence to drive awareness and brand equity. Most need to be there if for no other reason than competitors are there.

Mobile is – for sure – pervasive. Retailers need a presence to help drive engagement. It is the platform that serves as the anchor in a well-designed integrated path-to-purchase media program, particularly when mobile location tracking data is used in the targeting.

As we look back at holiday, 2017 and at early 2018 trends, we see an old standby reinventing itself as a shiny new tool. It’s called print. Consider a recent Chain Store Age article that notes the top retailers using print ads to drive holiday business. The piece begins, “Despite the accelerated adoption of digital advertisements, print circular ads spurred 2017 holiday sales, both in-store and online.”2 The article also notes that retailers often use print to leverage their private label offerings as a means to drive visitors into their stores.

It’s easy to see why print – particularly print delivered through the mailbox – is garnering renewed attention from retailers. It’s become a breath of fresh air to arrive home after work and retrieve the contents from our home mailboxes – no user name or password needed.

But there’s more to print these days. A recent INMA (International News Media Association) article cites a Nielsen Homescan survey and concludes that about 80 percent of U.S. households still use traditional printed sources like circulars, and that print is the primary medium used by consumers for information about stores, sales and specials.3

The study notes the evolution and growth of digital channels, while stating that, “print advertising is still very effective and doesn’t show signs of going away any time soon.” More importantly might be the statistic that, “almost half of U.S. households said they use at least eight different sources – across print and digital – for information about products and sales,” further affirming the need for a path-to-purchase media strategy. One conclusion from the study is, “retailers who shift a disproportionate amount of their ad spend from print to digital do so at their peril.” 3

Another article appearing in the Wall Street Journal corroborates much of the data regarding print marketing. It notes that grocers and other retailers have learned they risk losing business without a steady flow of print mailings nudging shoppers to stores. The article goes on to note that retailers are doing more experimenting with new ways to send out deals on paper, sometimes mining online behavior or databases of shopper trends to improve their print marketing.4 This form of marketing reactivation is seen as cutting edge, and a capability that is generating much retailer interest.

At the end of the day, it is incumbent upon all retailers to use continuous improvement tactics to identify the marketing strategy which proves to be most effective and efficient. But it is hard to imagine a strategy which accomplishes that goal without print as an integral component of the overall plan.


  1. MediaPost, (1.12.18) “Digital Ad Spend To Surpass Traditional In 2018”
  2. Chain Store Age, January 19, 2018; “Top Retailers That Used Holiday Print Ads
  3. INMA, January 14, 2018, Digital touchpoints yet to replace print for retail advertising
  4. Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2018, “Why the Weekly Circular Refuses to Die”