Today's consumers are more connected than ever. They are aware of the latest trends and the best deals. As a result, retailers have to stay on top of trends – and also understand what they mean for their businesses. And there is no bigger trend for modern retailers than the consumers' path to purchase.
"Because the consumers' path is constantly evolving, retailers have to keep track of how and where their customers are shopping," confirms Martin Svensson, Stora Enso's Director Retail Sales Strategy, Stora Enso Paper. "We supply papers for retail use, so it's highly important also for us to understand how retail customers see their own media mix in the future. They have a growing number of channels and options at their disposal."
More touch points
The emerging digital channels are big factors in the evolution of the consumers' path to purchase. In the U.S., for example, the consumer information and research company Nielsen expects online sales of consumer product goods to be 2.5 times greater in 2015 than they were in 2010.
Consumers are using more touch points – sources they refer to before and during shopping – and more often than not, new touch points are digital. In principle, this is good news to retailers because shoppers who engage with more touch points tend to be more loyal. Retailers that embrace more touch points command a higher share of the consumers' wallet and gain higher brand equity scores. Nielsen recently analysed 11 key marketing touch
points and found that eight are digital; the other three are print.
Print continues to be critical
However, the emergence of several new digital touch points does not mean that print marketing is withering. Far from it, according to Nielsen research (2014): 68% of U.S. retailers believe print is critical in their strategy, while only 8% say digital is critical.
The retailers' belief is backed up by consumer evidence. Nielsen research has found that shopper engagement with product and sales circulars – mailed or delivered print marketing, in-store materials, and newspaper ads – is significantly higher across all generations than digital. More than half of all U.S. shoppers use print at least once a week to seek product and sales information. This is nearly 20 percentage points higher than the next-closest digital touch point, emails.
This means retailers will need to balance their strategies across several channels rather than simply abandon one for the other. Consumers have not switched from print to digital, they are embracing digital alongside print. They use print more than digital for product and sales information, while digital is a stronger driver of store choice.
"Digital, social and print channels" will all be around in the future, so the biggest question for retailers is not Which channel should I choose? but rather How can my channels support each other in the best possible way?" Martin Svensson points out.
"And whenever retailers choose to include print channels in the marketing mix, they can rely on Stora Enso's solutions and experience when selecting the best possible papers to communicate their messages."
New interest in catalogues
Retailers need to master the growing interplay between online and offline shopping and marketing. In the April 16th issue of The Wall Street Journal, reporter Elizabeth Holmes found out that the potential for boosting sales has actually brought new interest in print catalogues.
The catalogue plays a crucial creative role in modern e-commerce. According to Holmes, it is used as bait for customers and a source of inspiration. The catalogue's staying power reaches beyond the contents of the book to the brand's broader offerings. Many retailers know precisely when their catalogues land in mailboxes because of a spike in activity in stores and online.
The UK-based clothing retailer Boden ships millions of catalogues around the world each year. "Shoppers spend up to 20 minutes with the catalogue, compared with an average of just eight seconds for our emails and about five minutes with our iPad app," noted Boden's head of U.S. marketing Shanie Cunningham in The WSJ article. Boden is also targeting and personalising their catalogues for individuals. Based on individual customer data, the company can change the theme, the size of the book and even the discount it offers.
Print is no longer unfashionable
The recent upswing of print marketing is not limited to catalogues. Brand magazine publisher John Brown Media's chief executive Andrew Hirsch emphasises that the content marketing boom has brought about a resurgence in printbased marketing after many years of 'anti-print' sentiments.
"It became unfashionable to talk about print, but now there has been a resurrection – clients are spending more," Hirsch said in an interview for The Drum in late August.
John Brown Media makes magazines for brands such as John Lewis, RBS, Manchester City FC, Emirates, and Waitrose. Some of its big customers have upped their print investment over the last 12 months – for example, Waitrose has increased its magazine print run from half a million to 700,000 while John Lewis has launched two new print products.
According to Hirsch, there is a growing recognition of the value of combined print and digital strategies. Now even the biggest ad spenders are more interested in talking about content – for printed, digital and social channels.