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Circulars Join the Digital Movement

June 9th, 2017 | Posted by APT in Retail

The broad reach of the digital revolution now includes the ubiquitous grocery circular. In the first half of 2016, the number of digital coupons available grew by 23.4 percent, while the number of mobile coupon users in the U.S. rose by almost 18 percent. While traditional print circulars are not likely to disappear completely, many grocery chains are now developing circulars specifically for digital and mobile platforms. Wegmans, for example, introduced a mobile app, allowing customers to clip virtual coupons, while Safeway offers a weekly online circular.

Circulars have been central to driving performance for grocers for many years, and it is critical for executives to optimize new circular formats for different markets and customer segments to avoid losing traffic and sales. As grocery chains expand from print to digital circulars, it will be critical that they refine elements such as length, product placement, and offer type for different platforms.

To make the most of each channel, decision-makers will need to understand which types of print and digital circulars are best received in various markets and by different customer segments. By taking a scientific, test vs. control approach to analyzing different variations of circulars for different channels, they can pinpoint which elements drive the most incremental trips and add-on sales.

For example, imagine a grocer wanted to determine the best length for a new digital circular. Executives may suspect that a shorter digital circular length might be more effective than the standard print circular length, given that consumers would likely scroll through it on their laptops or phone screens while on the go. Using a test vs. control approach would enable them to make a data-driven decision before deploying short digital circulars more broadly. This method would entail trialing the shorter-format digital circular in some markets, while other markets continue to receive a standard-length circular via their digital platforms.

The grocer may find that the shorter digital circulars actually drive less traffic in most markets, as they offer a smaller range of deals and promotions, and less overall value. However, they may also find that shorter digital circulars are more effective in affluent areas with a higher density of mobile users, where cost savings is less of a priority. The grocery chain could then roll out the shorter-length mobile circular only in the markets where it would be most effective. Small-scale testing allows executives to apply this variable rollout strategy to each new initiative.

To read more about APT’s perspective on this and other grocery trends, check out APT VP Jeff Campbell’s recent byline in Supermarket News, “Viewpoint: Top 5 grocery trends for 2017.”

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