What digital revolution? Consumers still use printed circulars more than online options

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers still use printed circulars more than online options
Despite US adults spending more than three hours a day online, print is not dead – at least when it comes to advertising fast-moving consumer goods like groceries, according to a recent Nielsen research.

About 80% of US households still use circulars and other traditional printed sources of product information when making purchasing decisions – that is more than any digital channel, according to a Nielsen Homescan study.

Consumers are more likely to review circulars at home, where they have a household penetration of 85%, versus in store, which has a 79% household use penetration, according to Nielsen. This suggests that consumers are using the advertisements to help them plan what they will buy and where, but that they also use them to guide unplanned purchases or stock up goods based on convenience.

While circulars hold the lead in household penetration for now, digital marketing is growing fast with 77% and 75% of households using store websites and emails respectively. This is a 3% increase for store websites and a 4% increase for store emails – equivalent to the declines in circular penetration at home and at stores respectively between 2014 and 2017, according to Nielsen.

Consumer use of store apps and money-saving apps to plan their purchase decisions also is rising quickly, although this is off a small base and overall household penetration remains on the lower end. Specifically, Nielsen reports, 56% of homes use store apps, which is up 23% from 2014, and 52% use money-saving apps, which is up 21% from 2014.

Slower growing and perhaps less effective digital outreach strategies include in-store kiosks, which currently are used by only 40% of households and has grown only 1% in the past three years. Store text messaging is a little larger at 43% and growing more quickly at 17% but this still significantly less than other digital options.

Based on these figures, Nielsen predicts more US households will use digital “touchpoints”​ more in general than traditional ones in as little as one to two years.

This does not, however, mean that circulars have an expiration date looming. Rather, Nielsen found almost half of US households say they use at least eight sources across print and digital to learn about products and sales.

“Given these dynamics, retailers can best reach their shoppers by leveraging multiple touchpoints for marketing,”​ with a near term focus on reaching Millennials online but a longer term plan to expand their digital reach to older generations, according to Nielsen. 

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