How Personalized Digital Circulars Deliver More ROI for Retailers

By Ryan Monahan, Product Solutions Team Lead, Catalina

While shoppers consolidated their trips during the pandemic, emerging signals across the retail industry and within Catalina’s proprietary data sets indicate they are returning to their prior shopping routines as well as exploring new options. While we collectively hypothesize what the “new normal” looks like, it’s critical for retailers to connect with both frequent shoppers and potential customers with individualized information that is contextually relevant. Traditional paper circulars can’t deliver that granular experience.

To align with consumers’ preferences for digital, retailers are increasingly converting their print mailers into digital circulars. These digital catalogs are often hosted on grocer websites, loyalty apps, or third-party platforms, and they enable shoppers to do things like clip digital coupons or view product details. The most valuable benefits of digital circulars to retailers, however, is the ability to both personalize content and hyper-target audiences based on key variables such as language, gender, location, age, purchase behavior, and more.

Just three years ago, research showed 80% of shoppers preferred print circulars over digital options. In 2020, only 62% of consumers used print circulars to find deals. It appears the weekly litany of print promotions are destined to continue fading as new habits take hold.

The pandemic accelerated the search for value and selection, creating an explosion of digitally savvy grocery shoppers. A study from Deloitte found 80% have used a digital device to browse or research grocery products and 61% now say they buy more of them online more than they did pre-COVID.

Are the fish using your app?

These new habits create new opportunities. As the saying goes, it’s best to fish where the fish are. The digital circular’s rise in popularity is a natural outgrowth of this hybrid store and online grocery shopping dynamic. Retailers have long used loyalty card data to personalize their digital offerings down to the individual shopper, but those conversations have been limited to the channels and platforms where a shopper chooses to seek that information, such as a retail app or email. Today, that 1:1 personalized content can be displayed across multiple channels, platforms, and in apps and sites where a shopper browses during her daily routine. Taking the personalized conversation “off platform” or outside of the retailer’s ecosystem, Catalina helps retailers engage shoppers even when they’re not in trip-planning mode.

To reach new shoppers, retailers can use location data that shows where potential customers frequent shop, cross-referenced with other datasets, including audiences by lifestyle or dietary needs. For example, a retailer can reach shoppers who’ve bought gluten-free cereal with digital ads for the same brand or other gluten-free categories. Both prospects and loyalists appreciate the winnowing of offers to ones that matter most to them in an easy-to-digest, hassle-free format.

Less money, more impact

The benefits go beyond expanded customer engagement. For years, if not decades, retailers tinkered with adjusting the paper circular, trying to trim one of the bulkiest line items in their marketing budget. Frustratingly, the evolutionary changes were hamstrung by colliding forces including trade spends, customer feedback, print timelines, and complex ad zones. Making any meaningful adjustments was often an organizational challenge.

However, as Apple TV+’s fictional football manager and philosopher Ted Lasso taught us, “Takin’ on a challenge is a lot like ridin’ a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.”

The pandemic enabled innovative retailers to take on the challenge bravely by redeploying marketing dollars into alternate ways to engage shoppers uniquely and personally. Many began leveraging Catalina’s Digital Circular Personalizer solution, or as we have come to call it, Digital CircP.

Leverage the data trove

For forward-thinking retail marketing teams, Catalina’s Digital CircP solution leverages our proprietary ID Graph and managed media services to display personalized ad content across mobile and in-app platforms – sites like USA Today, Allrecipes, and ESPN. We specifically took the approach of “pushing” content to where people are on the web, versus a “pull” approach where shoppers go on a scavenger hunt for savings, discarding what isn’t relevant. We also developed a customer experience where shoppers see five featured on-sale products – each unique to that shopper. From that ad unit, the shopper can click to see 20 more, find a store, or save it to their mobile wallet, enabling privacy compliant location-based reminders.

How Personalized Digital Circulars Deliver More ROI for Retailers - Digital Circular
All of these components are key ingredients that deliver a super-size value meal of incremental trips and larger basket sizes. More on that in a moment.

Let’s get real on what we mean by personalization: A recent analysis of our personalization outputs from Catalina’s amazing data science team showed that the top 5 ad recommendations generated were 99.32% unique. The top 20 ads for each shopper were 100% unique -- of the millions served up literally no two had the same results.

But what good is fantastic personalization if no one sees it? The Digital CircP solution shows our retail partners granular data on how shoppers consume and respond to the media through an interactive dashboard. It displays how fast shoppers go to the store and shop based on when they see the circular ad. It also generates rich insights on those shoppers’ overall spends, loyalty to the banner, and other secret sauce.

Net: On average, our participating retailers see a return on ad spend (ROAS) that surpasses $25 with store sales up 1.6% and store trips up 1.4%.

Remix Media Plans Efficiently

Media consumption has shifted over the last year – and shoppers have become more elusive -- as new technology players created a more complex media landscape. It is frustratingly harder to find and engage shoppers across multiple channels, which include linear and connected TV, audio, digital OOH, re-booted in-store promotion, as well as new shoppable ad formats like social media livestreams. Digital circulars cut through that complexity and give retailers a 1:1 personalized way to reach shoppers that’s efficient and cost- effective.

As retailers look to reallocate media budget line items to prepare for shoppers’ new priorities and habits, making digital circulars – a solution with proven ROI -- a significant part of the marketing mix would be both profitable and wise.