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Print to Digital: A How-To

“I want to get out of print.” That’s a statement I heard from multiple retailers recently. While print continues to be the go-to vehicle for most grocery retailers, more and more, retailers are looking for a way to shift dollars and take advantage of digital platforms. I’ve talked to retailers who cut print cold turkey and seen no changes in sales. I’ve talked to retailers who planned out a transition away from print for months only to have mad customers once the ad stopped being distributed. What’s the right path? Frustratingly, the answer is “It depends.”

So where do you start if you’re a retailer wanting to get out of print? A good place to start is to assess where you are now. The only way you’ll know whether getting out of print will impact you is if you measure it. Take a look at where sales are currently. Pull numbers on customer count and transaction size. Think about what your current ad distribution looks like and how you could optimize it. You also want to make sure you know where your marketing and advertising costs are currently. Before you start, determine what you want your goals to be for the migration. Are you doing this to save money? To reach more customers? To fund other projects while maintaining your current profitability? These basic facets will be important to measure as you proceed.

Then, think about what “cutting print” actually means. You don’t have to cut it completely. You can reduce the size of the ad or the page count. You still will want to display your ad items. If that’s not in a traditional print format, that’s perfectly fine. Some websites present ad items in list form, brand or department groupings, or item by item. You may want to call out the hottest singular products on your facebook page or in an email to customers. All of those tactics work quite well for displaying ad items differently than in a circular view.

Ultimately, you want customers to know what items you have on deal. That means you somehow have to tell them. If you’re thinking about getting out of distributing a print ad, maybe consider first only flighting them around key food holidays or seasonally. You could also cut back distribution to only one mile around the store. In any case, you will need an alternative way to let customers know about ad items. This is where you need to assess where you are from a marketing and advertising perspective. What platforms are you already utilizing and what do your audiences look like on those platforms? Most retailers have some kind of website. If you don’t, you need one before you start migrating away from print and I’d suggest you also have an email platform to go along with it having that email hit consumer inboxes just as the print version hits their driveway or mailbox. In a best case scenario, you’ll have trained customers to visit your website or open your emails long before you cut print completely. This training of customers takes time.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, some retailers cut print distribution cold turkey. That’s an option. The good news is you’ll know pretty quickly whether people care or not. If they don’t, you’re set. If they do, you’re cleaning up a mess and getting a bunch of phone calls. By using the thought process laid out above you’ll hopefully be able to make a smooth transition and maybe even gain a few customers along the way.

Why do I work at AWG? “I value the opportunity to work with family businesses. My dad owned his own business for 35 years, so it is what I know and cherish. Plus, I love food, so thinking about it everyday is a huge plus.” -Kate