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Enterprise Marketing & Promotions Management

How Print Makes an Impact on Digital

By / August 2016

Fig 1


Retailers love digital advertising. A recent eMarketer report notes the U.S. retail industry will invest over $15 billion in paid online and mobile media advertising in 2016. That number is forecast to grow to $23 billion over the next four years. (Fig. 1)

They’re loading up on it.  Back in 2014, Nielson found that retailers were planning to significantly boost their investment in digital marketing.  Fast forward to today: retailers responding to a Duke University survey said they expect to increase their digital marketing budgets by 20.3% over the next 12 months, while trimming their traditional ad budgets by 12.1%.

Where does that leave print marketing channels?

In pretty good shape, actually. In fact, many retailers (68% of them in a recent study) acknowledge that when it comes to engaging shoppers with product information, print is critical to their strategy. But only 8% said the same thing about digital. (Fig. 2)

So instead of arguing “Digital vs. Print” in each planning cycle, retailers would be wise to consider a “Print Impacts Digital” strategy.

Printed communications can engage and influence shoppers in a way digital can’t. Digital marketing channels are exploding. Every month it seems like a new   digital advertising technique hits the market. As a result, shoppers are bombarded through their email, on their smart phones, in their Facebook feeds, while reading their favorite online news outlet. Shoppers process through digital advertising rapidly. Your message can catch a shopper’s eye. But that shopper moves on to the next “shiny object” just as fast.

Fig 2

Fig. 2

Communicating on paper increases engagement. Whether it’s an ad insert, loyalty program direct mail, or couponing postcard, print engages shoppers for a longer period of time than a digital communication. Plus, print communications cause more activity in brain areas associated with value and desire.

Print brings credibility to your digital programs.  The sheer quantity of websites and information on the web can be overwhelming, even for today’s multi-tasking consumer. Fear of click bait, spam, scams, and viruses can make your shoppers hesitant and wary to engage with your digital message. Because your shoppers can hold a printed communication in their hands and read it when they want, they view your offer, and your brand as more credible.

Printed materials are easier to read. Most consumers skim over digital ads and websites in as little as 15 seconds. But, if they dig in and start to read, it takes them 20% to 30% longer to read the same content on a digital screen than paper.  Supporting digital campaigns with a printed component makes it easier for your shoppers to consume your message.

Here are 3 ways print and digital can work together to boost shopper engagement.

  1. Promote your social media channels in every printed communication. But step it up a notch. In addition to showing your social icons, provide incentives for shoppers to become engaged and sign up for your eNewsletter, blog, or Pinterest feed.
  1. Use #hashtags. It may seem like an oxymoron to put hashtags in your printed communications. But the effective use of  hashtags will bridge shoppers from print to social media and bring them into your conversation. Create or use hashtags for product promotions, sales, style guides, etc. and watch your social metrics skyrocket.
  1. Meet your shoppers online and in their mailbox. Link your physical mailing list to IP addresses and you’ll be able to deliver a true omnichannel shopper experience, by delivering your message through the mail and through digital advertising targeted directly to your list.


Janice Mayo, Brand and Marketing Strategist, @DirectfromJMo, janicem@thecarbonagency.com

With a career spanning 25+ years as an award-winning strategic marketing, brand, creative, and business development leader, Janice has worked with leading retailers such as ACE Hardware, Benjamin Moore, Burlington Coat Factory, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Giant, Kroger, La-Z-Boy, Lowes, Mattel, Rooms to Go, Sally Beauty, Sears/Kmart, Super Valu, Walgreens , Walmart,  and has received numerous brand, creative, and results-focused awards. Through her extensive speaking and writing engagements, Janice has provided sales, marketing, and brand thought leadership to thousands of senior executives.

The Carbon Agency, @CarbonDFW, thecarbonagency.com

Carbon brings deep experience to deliver big results. Our senior marketing and strategic creative talent deliver the best of both traditional and interactive worlds, including global agency and senior client-side direct marketing expertise. We apply knowledge, creative, and best practices to develop brand and messaging strategy, public relations and content marketing. We combine our experience in conventional disciplines, such as market research, strategic planning, brand development, positioning and messaging to provide online and on page advertising, collateral, direct marketing, email, mobile, product introductions, trade shows, video and web.


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