Who Knew? Wall Street Journal Article Says The Hottest Targeted Ad Is the Weekly Circular

January 16, 2018

The paper coupon (via circular) continues to thrive—and drive sales. Despite attempts to move incentives from paper to digital (although even Jet.com devotes 10% of its media budget to direct mail), companies are coming to the realization that paper coupons influence the shopper along the path to purchase. According to an article from the January 11, 2018 Wall Street Journal:

“Some grocers and other retail chains have learned they risk losing business without a steady flow of paper mailings nudging shoppers to stores. Even online startups that don’t have physical shops are embracing the idea.

Paper ads that arrive in homes spur more buying than emails or texts, said Jackson Jeyanayagam, chief marketing officer of Boxed.com, an online seller of household goods. “Email is starting to become a sandbox because you get so much,” Mr. Jeyanayagam said.”

This fact was also collaborated by a recent eMarketer piece, “There Is Still One Way Paper Beats Digital:”

“Paper coupons are still the way people want to get coupons—even among internet users,” said eMarketer analyst Patricia Orsini. According to research conducted by ATYM Market Research (and quoted in the same eMarketer article mentioned above), consumers still prefer paper coupons:

“At this point, 79% of coupon consumers said that they normally still use regular paper coupons. 47% said they use online coupon codes. 38% print out online coupons from websites to use in stores. 25% said they regularly use coupons from mobile apps. And just 2% use other types like coupons loaded onto a store card from a website.”

Other research quoted by eMarketer draws the same conclusions about paper versus digital coupons:

“In a February 2017 survey of sources that US grocery buyers use to find deals on grocery items, Market Track found that 59% search print circulars. Only 32% of respondents use digital coupons to find deals, while 23% use the digital version of a print circular. Just 12% said they looked for grocery deals on mobile versions of retailers’ sites.”

Even amongst Millennials paper coupons remain popular. According to IRI’s “Consumer Connect” and reported by eMarketer, 61% of Millennials (versus 66% 18+) clip coupons to try and save money when they shop:

Actions that US Millenial vs Total Internet Users Take to Save Money When Shopping Graph, Q1 2017

As part of the 2016 ECI/NAM Proprietary A&U study, consumers reported the importance of circulars and (paper) coupons:

55% of all consumers look at store circulars that are delivered to their homes in order to plan their shopping trip and get information about brands and sales.
Circulars are an effective and desired means of delivering coupons. 36% of shoppers are extremely interested in coupons delivered by store circulars. This is the same level of interest as coupon booklets received in the mail (36%) and coupons received in the mail from retailers (35%).
Older shoppers are most likely to look at circulars, with two-thirds doing so. However, even Millennials (41%) and Gen X (54%) shoppers are using these sources.
31% of shoppers said they chose the last place they shopped because the store has store circulars with sales/deals. The same proportion of shoppers said they chose their retailer because it has good offers/deals with its shopper card.

Finally, paper coupons are becoming smarter and more targeted–and are being noticed. Again quoting the WSJ article:

“Now some chains are trying to make circulars more precise. “Smart retailers are marrying predictive analytics with circulars,” said Michael Osborne, Chief Executive of SmarterHQ, a digital marketing firm based in Indianapolis. Consumers buy more when they “receive promotions and discounts on items that they may actually be interested in.”


It may surprise you, but paper coupons continue to thrive—and drive sales. Therefore, to reach as many category buyers as possible along the path to purchase, paper coupons should continue to be an important part of the pre/shop/post shop phases of the consumer journey.