Large-scale retail trade: the flyer, the emergency and promotional strategies

Laura Fusi
06 Jul 2020
Anche nell'era digitale, le statistiche confermano che i consumatori preferiscono il tradizionale volantino cartaceo. Nel contesto post-COVID, tuttavia, l'evoluzione delle strategie promozionali sarà inevitabile.

For large retailers, the flyer is an indispensable promotional and customer-relationship practice. But the ideas for attracting customers to the store are never a simple and immediate process, but part of careful promotional strategies planned over time.

Stores promotions are organized according to a schedule divided into weeks, where week zero represents the starting week of the promotion.

The promotions officially present at the checkout counters are valid from Thursday and last for about a week and a half (except for ‘Fresh and Very Fresh’ goods, which follow other dynamics for their validity start date).  

The consequences of the lockdown

During the COVID-19 emergency, especially in cities most affected as early as February by the pandemic, some promotional initiatives of large-scale retailers have been shelved or postponed following regional or municipal ordinances.These have led to shorter shop opening hours, weekend closings, or limitations to the distance permitted to travel from the own home, with consequent reduced number of store visits.

On the other hand, it is evident that the sudden change in purchasing behaviour by many consumers has also affected promotional strategies. From one day to the next, this gave rise to a shopping rush that excluded the need for a new trip to the supermarket for at least 5 days.

Statistics, in fact, recorded a 17.8% increase in sales volumes compared to the same period last year, with peaks of 105.9% for flours and mixtures, and 88.1% for disinfectants such as alcohol and ammonia.                                                          

Furthermore, the restrictive measures and the lockdown were not immediately brought into force across the country, with consequent difficulty in discerning a promotion suitable to a variety of consumers

The flyer

But how do you get promotions through to the customer? Even in today’s digitalised era, statistics confirm that the consumer still prefer the traditional paper flyer.

This, in fact, is still perceived as more immediate and convenient to use than digital communication, because it is more immediately browsable, allows easier comparison between competing products and can be used by the consumer as a source for, or complement to, the shopping list. Furthermore, it informs without repetitiveness and insistence (allowing potential customers to choose in all tranquillity) and is suitable for those segments of the population who use the internet or social media only occasionally.

However, conceiving a flyer is not a simple action: in fact, it is necessary to define the target audience in advance, then select the suitable images, create the headline and compose the message to send out.

Increasingly often there are different versions of the flyer, including the different prices applied by the various stores, or publications in which are inserted regional products or, in any case, typical of a specific territory. This allows the flyer to differentiate itself from competing offers in order to obtain better results.

Each flyer is characterized by a main theme, summed up in its title (for example: ‘Below cost’, ‘Buy 1 get 1 free’, ‘Price cut’, ‘Price ranges’, ‘Big savings’) and shows the start and end date of each offer subset. Inevitably, there is the special grocery section, which vary according to the season and occurrences linked with the validity of the flyer.

The evolution

But beyond the commercial or ‘technical’ aspects, the flyer has always been in the last thirty years, as it is now, also a crucial tool for managing the relationship with the customer.Arriving right at the customer or potential customer's home on a weekly or monthly basis is in fact a typical form of communication not found in other markets. In fact, every week the brand is brought back to the attention of those who may choose it as a place where to purchase on a repetitive basis.

And if this was true with paper flyers, let's imagine how much more so it would be with the digital version, sent via email or through aggregators websites of flyers of different brands in the past and today through an app, preceded by a push notification.

Once again, therefore, the switch from paper to digital is not a revolution, but a real evolution, benefiting from features not achievable on paper. Thus additional contents reachable via hyperlinks (videos, ingredients, allergens), possibility of saving a shopping list with a click, as well as selecting and memorising your favourite products.

We have been talking about it for years, but perhaps in this new post-COVID-19 context, the great and concrete potential and possibilities that this evolution represents will be captured by the most attentive retailers. Because, this time, the refrain “the consumer is not ready” risks being completely wrong.