For the past several years, the phrase, “print is dead!” has been ringing in every marketer’s ear and often echoes in the background of post-pandemic marketing articles. The apocalyptic, knee-jerk reaction to the explosive growth of digital channels is understandable, with staggering statistics such as continued projected double-digit growth through 2023 for the e-commerce retail industry to back it up. But where some see death, others see opportunity.
In this world of digital transformation, print and other offline touchpoints (e.g., paper catalogs and product brochures) have been largely ignored and their demise has been greatly exaggerated — often by folks looking to sell their strictly digital experience. A truly omnichannel strategy is the only way to ensure that your brand is delivering a best-in-class customer experience, regardless of where your customer discovers you. That includes print and physical media channels.
Print media can provide an entirely unique experience to the customer, and has been shown to drive a stronger brand recall than digital media (77 percent for print ads vs. 46 percent for digital ads). The ability to touch and physically interact with the content evokes a stronger emotion in us as human beings, ultimately leading to stronger customer loyalty and higher sales. According to a Harvard Business Review study on neuromarketing, this almost primal reaction cannot be elicited through digital means because it simply employs more sensory skills, such as touch or smell, and leads to higher purchasing intent.
Shoppers only need one bad product experience through any channel, physical or digital, for them to buy another brand’s product or not buy from that brand again. According to a 2022 Akeneo survey, two-thirds of consumers would stop buying from a brand or go for an alternative product due to a bad product experience in any channel, print or digital alike. Therefore, it's imperative that brands and sellers deliver exceptional product experiences across all of the channels they sell and market their products in.
Declaring any one channel as dead and letting it fall to the wayside is a recipe for getting left in the dust because nowadays, shoppers are omnichannel by nature. They're influenced by multiple channels, seek out and discover products on their own time and in the most convenient places for them, and learn about and purchase products based on the information they find regardless of what a merchant intends.
That decision of where to discover, learn and buy still includes print and physical media despite living in an increasingly digital world. Just focusing on one channel, whether that be digital or print, is no longer a viable option in today’s market; online campaigns were 400 percent more effective when combining print and digital advertising, according to Finances Online. With an ever-evolving and massively competitive market, brands that utilize every possible channel to reach their audience and create a genuine connection are the ones that are winning time and time again, and printed channels provide an experience that just can’t be replicated in digital arenas.
That’s not to say to ignore new digital formats; in fact, it means the opposite. Every day, more and more shoppers are utilizing voice search, augmented/virtual reality, and artificial intelligence technologies to create new and innovative methods of reaching shoppers through digital channels, and that's an exciting wave to be a part of. Though each day we get closer to fully immersive digital worlds, printed channels will never get fully left behind as they can provide a more intimate connection with consumers that drives higher retention and sales.
So the next time you hear someone championing that adage of “print is dead!,” remind them that an omnichannel strategy does actually mean omnichannel, and the only way to provide a truly coherent and compelling customer experience is to include every touchpoint in the customer journey, including print and physical media.
Kristin Naragon is the vice president of global marketing and strategy at Akeneo, a solution that unlocks growth through product experiences.