FSIs Need More Localized Approaches

May 28, 2009

By David
King, CEO of Fulcrum

Larger retailers spend
significant amounts of their marketing budgets on "non-store" marketing
programs, specifically coupons and free-standing inserts (FSIs). Yet
the vast majority of these programs are not customized in any way to reflect
regional or local differences in shopping behavior.

The lack of variability
in traditional marketing programs has been driven largely by the desire
to maximize the reach of media buys; media companies and media buyers have
promoted the idea of uniformity as the most cost-effective way to achieve
reach. By having one national FSI, for example, production costs could
be kept as low as possible.

But, with the current
economic pressures facing media properties, advertisers have the leverage
to push for a more targeted approach that can boost traffic based on more
localized conditions. In order to execute on this, retailers must be able
to develop a data-driven strategy for their non-store marketing. Retailers’
own customer data combined with third-party industry data on category sales
can help tailor the content of coupons and FSIs and increase in-store traffic.

The place to start is
with the categories that represent a significant amount of current budget
for these forms of advertising. Perform a geo-demographic analysis
of customers’ spending patterns across these categories, based on a defined
geographic trading area for each store or cluster of stores. Then use third-party
data to identify total household spending for these categories across the
same geographic areas for member stores.

The result will be a
store-by-store analysis of where the amount spent by your customers for
that category is either over- or under-indexed for that specific geographic
market. For example, if a retailer offers personal-care products, it could
create a category-based, store-by-store analysis that would look something
like this:

Personal Care Products
  Store 1 Store 7
Percent of Store Market that Purchase Weekly
Percent of your Customers that Purchase Weekly
Percent of Store Market that Purchase Monthly
Percent of your Customers that Purchase Monthly

Such an analysis would
identify what geographic markets show higher levels of spending for these
products per household than the retailer is currently getting from its
own customers at each of its stores. Armed with that information, the retailer
can really get started making changes to coupon, flyer or FSI distribution
and target more personal-care product offers to these markets.

Questions: Are more localized approaches required for FSIs?
What are the challenges of using customer-data analysis in implementing
more localized FSI approaches? How does a retailer weigh localized benefits
versus the cost efficiencies gained from broader FSI approaches?

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9 Comments on "FSIs Need More Localized Approaches"

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David Zahn
11 years 11 months ago

Getting more localized, more account specific, digging deeper into store clusters and shopper segments, ABSOLUTELY. On the other hand, FSIs? Not so much. Not when the industry is moving to electronic communication via web, cell phones (see other story today), and shelf technologies.

Joan Treistman
11 years 11 months ago

Before starting the presses, I would include the answer to the question, “Does this group of people use coupons?” Transaction analysis brings us to a certain point and in this case shows opportunity for brand growth. But the strategy to bridge the gap must still be dependent on consumer shopping behavior.

Many years ago I visited a manufacturer coming out with a new product. I was shown the packaging for my opinion about its in-store effectiveness. And in turn I asked about the rest of the marketing plan. They were going ahead with their standard operating procedure… to introduce all new products with coupons and use FSIs. “Funny,” I said, “I never would have thought that your target market (young men)…would be using coupons.” The product manager looked like a deer caught in the headlights. He never thought about coupon usage within his unique target, before investing in the strategy.

Max Goldberg
11 years 11 months ago

This is where Internet advertising pays off. Why spend money on national FSIs when you can spend significantly less and target your store’s advertising message to your best customers? Yes, national ads can alert all consumers to goings on within the store, but they lack the ability to appeal to specific consumers. In an age of pull rather than push advertising, using email and social networks to deliver custom offers to consumers just makes sense.

Doron Levy
Doron Levy
11 years 11 months ago

I have always harped on how important your local market is and the successful merchant will know the pulse of the community. FSIs can be tailored for zones and even communities within that zone. If your selling area is mostly Hispanic, it would make sense to offer products in your FSI that cater to that group. Incomes and gender play an extremely important role as well and they should be tailored for the specific regional makeup.

I just commented in my blog on the decline of direct mail therefore it is important for all merchants to have an alternate strategy to paper coupons and FSIs. I believe you can get more creative (and localized) by using the digital medium.

Ben Sprecher
Ben Sprecher
11 years 11 months ago

I have to agree with David, Joan, and Max: FSIs don’t seem like the right medium. This type of localized thinking is a great start, but it can lead to a geometric increase in complexity. The number of analyses being run = the number of geographies * the number of manufacturers (with further analysis for each retailer and store). Also, without the proper tools, the work is highly technical and involved, and it will be done slightly differently by each company.

The solution has to be a hub-and-spoke arrangement. One set of simple, consistent tools used by all manufacturers and retailers to target ads across the entire retail network. And for offer distribution, why limit yourself to printed coupons? Internet, in-store, email, mobile, etc, should all be on the table.

Bill Bittner
Bill Bittner
11 years 11 months ago
I think the whole discussion here misses a very critical point. It is as much the product category as it is the customer that should determine the FSI strategy. The key question here is “What is it that will cause a consumer who would not otherwise have bought this item to instead purchase it.” If we’re talking about a commodity, for which we can be reasonably certain the consumer has already made a brand choice, then it may take a fairly deep discount with wide reach to appreciably affect the purchase decision. On the other hand, if we are talking about a truly discretionary item which the consumer may not have bought before or for which there are few alternatives, then targeting specific consumers to create additional demand makes sense. Distributing the message is becoming cheaper and cheaper. The challenge is becoming “Consumer Overload.” With messages coming from all different directions, I think it is more important that the retailer develop a consistent and clear channel to the consumer psyche so they avoid hitting the… Read more »
Brian Kelly
11 years 11 months ago

FSIs work. No matter how many times we try to rid them from the marketing mix. Through local versioning they are made more effective. There is promise of digital media replacing FSIs. But before one follows that out the window, keep in mind that there is a tactile and cultural event that occurs with FSI review and use. At this time, there is no digital equivalent. There are alternatives, but none replicate FSIs. Don’t you love it when digital seems to be the easy answer to any issue. But upon closer inspection, it isn’t. Dig deeper. That’s why we say,: “retail ain’t for sissies.”

Ben Ball
11 years 11 months ago

Generally agree with much said so far. Digital is better for customization and FSIs still work. But before we get too exercised about localizing FSIs, I think we need to look at the strategy behind the FSI vehicle to start with and what it can do for the brand. Generally speaking, the purpose of the FSI is to deliver a coupon. And, again generally speaking, couponing is really a pretty blunt marketing instrument. About the best most do in “customization” is to tweak the coupon amount. I’m not sure customization of this particular vehicle is worth the effort.

David King
David King
11 years 11 months ago
Thanks for the quick set of insightful comments. I actually agree with them in most respects. Digital media–organic and paid search, online advertising, ecoupons, mobile, etc–are clearly channels that lend themselves to greater targeting (even down to the end-consumer level) and self-selection. Moreover, these are rapidly growing marketing channels for merchants, following the overall trend of dollars moving from traditional media to digital. However, spending on “old” media, such as FSIs, still dwarfs the marketing spend of retailers on digital. And FSIs still reach important segments at a low cost and produce a positive return. Much of my company’s retail practice involves helping clients allocate their spending across both traditional, direct, and digital channels in order to maximize sales. In our experience, as much as we like the addressability of digital, FSIs and paper coupons are still the 800-lb marketing gorilla for many retailers. So the basis of the article is: how can we take this big-budget medium and generate higher value from it? As we suggest, one avenue is to tailor these promotions more… Read more »

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