There aren’t many universal consumer truths today, but here’s one: consumers love getting a deal. It’s rational, for sure: more money in your pocket. But there’s also a deep emotional connection to the feeling of getting great value. Almost nine in 10 Canadians report feeling proud about finding great value when they shop, according to research conducted by BrandSpark International. And more than 85% of shoppers in our country actively seek products that are on sale.

That’s why flyers and coupons are such a powerful marketing tool—75% of consumers say that what they’ve seen in a flyer has driven them into a store within a week.

It’s also why offers and deals have been part of a marketer’s arsenal for years. In fact, the first coupon was circulated almost 130 years ago when a businessman named Asa Candler decided to drive trial of his new product with hand-written tickets for a free glass of his new drink, called (you may have heard of it) Coca-Cola, which was then priced at five cents. By 1913, one-in-nine Americans had received a free Coke—in total, 8.5 million free drinks were given away.

We’ve come a long way from Asa’s hand-written offers—in volume of communication to consumers, certainly, but also in the method of distribution. Although no longer hand-written (thank goodness!), millions of print flyers and coupons still make their way into the homes of consumers across Canada every week. At Metroland alone, we deliver 74 million flyers each week (that’s four billion flyers a year) to households in Ontario. But we also connect more than 1.3 million consumers—a number that’s growing rapidly—with digital flyers and coupons every month through our online flyers and coupon site

The growth of the digital channel has led to a lot of questions from many of our clients and customers about the role of print vs. digital. Is digital gradually replacing print? Are the only people reading print flyers older consumers? And are only young, urban dwellers using digital channels? The answers may surprise you.

Long live print!

Despite the growth of digital flyers and coupons, the print flyer is thriving in Canada.

In fact, our research shows that 81% of consumers are still using print flyers for local shopping information—most heavily for grocery shopping (83% of consumers read or browse a grocery flyer every week), followed by flyers from mass merchants, like Walmart (66%), and drug stores (59%).

Retailers continue to affirm the impact of print flyers: in a recent story on CBC News Network, Frederick Lecoq, the head of marketing for Golf Town, shared that dropping a print flyer drives a 20% to 30% sales increase for his business. And it’s not just older consumers driving those results—while older consumers are more active readers of print flyers, seven in 10 millennials report using print flyers.

The reason for the continued strength of the medium, even in the face of strong digital growth? Print flyers are complementary, not competitive, to digital flyers. Primarily, print flyers offer consumers a tool for discovery, or inspiration around what products suit their needs for their upcoming shopping trips. This makes the print flyer a powerful opportunity to build brand awareness and showcase product features or use-cases to engage readers in a physical environment. Ultimately, the tradition of sitting down once a week to read the flyers is alive and well in Canada, and it’s an experience that consumers aren’t eager to replace with digital.


Long live digital, too!

Instead, digital flyers play a much more tactical role in consumer’s lives. With smartphone in hand, consumers can use websites and apps like to take their digital offers with them on-the-go, allowing them to check the weekly deals on the way to (or even while they’re standing in) the store. This is powerful tool near the bottom of the sales funnel as consumers look to snag the best price, or remind themselves of their favourite deals while at the point-of-purchase.

Digital flyers are currently a source of local shopping information for 52% of consumers (still less than the comparable 81% for print, but growing). And while digital flyers certainly attract a younger demographic, the differences aren’t as dramatic as you may think. More than a quarter of Baby Boomers checked a digital flyer in advance of their last shopping trip. Thirty per cent of Millennials did the same thing.

This portability is leading to dramatic growth in digital flyer and coupon sites. At, for example, we saw a 40% increase in online flyer views last year alone. Fifty per cent of visitors checked out more than 10 pages of flyers per visit, and 28% of views result in a product click. Digital and print flyers have this in common: they both drive results.

What does it mean for marketers?

It turns out that the big battle between print and digital is turning into more of a group hug than a knock-down fight. What does this mean for you, as marketers? As you build and review your marketing plans, ask yourself:

  • How am I offering my consumers a sense of “found value”? As brands seek deeper connections with consumers, remember the emotional impact that getting a great deal can have on a consumer, and the impact this can have on your brand health.
  • How am I tailoring my value offers by medium? If print is a tool for rich discovery and digital is a tool for on-the-go price comparisons and more detailed product information, how do the design and functionality of your print and online offerings support these experiences? Keep in mind some of the unique strengths of each medium—for example, digital flyers grant marketers the flexibility to change content immediately to reflect timely purchasing factors such as the weather or competitive offers. Digital channels also allow higher page counts without incurring additional print costs, making this a great place to include rich details or a greater assortment of products.
  • How do print and digital support each other? Think of print and digital flyers as your two children—it is possible to love them both equally

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    . Now you need to figure out how to get them to share! How can print and digital support each other? Does your print flyer, for example, include information on where consumers can view the flyer online for more detailed information? Are you targeting your consumers in a way that ensures that you’re reaching the same shopper through both channels?

Ultimately, remember that collaboration—not competition, and synergy—not silos are the keys to a successful flyer strategy.

This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Direct Marketing.

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Lisa Orpen

Lisa Orpen is the vice president, national & multi-market Sales, for ‎Metroland Media Group. Metroland distributes 4 billion print flyers annually to consumers across Ontario, and connects 1.3 million consumers every month with digital flyers and coupons on, Canada’s leading website for digital coupons and flyers.