Why Brands Are Phasing Out Print Ads and Moving to Digital

Create the most effective connections possible with digital-first marketing. 

September 25, 2023

In April 2023, Kroger announced it would cease sending out weekly digital mailers — and move instead toward digital advertisements.

Instead of weekly print ads mailed to consumers, the company will have ads available digitally — and have a QR code that consumers can scan to find details, as reported by Grocery Dive. For consumers loyal to the print ads, Kroger will still offer a tangible version in-store.

The move to primarily digital marketing allows the company to save big on marketing costs.

Kroger is just one of many brands emphasizing digital-first marketing. Here’s a look at broader industry trends from innovative brands leveraging digital advertisements and coupons.

The Move to Digital-first Marketing

According to The CMO Survey in February 2022, marketers spent a majority of 57% of their budgets on digital marketing — and were planning to allocate another 16% of their spending to it in 2023, as noted by Harvard Business Review.

While, on the whole, marketing growth in spending has slowed in 2023 amid economic uncertainty, companies are still spending a majority of their marketing on digital.

By 2026, digital newspaper marketing spending in the U.S. is slated to overtake print for the first time ever.

QR marketing, specifically, has also seen rapid growth in recent years. In 2022, an estimated 5.5 billion coupons were slated to be redeemed via QR code — up drastically from 1.7 billion in 2017.

There are many advantages to digital marketing — but innovative companies are drawn in for two primary reasons: cost efficiency and the ability to personalize the approach to more tailored audiences.

Cost Efficiency

Kroger’s move to eliminate mass print flyers came after two years of research into their efficacy.

Sylvain Perrier, CEO and president of Mercatus, told Grocery Dive when speaking about Kroger’s move to digital, that the cost of producing flyers in the industry typically “represents 50% of the total marketing budget.”

  • Print advertisements can cost brands anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on whether ads are run locally or nationally.
  • PPC advertising returns around $2 for every $1 spent — with an ROI of 200%. Email has a return of $36 for every $1 spent.

Brands can even leverage free digital marketing through social media tags and posts. They also have the ability to scale digital marketing up and down much more quickly.

Furthermore, it’s very cost-efficient for companies to use the products they already have on shelves and are selling to use those as a direct point of sale — thanks to connecting technology like QR codes and NFC tags.

This is a great way for brands to blend the benefits of physical marketing with an innovative digital approach.


Another reason many brands are empowered to shift to digital marketing is the ability to personalize their approach with each consumer — at each and every interaction.

Whereas print ads can take more of a “shout into the void” approach, digital marketing is more personalized to each consumer — empowering brands with a more direct line of communication.

With digital advertising, brands are empowered to customize what is shown to consumers based on:

  • Time of day
  • Location
  • Device
  • Language
  • Past interactions
  • First- and zero-party data
  • And more

Overcoming the Hurdles of Digital Marketing

In a world where consumers are inundated with a slew of content, many brands struggle to foster effective connections. With consumers seeing an estimated 4,000 to 10,000 ads a day — and noticing just a few hundred — brands have to cut through the noise and effectively establish connections.

You may hear companies emphasize the efficacy of the convergence of print ads vs. digital. However, it’s important to note two factors:

  • The cost of investing in print vs. investing in digital
  • The personalized approach of digital marketing vs. print

While Kroger is encouraging consumers to download a digital app to access coupons and deals, brands don’t need to do this.

With a connected products platform, brands can make digital connections accessible with a quick scan — or use other digital advertising methods to connect with consumers directly. Brands are also empowered to make these connections more interactive and engaging.

Connected Products Platforms and the Future of Digital Marketing

Many brands are leveraging connected products and connected products platforms in digital marketing to cut through the noise and capture consumers’ attention with effective, engaging experiences.

While email CTR averages 2.62% and Instagram clocks in at 0.28%, a direct communication channel like those powered by Blue Bite empowers brands with a 15% engagement rate.

Digital Experiences transcend beyond traditional digital ads — they leverage the time of day, the consumer’s location, valuable first-party data, any previous interactions and more to create personalized connections.

With a simple scan of a QR code or NFC tag — whether on a product itself, a digital ad, or elsewhere — an engaging Experience is launched right in the consumer’s hand. This goes beyond traditional QR codes that, historically, simply led to static web pages.

As consumers interact with the experience, they’re shown everything they could want to know about a brand or product — from brand vision and story to sustainability info and more. This also empowers brands to get the best of both worlds with digital and print — through digital experiences on physical products. This also makes each product a direct point of sale.

Moreover, brands are empowered to continually tailor these experiences as consumers engage with them — creating the most effective connections possible.


Get Even More of the Latest Trends on Connected Products

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We went to consumers and found out that 78% engage directly with brands, but not all of them are happy about those experience. Fill out the form to download our Trend Report and learn even more about how innovative brands are improving those experiences with connected products.

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