Intermarché, the third-largest supermarket chain in France, distributes close to 970 million printed circulars a year.
Beyond requiring beaucoup papier, “a lot of younger people simply don’t read them anymore,” said Anne-Marie Gaultier, Intermarché’s CMO.
And that’s if they even receive them. It’s difficult for Intermarché to know if its flyers are making it into mailboxes, particularly in urban areas with a lot of apartment buildings.
But retail coupon circulars have been a mainstay of the grocery biz for decades. Rather than tossing them in the bin, Intermarché is taking a more digitally minded and data-driven approach.
In October 2019, Intermarché and sister companies Bricomarché and Bricorama, both DIY retailers, signed a multiyear agreement with ARMIS, a Paris-based startup that allows traditional retailers to transform their physical circulars into localized display ads. Stores upload their product feeds through an SaaS platform and specify catchment areas, and ARMIS buys ads programmatically to reach people who live within proximity of certain store locations.
ARMIS is powered by integrations with the Google Ads API, Facebook API and Xandr API and backed by heavy hitters. AppNexus founder Brian O’Kelley and former AppNexus president Michael Rubenstein both participated in the company’s $1 million euro seed round in 2017. ARMIS has raised a total of 7 million euros since it was founded in 2016.
AdExchanger spoke with Intermarché’s CMO, Gaultier.
AdExchanger: How is Intermarché structured?
ANNE-MARIE GAULTIER: Intermarché is part of an independent group of food retailers. All of our stores are owned by franchisees, and we help facilitate the marketing and the buying. We sell all of the big national and international brands, such as Kraft and Coca-Cola, but we also have our own private label products and brands. We have 62 plants where we produce our own products and the largest fleet of fishing boats in France which we use to get fresh fish.
What role have circulars historically played in your marketing mix?
They are a vital way for our retailers to showcase their promotions, discounts and all of the special deals you can get in the store. We release a new circular nearly every week. Sometimes it’s just about the best deals and sometimes there is a theme, such as homewares or decorations during the Christmas season.
On average, how much money do you spend on print circulars?
I can’t go into detail, but I can say it’s an important budget line for us.
Why did you decide to start digitizing your weekly circulars?
Young people in urban centers don’t read them, it’s hard to stand out and we wanted to reduce our carbon footprint. ARMIS was compelling to us because it allows us to find our consumers on the web and be more personalized. If we have a circular for gardening tools, well, not everyone has a garden, so we’d be distributing a lot of circulars for nothing.
We share our loyalty and CRM data with them, which allows us to further personalize. For example, if we have a special circular for women who just had a baby, we can identify the moms and only push that information to that target audience. Circulars can’t make that distinction, it’s just massive distribution.
What sort of effort does this require on your end?
ARMIS ingests the information from our circulars and plugs it into their system, which is easy. But we still need a team to make sure we’re reaching the right target, to track results and to follow the KPIs.
Are you able to collect new data from the digitized circular ads?
We can identify which products appear to be of interest to target groups close to specific stores and which get the most clicks. But it’s still early. We’re at the stage where it’s mainly about trying to get a sense of reach and only beginning to phase out paper circulars in big cities. The second step will be to create more specialized circulars to target specific groups.
Can you attribute foot traffic or sales to the local online ads you’re running?
We’re broadly measuring the effect on stores in exposed areas versus unexposed areas, but soon we’ll be able to use our loyalty program to trace whether this is creating incremental sales.
Do you still print circulars, and why/why not?
We do still print circulars, and I believe there will always be a place for them. We have some customers who aren’t very digital, who rely on circulars, people who live outside of cities. There needs to be a balance in everything we do.
This interview has been edited and condensed.