by Karlene Lukovitz
Editor, MBR Daily Publishing & Retail News
Far from being irrelevant, magazine and book media have unique attributes and strengths that can be leveraged to help today’s retailers address their core challenges.
That was the message driven home by Bryan Gildenberg, chief knowledge officer for Kantar Consulting’s retail, sales and shopper specialization, in a 2018 MBR Conference presentation.
Among his key points:
• While online retail is showing the fastest growth, bricks-and-mortar is generating 55% of U.S. retail growth. Physical stores will continue to see growth in the years ahead, albeit at a slower overall rate than in the past. Kantar’s projections through 2022 (below) show that growth being driven by four segments: drug chains and other channels focused on prescriptions; club stores; discount stores; and convenience stores.
Takeaway: In addition to developing new ways to partner within their currently dominant retail distribution channels, magazine and book media companies should actively identify and pursue opportunities within the highest-growth channels.
• Given the continually accelerating pace of change, plotting a successful course in any business, including retail or media, demands viewing it in broad context — “with a wide-angled lens,” Gildenberg said. “With a broader view, small opportunities don’t look so small. And you need to factor in the cost of inaction.” Key areas for assessment as part of strategic planning include the massive lifestyle impacts of digital and mobile; urbanization; age and income polarization; and increasing ethnic diversity.
• Media companies and retailers alike are among the many types of companies struggling to identify opportunities outside of conventional category and channel definitions, siloes and brands, and to view these in the right context. Growth opportunities exist, but they’re more difficult to see than in the past — in part because they’re often in channels not included in standard tracking and measurement systems.
At the same time, because of the content- and expertise-driven nature of publications, “I firmly believe that one big benefit publications can bring to retailers isn’t just product, but a lens on the world,” Gildenberg said. “Collectively, the products you sell contain more information and insights about what’s going to happen and how people are going to feel about it than any other category in the store. And one of the virtues of publications is having your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in categories retailers need to know more about. So think about your magazine and book titles not just as commercial platforms, but as platforms to talk to the retailer about where the world is going.”
For example, about 10% to 20% of the beauty category has migrated to new, not yet well understood, types of retailers and channels, like Alta, Sephora and social e-commerce. “Beauty is a very large and growing category that does an enormous amount of advertising,” Gildenberg noted. So, he suggested, the publications category might consider something like creating a beauty-focused “center of excellence” resource for retailers and their customers that provides a wholistic solution by helping them understand what’s trending, what’s a passing fad, and what has potential to be long-lived and scalable.
• Retailers and brands are also struggling to get to know consumers “less as data and more as humans” — to relate to them through human insights, in more natural, less invasive ways, Gildenberg reports.
In contrast to other media, like TV — where ads are demographically targeted but usually have no direct relationship to the program content — print publications have always enabled ad messaging within a relevant, meaningful context, he said. “That is what all marketers are trying to do.”
No other category in the store “knows more about what people genuinely care about than the publications category does,” he stressed. Nor can any other category do as much “to help a retailer establish credibility in niches with passionate followings.”
At the same time, publishers have extensive subscriber and consumer data, now housed in cutting-edge database environments with sophisticated analytics capabilities — insights and capabilities that could be used to develop and expand relationships with retailers.
“What if you could take the information you have about your readers and tie that more strongly to how people are buying publications and other things?,” said Gildenberg. For instance, given that about 45% of all U.S .adults are already Amazon Prime members —a major threat to other retailers—it would certainly be valued by retailers if publishers could provide insights about Prime members’ purchasing behaviors, he noted. “There are a bunch of interesting, potential analytic plays” that the publications category could explore, he added.
• Although the global economy’s pace of growth has accelerated, major global fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands have lost significant market share. In 2012, large global brands were growing 2.5 times faster than the economy. By 2018, that ratio had inverted:
Legacy brands’ growth is slowing because of that difficulty in reaching consumers in the ways that consumers want to be reached, and also because they’re “getting beaten in specific parts of categories by smaller, targeted brands that understand consumers better,” explained Gildenberg. “Challenger brands are growing into larger brands — and they’re getting more sophisticated at reaching consumers.
“Every one of these challenger brands is mentioned in many of your publications, sometimes as part of your coverage of new trends,” he continued. “As a retailer, I may not want to invest right away in a new product that might not take off, but I can use publications in my stores to show shoppers that I know what’s trending and can help them learn about them.”
• Retailers and marketers tend to obsess about Millennials, but people 65 and older will be by far the largest drivers of U.S. population growth between now and 2025 (there will be 35 million more people in that age range than there are today). And contrary to misconceptions, seniors spend significant amounts of money. For example, 25% of the 69.5 million U.S. grandparents spend more than $1,000 a year on their grandkids.
In addition, all consumers, and older ones in particular, are going to continue to struggle with navigating the health care system — a need that is “going to be completely unmet by the medical system itself,” said Gildenberg.
“Publications’ knowledge about these consumers’ buying behaviors, and the content they’re going to need to run their lives,” should be a compelling story to tell retailers, said Gildenberg.
• Publications have a major opportunity in the wellness arena. “Health and wellness are very different,” he said. “Most retailers, and quite a few categories, can address health issues with customers — nutrition, exercise, medications and so forth. But wellness involves things like laughing, having hobbies and interests, being spiritually centered; feeling happy about how you look, and having healthy relationships. These are all areas that books and magazines tackle all the time. Also, people are in many cases defining wellness by the things they buy. No other category sold by a retailer that can talk about wellness [and related products] as authoritatively as publications.”
• Another major audience opportunity for publications: the rapidly growing number of women who are becoming mothers in their 30s or beyond (who vastly outnumber mothers ages 20 to 24, and will soon also outnumber mothers ages 25 to 29).
Older mothers are more affluent. And they also seek more information than mothers of previous generations. Reason: Rather than simply emulate their parents’ child-rearing practices, they are forging new practices that fit with the very different lifestyles that they have built for themselves during their twenties, according to Gildenberg. As a result, they need information about nontraditional subjects like balancing work and family, and natural and organic baby foods.
Older moms also tend to be more tired than the young moms of previous generations. “Think about those exhausted moms, finally settling on a couch at 10:30 at night,” who, rather than having to pull out their tablets or phones and search for information or entertainment, can just pick up a magazine from the table to experience “stress relief, re-energizing and a whole lot of emotional satisfaction,” he noted.
In fact, he suggested, a winning positioning for the publications category would be marketing it as “mom’s half hour, or mom’s 15 minutes, for herself.”
The fact that saving energy — not money — is older moms’ biggest driver explains why they make up a disproportionate share of Amazon Prime members (ordering food and other goods without having to get up and go shopping), he added. “So again, anything publications can do to help physcial retailers address the Amazon Prime competition will be greatly appreciated.”
• Speaking of stress, Gildenberg reports that consumers now rank having a stress-free shopping experience as nearly as important as saving money and getting a good deal — another opportunity for publications.
Publishers have documented the de-stressing benefits of having magazines to browse while waiting in checkout lines, but shopping for magazines and books at mainlines is also a pleasurable break from grocery shopping for many consumers. Further, their content in print and digital formats could be used to help introduce elements and information that help consumers de-stress while shopping, pointed out Gildenberg.
• Importantly, the publications category is also largely price-stable. Retailers are struggling with how to optimize pricing and promotions. “The effects of disruptive pricing are dangerous, and publications create far less price disruption than almost any other category,” Gildenberg stressed. “Pricing and economic returns stability is a huge benefit for retailers. Even if category is flat in sales, generating predictable economic returns can be a strong selling point for a category. No category lends itself better to being sold in a less promotional retail marketplace than publications.”
Further, “no category in the store can add impulsive piles of profit to a shopper basket than publications,” he said, adding that physical grocery retailers entering e-commerce could perhaps use publications’ customer/consumer data to pitch online grocery buyers a specific magazine, and increase the order size.