Carrefour and catalogues: The enduring power of paper

Published 18 February 2020 by Paul McDonagh
The printed catalogue still plays a major role in generating traffic to the stores, even though digital communication is growing strongly.

Digital communications are ubiquitous. We spend increasing amounts of time online, and with our smart phones, tablets and computers, one could be forgiven for thinking that digital communications are all important. However, in spite of the pervasiveness of digital, printed material still plays a central role in bringing Carrefour’s customers to the store. Deborah Carles, Communication Director at Carrefour France, has no doubt about that.

“Print advertising is one of the most important vectors of traffic; it is to date the most powerful ‘drive to store’ mass media”, she states when asked how Carrefour communicate with their customers.

“These are catalogues delivered to our customers on a weekly basis,” she explains. “The good deals and special offers customers see in the catalogues encourage them to visit the store regularly and that promotes their engagement with Carrefour.”

A major actor in grocery retail

Carrefour is one of the world’s leading retailers with operations in more than 30 countries and employing over 360,000 people around the world. In France, they are the second largest grocery multiple, and their market share is increasing steadily. The pressure to perform in a very competitive market is intense.

“I lead a team that monitors Carrefour France’s commercial communications”, explains Deborah. “A critical component of our work is the 360° approach. By 360° we mean that we use all possible touchpoints with the customer to ensure that Carrefour’s communications make an impact – on our business and on the brand.”

“By creating campaigns with the best possible results, we ensure that customers are encouraged to come to the store or shop online. We use an omnichannel approach to encourage sales and to promote brand loyalty.” Thus, Carrefour is working on its marketing mix to best invest each euro, aiming at targeting and personalising to the maximum. If digital communications can be perfectly targeted, it is also possible to perfectly target with paper catalogues.

Themed catalogues support seasonal sales

In addition to the weekly catalogues, themed catalogues are used to promote sales at specific times of the year. In France, parents have to buy ­supplies for their children at the start of every academic year. Gardening gets a boost in the summer, and there are the traditional holiday seasons such as Christmas and Easter. The role of the themed catalogues is not just to encourage people to visit the stores, but also to visit the website, or its mobile app.

“Some items are specifically for home delivery, such as some gardening products for example,” explains Carles. “For these products, the role of the printed catalogue is to drive people to our website, and this broadens the shopping experience with Carrefour.

The appeal of paper

“Our customers are ever more discerning,” Carles points out. “This applies to the quality and durability of our products, and to our social and environmental responsibility. This reflects the quality of the paper we use for our catalogues.”

Carrefour continuously optimises paper weight, format and types of paper, in order to have recourse to this mass advertising without having to compromise due to prices.

“Customers in France enjoy browsing our catalogues, and they expect them to be printed on good quality paper,” Carles emphasises.

Carrefour buys a significant amount of paper in Europe and the paper is tailored to the expectations of customers in each country in which the company operate. While French customers want a bright, good quality paper, yet responsible and ecological, in other European countries this can be less important. Getting this level of detail right for each country contributes to cementing Carrefour’s relationship with their customers while respecting Carrefour’s corporate responsibility.

Carles explains, “Carrefour respects the wishes of its customers and does not deliver any paper communications to those who post a Stop Pub sticker not to receive unaddressed mail. Distributors who committed to making paper disappear either did not do so in the end or did it in very small volumes. I believe in the complementarity of the supports, each has their own strengths and aspects for improvement.”

An enduring partnership

Stora Enso and Carrefour have been in partnership for a very long time and on a broader scope than just France. The relationship is completely transparent, and the two companies are open and frank with each other about issues that need to be discussed. Carrefour counts on Stora Enso as a trusted partner who is always ready to listen to Carrefour’s aspirations and needs for developing and optimising the business. As Carles puts it, “We work really well together.”

Debora Carles
Photo by Antoine Doyen

We use an omnichannel approach to encourage sales and to promote brand loyalty.

Deborah Carles, Communications Director at Carrefour France, sees print advertising as a key element in a retailer’s marketing mix.

Carrefour in brief

  • The first Carrefour shop opened in the 1960s.
  • Today, there are over 12,000 stores worldwide, employing over 360,000 people and serving 104 million customer households, with sales of over 80 billion euros.
  • Carrefour’s websites get 1.3 million visitors a day.