Grocery store chains wade through oceans of data to present shoppers with just the right offers. Comosoft’s integration with Adobe InDesign makes that process cost-effective.
The retail grocery industry is changing. Chains are struggling with thin margins and fierce competition. Online-enabled convenience ordering has displaced weekly, pantry-loading trips to the store. Automated, printed store circulars are still a critical means of directing shoppers to featured items, but mobile shopping apps are on the rise. So are click-and-collect processes and in-store digital offers.
A typical grocery chain with 200 stores in seven states will produce up to 200 versions of its 4- to 8-page specials circular every week! Without the right data management (and a rock-solid connection to Adobe InDesign), production processes are not cost effective.
At the core of these changes are vast oceans of data. Each of the thousands of items in an individual store represents hundreds of data points—from the images and descriptions in a DAM System to the product information in a PIM System or ERP system to the ever-changing marketing data, like pricing, inventory, margins, and sales priority, in one or more databases or spreadsheets. Multiply those data by the number of regions and branch locations in a grocery chain and you’ll see how big the data universe is.
The challenge of course is to turn all that data into meaningful messaging, which in turn guides shoppers to the right products with attractive offers. And, despite the hyperbole, printed circulars and inserts are still the primary vehicle for doing just that. A colorful, well-organized print piece is, for a majority of shoppers, the roadmap of choice.
Automating the Versioning Challenge
Adobe InDesign is overwhelmingly the tool of choice for creating printed retail collateral. Its design and pagination power is unique and effective. InDesign also makes good use of templates and reusable graphic elements, giving the designer the power to control the final appearance in a minimum amount of time.
For grocery retailers, however, the problem with InDesign is twofold. First, the InDesign user must glean, collate, and coordinate just the right data from the proverbial oceans mentioned earlier. There are systems for doing this, but most of these are one-way “pipelines” from DAM and PIM systems that the user must process manually.
The LAGO system includes a planning whiteboard, where marketing and department leads can drag-and-drop products and offers to their preferred positions. (Automatic placement is also possible without the whiteboarding step.) The LAGO plugin for Adobe InDesign automatically populates the circular page, and the designer can focus on page appearance. With the right permissions, he or she can also make changes that are automatically sent to the LAGO database. With directly linked data and assets, changes/updates can also be driven directly from the data to the page(s).
The second, and much more serious problem involves versioning. Most grocery chains have multiple stores in many different parts of the country. Each store has different sales priorities and supply issues, so for every weekly “master” circular there will be hundreds of store-specific versions.
One reason for multiple versions goes far beyond marketing strategy. Regional regulations governing the sale of alcohol are maddeningly complex. For example, if a store is prohibited from selling beer and/or wine and/or liquor if it is within a certain distance from a school, a separate version must be created for that store.
Using InDesign to create and manage each version is a cost and scheduling nightmare. Fortunately, Comosoft’s LAGO system creates a symbiotic relationship between the PIM/DAM universe and the page layout professionals using Adobe InDesign. Data from the central repositories are prioritized by authorized department heads and/or marketing management. A visual “whiteboard” may be used to visually organize the featured products, offers, and other data. Multiple versions for each circular can be created and managed automatically, at a typical labor savings of up to 30%.
An important piece of the puzzle is the LAGO InDesign Plugin, which turns each page design station into a connected branch of the LAGO workflow. Logged-in designers receive assignments, including auto-filled, template-based pages with all the specified products and offers in place. This includes a myriad of details from the connected DAM or PIM, so they can focus on overall design rather than small details.
Multiple versions for each circular can be created and managed automatically, at a typical labor savings of up to 30% – 40%.
Once the appearance of the page is refined, they can mark it as “done” and automatically generate a LAGO PDF proof, using Adobe InDesign Server running in the background. LAGO allows managers to annotate the LAGO PDF and request changes, which are automatically displayed directly in the LAGO InDesign page. Changes and approvals to master issues and multiple versions are tracked automatically and print-ready files are dispatched to the right printing facility. With the right privileges, an InDesign user can also make changes to pricing or other information, which are automatically “round tripped” to the appropriate database.
How can grocery retailers use this data in the future?
Although print will continue as a mainstay for many years, grocery marketing is rapidly expanding into the world of connected devices. Smartphone apps, often using scannable shelf labels in lieu of paper coupons, direct users to the desired items and process the price discounts and purchase totals through the user’s loyalty account. The same click-to-buy methodology is also used to power at-home grocery ordering and touchscreen kiosks at many stores’ expanded food court locations. Weekly specials in a printed flyer are also replicated in the store’s app, which can also direct the shopper to the right aisle.
Behind all this digital magic is the same data used to power the multi-version print workflow. LAGO in particular preserves the curated data from each printed piece and exports it to “feed” the chain’s digital channels. As with the print workflow, the digital counterpart is designed to satisfy the shopper’s demands for convenience with a minimum of manual or custom programming and data handling.
For grocery retailers, data can be more than a cost of doing business. It can be the means of preparing for the future.