6 Workflow Steps You Really Need If You Manage Retail Circular Production
Printed retail circulars (a.k.a., inserts or flyers) are still vital today in a chain’s marketing arsenal. Properly done, they are a crucial “treasure map” for the typical shopper. If they’re produced by a sophisticated data ecosystem, they can even provide information and incentives for their digital counterparts in real-time.
The process for creating these sophisticated marketing pieces can be complex, tedious, and expensive. Layout planning can be done on handwritten notes, separate Excel spreadsheets, or both. Asset management and page design can be just as laborious—manually finding, opening, or placing images and text in InDesign, using a separate server with no DAM. Proofing and approval can consist of physical proof output and markup, accompanied by endless email and phone conversations. Worst of all, the final product could consist of individual PDFs for each version—without even considering content and data for digital channels.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are six highly automated workflows that can eliminate manual drudgery—a godsend to beleaguered retail planning and production workers everywhere.
- Campaign Planning
Retail product managers and designers are often scattered around offices worldwide, especially with the recent rise in remote working. Comosoft LAGO provides a common whiteboarding environment for all stakeholders. Marketing managers can easily select the products to be featured based on profitability, availability, and other factors, and designate where they should appear in the circular. They can also insert store specials and other variables. The data for these decisions are available instantly from the retailer’s integrated Product Information Management (PIM) system, Digital Asset Management (DAM), and related databases. Once a campaign is underway, the marketing manager can track the success of a particular product or group of products.
- Asset Management
In LAGO, the marketing manager and designer do not have to manually locate and update the many images, descriptions, SKU numbers, and countless other variables associated with each retail product. Instead, LAGO’s integration with DAM systems pulls in and allocates all of these elements—plus special offers—as “blocks” of related visual pieces for a designer to finesse in Adobe InDesign. Suppose a product image or other component is replaced or modified in the DAM. In that case, it automatically updates in the layout, right up to the moment the file goes to print.
- The Production Process
Although Adobe InDesign is the premiere design and editing environment for the printed page, doing so manually is time-consuming and prone to user errors. Retail circulars are vulnerable to these problems because each product on the page involves a lot of related text and image elements. Fortunately, LAGO provides a design management environment that automates manual tasks while giving designers the freedom to do their job well. Related product information and images stay connected to their respective data sources.
- The Proofing Process
Manually created proofs and disconnected markups are a thing of the past. Instead, LAGO can automatically generate a digital proof of any project (and its localized versions) for online review and annotation. Timestamped comments and corrections can be easily found, creating a reliable audit trail for process improvement and incentive purposes. The user-added correction marks are linked at the offer and/or page level and overlaid directly on the document in InDesign. Change requests are easily and automatically conveyed to the production designer.
- The Approval Process
During the review process, it is normal for more than one person to check the piece for accuracy and approve any proposed changes or corrections. In the past, this was a laborious, hand-off process—even with digital page files. With LAGO, the approval process is concurrent and highly automated. Authorized managers are notified of pending changes and can review and approve (or modify) them from anywhere in the world. LAGO’s integrated, visual approach reduces the time required for approval and significantly decreases the total time-to-market for multiple circulars and their regional or store-specific versions. In addition, the status of any component of a campaign can be tracked and easily monitored, allowing possible bottlenecks to be easily identified and handled.
- Production Output
Print runs for multiple versions of a complex retail circular used to be a logistical challenge. Retailers without LAGO spend enormous resources customizing different product offerings based on regional and individual store input—with every manual edit introducing the possibility of costly errors. They also had to coordinate with multiple printers across the country or region, making sure the correct quantity of the right version was produced—week after week—in every location. Comosoft LAGO has mastered the production challenge: creating and automatically managing unlimited versions of each piece. Each is customized to the needs of a region or store while still maintaining solid links to the PIM and DAM data. Thus, a designer’s hard work in creating one circular is automatically repurposed for multiple, region-specific versions, all under the control of the company’s marketing strategy.
Printed circulars also have an online companion—the retailer’s mobile app or browser-based content. Each offer in a circular or version must also have the same offer online, with the same region- or store-specific variations. Fortunately, this does not have to involve “re-inventing the wheel”. LAGO campaign data for printed circulars export to an online mobile app—including product availability and location in a particular store.
The drudgery of creating circulars and other retail marketing material is a costly burden for any organization. Thankfully, manual labor (and the potential for expensive mistakes) is significantly reduced via intelligent integration of a company’s data sources with the workflow automation available in Comosoft LAGO.