The CEO of supermarket chain Metro says the rise of digital marketing and loyalty programs could reduce the size and availability of the ubiquitous printed flyer.

Eric La Fleche says weekly flyers that are designed to lure customers to stores will likely remain a key marketing tool, especially for discount outlets.

But he told analysts attending an investor day in Toronto on Wednesday that the growing use of the Internet by customers could eventually shrink the number of flyer pages or reduce distribution to some urban areas.

Like supermarket chains across Canada, Montreal-based Metro has invested heavily in the past few years in technology.

It linked up with data mining company Dunnhumby about five years ago in a bid to boost customer loyalty. It also developed a loyalty card in Quebec and uses Air Miles in Ontario to track the buying habits of consumers and deliver targeted discounts.

La Fleche says grocery e-commerce is minimal in Canada today, but he adds that the company is preparing should it take off in coming years as it has in some countries.

Marc Giroux, chief marketing and communications officer for Metro, says today’s consumers are empowered by technology not just to shop for great deals but also share their views on brands.

He says retailers have to respond by using technology to deliver more relevance and value to shoppers.

Metro’s programs deliver personalized digital flyers to millions of loyalty customers, along with personalized coupons, recipes and grocery lists.

The company says the 100 million personalized contacts with customers is increasing the frequency of store visits and helping drive sales in Ontario and Quebec.

Although millennials have the closest relationship with technology, Giroux says the grocer’s mobile app is used by customers from all age groups.

Metro, which has more than 65,000 employees, operates in excess of 600 stores in Ontario and Quebec, along with more than 250 pharmacies operating under the Brunet, the Pharmacy and Drug Basics banners.

from Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press