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Meredith exec: Mobile innovation will be driven by solving consumer problems

During the “Fireside Chat: ROE: Return on Engagement” session, executives from Meredith, Carat and Epsilon Agency Services spoke about how mobile has shifted the path to purchase for consumers and brands. The session was moderated by Scott Gamble, vice president of digital solutions at Alliance Data, Columbus, OH.

“I always try to come back to the simple thing of innovation will be driven by companies that are smart enough to solve relatively-simple problems, and if you understand the issues that consumers are facing, you can then design solutions that make sense for them,” said Liz Schimel, executive vice president and chief digital officer at Meredith National Media Group, New York.

“The beauty of mobile is that it opens up a bunch of new avenues, but I don’t think we’ve seen a ton of really great connected experiences that solve problems,” she said.

“To be valuable to the advertisers, you’ve got to be developing these relevant experiences for your consumers in ways that advertising can get integrated that’s not disruptive.”

Contextual is key
Meredith’s focus as a service-oriented company means that mobile plays a critical role in the decision-making process for its readers.

Although the company’s core group of advertisers – consumer-packaged-goods brands – have been slower than some industry sectors to move into mobile, there is a tremendous opportunity to connect with women to trigger impulse sales.

For example, 50 percent of Meredith’s audience of consumers that look for recipes are doing it on mobile devices in-store, which the publishing company leverages to integrate brands into the mix, according to Ms. Schimel.

Meredith is heavily investing in data to create contextually-relevant experiences for readers. For example, finding ways to tie offline and online pieces of data together to get a more holistic view of the consumer is important.

“What’s still very fragmented is the solution to that last mile at retail is not yet as seamless and user-friendly as it needs to be,” Ms. Schimel said.“As a company, from a path to purchase point of view, we are [about] inspiration into action.

“We are not as a big publishing company going to solve that last mile piece that is so fragmented and challenging,” she said. “What we are focused on is for our female consumer to have a great experience going from inspiration to decision-making to the tools to the couponing to the information on sales to the point where we can track pretty far down the funnel and integrated advertising into the shopping tools, and she has put something on a shopping list that is branded, we have pretty good data to show that sales are aligned, and our clients will respond to that.

“That connecting the last piece to scanning that coupon in retail – there are a lot of things and innovations going on in that space, but I don’t think anyone has nailed it yet.”

In-store experience
According to Jason Newport, senior vice president and head of mobile at Carat, New York, one of the biggest opportunities with mobile is around building in-store engagements.

Take one of Carat’s clients, Home Depot, for example.

There is an opportunity to use mobile to increase dwell time, cross-sell and upsell for the brand’s core group of male consumers through tools such as a mobile circular while a consumer is in a store.

Additionally, all Home Depot stores have in-store mapping features built into the company’s mobile app, which presents a particularly big opportunity.

“That’s the one main shift that has happened over the last year is that mobile assets like the smartphone have become so valuable in-store as almost a remote control to that environment,” Mr. Newport said.

Final Take