Marketers know that the most powerful way to engage consumers is directly via email and mobile apps and messaging. Consumers agree: They want their smartphones to offer relevant information before and during brick-and-mortar shopping expeditions. In this post we’ll cover how consumers want to engage with retailers, and then examine how digital media, including The Atlantic and The Guardian, are working to re-engage readers directly.

How Consumers Want Their Technology To Integrate With Brick and Mortar Shopping Experiences

Consumers of all ages want their mobile devices to make shopping in the physical world easier and more personalized, according to a survey from the International Council of Shopping Centers. Survey participants were asked how they’d like to use their devices while in-store and what personalized information they want from retailers before they head to the mall.

While in stores shopping, consumers say that by 2020 they want their mobile devices to enable them to do the following:

  • Get access to products and sizes without engaging a salesperson (62%)
  • Virtually view how home furnishings and accessories fit with their own décor before purchase (55%)
  • Use a store app to create a shopping list and then receive a floor map for finding those items (54%)

Regarding personalized experiences, consumers said they want:

  • Notifications about sales and promotions or special events while shopping (80% of those with mall or shopping center apps installed)
  • Personalized pricing based on shopping patterns and demographics (43%)

Some 39% said they would visit malls or shopping centers more often after receiving store alerts about products that interest them.

These responses reveal two trends. First, consumer expectations and desires for shopping in the physical world are increasingly being shaped by ecommerce. Secondly, consumers welcome promotions and pitches that are relevant to them.

The Atlantic Doubles Down on Direct Reader Connections

In 2016, the Atlantic was able to increase its audience by 30% and its revenues by 20% by using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to reach readers. But these gains did not help to boost The Atlantic’s brand.

“In an unbundled world, you may not really think about The Atlantic as a brand if you’re looking at a single story or Facebook post,” Bob Cohn, president of The Atlantic commented to DigiDay.

The publication is now moving away from this platform-agnostic strategy, and instead is trying to make more direct connections with readers and is trying to persuade more people to subscribe. Tactics include:

  • Tailoring subscription offers based on how frequently someone visits the site or the types of stories they read
  • Timely offers, such as bundling a subscription with a limited-edition poster of the January/February issue’s cover, “My President was Black.”
  • Initiating more interaction with readers, such as a monthly email from the editor-in-chief, conference calls with writers, and a welcome package for new subscribers about The Atlantic’s legacy

Despite the success of its platform distribution strategy, The Atlantic’s switch to a direct reader strategy shows once again that owning and controlling consumer engagement can be more powerful than millions of shares.

To Boost Revenue The Guardian Backs Out of Platform Distribution

After a year of publishing all its articles in Facebook’s Instant Articles, The Guardian has decided to pull its content off Facebook. At the same time, it also has stopped publishing on Apple News, reports DigiDay. This change in strategy stems from a need to drive readers directly to the paper’s site to increase subscriptions. The paper’s goal to reach one million paying subscribers by 2019, a tall order to be sure.

“Having evaluated these trials, we have decided to stop publishing on both platforms. Our primary objective is to bring audiences to the trusted environment of the Guardian to support building deeper relationships with our readers, and growing membership and contributions to fund our world-class journalism,” a Guardian News and Media spokesperson commented.

The Guardian is latest in a string of marquee publishers, including The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic and The New York Times, that have either dropped or significantly cut back on their use of Instant Articles. The bottom line: platform distribution doesn’t support either the editorial or commercial objectives of modern digital media. Direct engagement is the only path to meet these objectives.