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SoLoMo: What’s Behind the Hype?

The term SoLoMo (Social-Local-Mobile) might sound like a bunch of gibberish, even to marketers.

In fact, popular opinion about SoLoMo seems a little mixed: Some experts hail the ability to combine the location of shoppers with the mobile devices they’re using and their social media presence as a great way to effectively target and drive sales.

Others, however, aren’t so positive about the trend: TechCrunch’s “You Say SoLoMo, I Say I Hate My Life” blog post says the buzzword “outrages all decency and common sense.”

In our research on SoLoMo, we found only 38% of people said they would reveal their current location in order to get deals or offers. (For more of our research findings, as well as some tips for making the most of consumers’ smartphone behaviors to support their omnichannel shopping experiences, check out the infographic, “The Retailers’ Guide to SoLoMo,” at the bottom of this post.)

So we turned to Greg Sterling, the founding principal of consulting and research firm Sterling Market Intelligence, to find out more about SoLoMo, as well as what ecommerce businesses and retailers should be doing now to drive omnichannel traffic using this strategy.

Q: What do you think is the most important aspect of SoLoMo?

Greg Sterling

A: Mobile and local are the most important aspects of SoLoMo. Mobile is a different form factor and user experience and, in a commercial context, the behavior is generally tied to a location or area. You can have the “Mo” without the “Lo,” but they’re connected at the hip when you’re talking about commerce.

Q: Why should SoLoMo matter to retailers?

A: Mobile customers are typically much more ready to buy than online shoppers. Their needs are more immediate. Out in the world they’re often looking for store locations, hours, and inventory items. Retailers who offer positive mobile experiences (via apps, mobile sites) are going to be rewarded by shoppers.

Mobile can also provide a kind of customer service function in stores and beyond the store by supplying information or answering questions if/when a sales associate isn’t available. And customers who’ve signed up for emails or notifications within apps can be triggered to buy things and come into stores with more customized offers and so on.

In other words, there are a range of things, from customer acquisition and loyalty to customer care and retention, that mobile can help with.

Q: Many successful SoLoMo campaigns rely on geofencing to drive relevant offers to opt-in users based on their proximity to a store location. What are the best ways to take advantage of this and what are some pitfalls to avoid?

A: Retailers shouldn’t expect people to immediately stop what they’re doing and visit a store after they receive one of these alerts.

However, they can be quite effective promotional tools that prompt people to visit the location within a short period of time thereafter. They can act as reminders of a sale or event, or the need to shop for a seasonal item (e.g., “Winter’s coming! Get ready with a new pair of boots!”).

Offers should be meaningful and not trivial—although alerts don’t always have to offer deals and discounts—and users shouldn’t be spammed. Too much SMS or notifications activity (which is a question for experimentation) can turn off end users.

Q: What is the one step you think retailers should take right now in regards to SoLoMo?

A: The most basic thing to do is have a mobile website that is easy to use. Don’t expect a lot of ecommerce on mobile devices today, but make it easy for people to find and contact stores, with prominent placement of phone numbers and store hours.

Many mobile shoppers will use Google to find store locations. And iPhone users will rely on Apple Maps to lead them to stores in many cases.

Make sure that all store location information is complete, up-to-date, and present in Google’s database/index. That now also goes for Apple Maps; however, getting information into or corrected in Apple Maps is more complicated.

Apps, if well done, can promote loyalty and greatly increase engagement with customers.

Retailers should strongly consider building a mobile app if they don’t have one already. And they should look into Urban Airship’s in-app geotargeted notifications capabilities.

I know you only asked for one thing. However I’d also consider paid-search marketing for mobile. It’s cheaper than PC search right now, and it can be very effective because of the “higher intent” demonstrated by most mobile users. Retailers should consider bidding on their own brands and against inventory items. Consumers will be searching for specific products or items, and that can lead shoppers to your store.

SoLoMo: What’s Behind the Hype? image The Retailers Guide to SoLoMo 600

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