Ever since John Doerr and a few friends coined the term “SoLoMo” to describe the convergence between social, local, and mobile, marketers have embraced the idea of connecting with consumers — as they described it in a 2010 TechCrunch piece — “seamlessly, unobtrusively, and comfortably in the spaces between us, between you and me and others.”
Four years later, the SoLoMo concept is still relevant, although the buzzword “omnichannel” has started to be used as a container term encompassing the “next best thing” (and more). While marketers are still working to make omnichannel engagement a reality, some SoLoMo tactics continue to be effective — and evolve — especially for driving retail sales.
Social has evolved quickly over the past several years, shifting from an environment companies could use to push brand discovery into a hub for more meaningful customer interactions, product recommendations, and the delivery of highly targeted promotional content. According to Experian, social media now accounts for almost 8% of all traffic to retail websites, with Pinterest leading the way. Retailers help feed social’s value by promoting their channels and enabling social sharing of their marketing and product content, creating a virtuous circle that drives eCommerce and spills over into in-store sales as well.
Retailers like REI leverage Pinterest to highlight relevant products and connect consumers directly to their eCommerce site.
Knowing social’s impact on online and in-store revenue has led many brands to invest more heavily in advancing its capabilities — designing more intuitive experiences that lead towards those sales. Pinterest makes an API available so retailers can see their most popular pins, most relevant pins, and most recently-pinned products. Platforms like Tumblr (now part of the Yahoo! family) and Instagram are offering fuller-size “native” units that work seamlessly within apps on mobile to showcase crisp product images, and link to specific product pages. Additionally, social media pacesetters Facebook and Twitter are working on “buy now” functionality, enabling consumers to skip a step and transact directly within the same browsing experience.
A sales slide from Yahoo’s Tumblr. They are aggressively leveraging their new native units to get on consumer marketing plans
Back in 2010, when Facebook was busy launching “Places,” and Foursquare was the hot app to “check in” with, marketers were just starting to get a better sense of how to leverage location data to drive in-store sales. Today, thanks to the ubiquity of mobile phones featuring geolocation technology and advances in content management, marketers can localize content and offers at very granular levels — even down to the store aisles, thanks to push notifications and beacon technology.
Perhaps the biggest change in retail marketing stems from what Proctor and Gamble’s terms “the moment of truth” in marketing (understanding why a consumer chose between one product and another when standing in front of a store shelf) merging with Google’s “zero moment of truth” (the fact that every consumer with a smartphone knows everything knowable about the product in front of him). Controlling that experience in-store, when the consumer has instant price and review information in the palm of their hand, is a challenge that will only increase over time as more and more retailers and brands engage consumers with more sophisticated localized experiences and shoppers’ increasingly demand them.
Localized offers remain the most relevant to consumers because of their immediate availability — whether they are want or needs-based. And today, “local” means leveraging those desires and demands to create higher quality in-store experiences — where a majority of sales still occur — utilizing targeted data and localizing features. For example, dynamic pricing data can offer consumers prices in direct competition with a nearby retailer, as well as target specific offers based on local inventory conditions.
The real bottom line, though, when it comes to local is understanding the importance mobile has taken on as the primary means by which shoppers are now engaging content locally. Consumers are using their smartphones to help them shop — before and during their trips in-store — so brands must decide whether or not to help them make purchasing decisions though mobile devices with locally relevant content. Those that do are far more likely to see greater sales, particularly in-store.
It’s time to stop thinking about mobile as another channel or a device type, and acknowledge that mobile is really a behavior, making it first among equals when it comes to a contemporary understand of “SoLoMo.” The notion “mobile first” — the idea that companies should consider developing their marketing primarily for mobile consumption — is not just a marketing meme, it’s a reality that accurately captures how today’s consumers are interacting with retail and CPG promotional content.
With mobile phone usage nearing ubiquity (research shows 90 percent of people have a mobile phone, and over 56 percent in the developed world have a smartphone), mobile is now the primary way people are accessing the Internet. Just recently, daily mobile device usage (at 1.8 hours) surpassed both TV (1.5 hours) and desktop (1.6 hours) to become the primary place we spend our time.
Mobile is also a playground for exploration, where interactive apps can generate data to drive deeper product insights and consumer engagement. Newer applications, such as in-image advertising, can leverage the power of mobile images by dropping interactive “hotspots” onto them. For example, they could be placed onto part of an outfit a celebrity is wearing, allowing viewers of a gossip blog’s mobile site to click the item to learn more about it and purchase it for themselves. This sort of experience drives a seamless, positive interaction with shoppers, where they self-select the marketing “disruption.”
But mobile also expands beyond tablets and smartphones. Apple’s iBeacon announcement and Google’s acquisition of Nest are at the tip of a huge iceberg, and a sign that “mobile” is quickly moving beyond something someone holds in their hand (or wears on their wrist, with the iWatch). Mobile is everywhere — in entertainment systems, kitchen appliances, cars, and other parts of the home. New iterations and placement of mobile receptors will enable marketers to push data to consumers (and vice versa) in ways we haven’t even begun to fully imagine — enabling advertisers to connect directly with consumers with the highest degree of localized relevance.
Google’s Nest is gathering data inside your home, and making it available on your mobile device. Will a new app be able to tell you the pollen count, and offer you 20% off on Benedryl at a participating pharmacy?
“Social, local, mobile” has not died. Rather, in four years it has matured well beyond the original vision of connecting consumers in the “spaces” between steps on their path to purchase. Mobile now completely occupies all of those spaces, but in ways that even the legendary technologists that coined the phrase could not foresee. For marketers — especially in the spheres of retail and CPG — the new reality of SoLoMo is a world in which mobile is the container for socially-connected applications and ad channels in which the end user is always local. Marketers who can think “mobile first” and design engaging, meaningful experiences for consumers no matter where they are will win big.