What is So(Social) Lo(Local) Mo(Mobile) and Why is it important to Marketers?

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SoMoLo is an acronym for Social+Mobile+Local marketing and it is an increasingly common term referring to a new marketing approach. You may have read plenty about each of the individual elements; if so, you’re likely to be asking questions like:

  • Isn’t this just semantics?
  • What’s so different?
  • Where is the opportunity?

Good questions. But hopefully when you’ve finished reading this post, I’ll dispel any question about whether SoMoLo is just a matter of semantics, and I’ll prove to you that a traditional marketing approach will leave Marketers disappointed. In contrast, Marketers who approach today’s SoMoLo consumer with a new mindset are delving into exciting territory with plenty of opportunity.

Before explaining its importance and relevance to Marketers, I’ll briefly touch on each of the three aspects of SoMoLo—social, mobile and local.

Social: Consumers are social

And by social, I mean, not only are they talking a lot, but with the prevalence of social technology, they are well connected. Consumers are now able to receive and transmit information more easily and instantaneously than ever before, which has transformed the way they buy products and services.

Consumers no longer look to brands as the primary source of information; today they are more likely to consult third party resources and others in their social networks. Common social activities are seeking advice, reading or writing reviews, or sharing their experiences with their social network.

“What are the implications of all this sharing and connectedness?” Get this: 62% of all online shoppers read product-related comments from friends on Facebook and 75% of these shoppers click through to the retailer’s site. (source: Sociable Labs Social Impact Study). How’s that for O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y?

According to Pew research, 45% of mobile device owners use their devices to seek advice from friends and families while they are in a store; another statistic that shows how much influence peers have on purchasing decisions.

Mobile: Today’s Consumer is Largely Defined by Their Mobility

The mobility of consumers, coupled with the ability to shop on their smartphones or tablets makes the modern shopping experience one that looks nothing like that of yesteryear.

Shopping used to be a much different experience; just a few decades ago, many families would put on their Sunday best to go shopping downtown and make a day of it. No longer is shopping an activity in and of itself. Now, shopping can be almost an afterthought, done in pajamas at home, or from the passenger seat of a car while traveling.

Nielsen estimates 50% of US consumers will own a smartphone by the end of 2012. Tablets are rapidly growing in popularity as well; tablet ownership has almost quadrupled in the last 14 months to 19% of the US population (source: Pew Internet and American Life Project). In another study, 82% of smartphone owners said they always have their phones with them when they are in-store (source: Vibes Mobile Consumer Report). Mobile devices are influencing consumer behaviors in ways that were unimaginable only a few short years ago.

Don’t overlook the fact that consumer mobility increases the necessity of merging social and mobile. Your Favorite Social Site Can Also Be Your Mobile Site’s Best Friend highlights how utilizing social platforms with benefits specific to mobile users is one way to ensure your business isn’t behind the curve.

Local: Consumers get Social Where They Are

65 million Americans use mobile or location based services (source: Pew). The proportion of smartphone owners using location-based services has grown almost 35% in less than a year to 74% in February of 2012, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Typically location-based platforms are driven by some type of promotional offer, in which a company offers an opportunity for consumers to comment, rate and share their experiences with their business. Although there are many local platforms like Foursquare, SCVNGR, Yelp, Around Me, etc., don’t overlook email. Amazon is using email to deliver hyper-local offers.

38% of smartphone owners were open to receive promotional messages via SMS when the messages were based on their location (source: Consumer Perceptions of Mobile Marketing for Strongmail). This statistic reveals what an opportunity local marketing can be; local relevancy heightens consumer interest in receiving messages right where they are, quite the antithesis to usual consumer reaction to unwanted email/junk-mail promotions.

New Marketing Landscape

So, how is SoMoLo different? The opportunity is found in creating a dynamic, relevant customer experience by:

  • Linking the three elements together. Engage consumers at the intersection of social, mobile and local.

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  • Aligning all internal resources, especially those in direct contact with the consumer. This is crucial for SoMoLo to be successful. If you’re successfully running a promotion, but your front-line staff isn’t trained and aware, missed opportunity is inevitable.

Consumers’ seamless moves between channels and platforms make it incumbent on Marketers to have an integrated strategy. Someone can check-in to a store using a location based app like Foursquare, redeem an offer, share a comment on that platform, then immediately post an update to their Facebook wall or other platform, all the while referencing the retailer’s Facebook page.

Businesses must also be aware of other location based applications such as SCVNGR, Yelp, and Around Me that allow consumers to rate and comment on their experience.

New SoMoLo Mindset Required

A SoMoLo marketing strategy has the customer experience at the very heart. Increasingly, consumers want to be part of the process. Most marketers are conditioned to “sell”. Traditional marketing is about determining the product or service benefits based on features, then packaging these in marketing materials.

The new mindset is about helping consumers by providing relevant content to help them find, buy and use your products or services.

This new approach begins by focusing on the consumer. Now more than ever marketer’s must “walk in a customer’s shoes” and identify where the customer experience isn’t up to par. This requires embracing a growth mindset, being curious, asking questions, and thoughtfully considering each step of the buying cycle. Stepping through the customers’ path to purchase, diligently pursue solutions and content for the multitude of ways customers happen upon your place of business.

Listen to conversations taking place in this new space. Audit your social presence and be sure to avoid 4 Common Mistakes Companies Make When Mixing Social and Marketing. Then adapt to the needs and challenges being articulated by consumers. There is no “one size fits all” solution; implementing solutions in this land of opportunity will require experimentation.

Of course, the critical goal is still selling products or services, but hopefully in a way that creates loyal consumers who will ultimately use more of what you have to offer and tell others too…in large part because of the stellar customer experience you’ve provided.

SoMoLo Opportunity

A successful SoMoLo strategy benefits Marketers, not only by increasing business, but by transforming consumer behaviors. When SoMoLo campaigns are successful, consumer engagement with the brand increases. Consumers feel connected to the brand and become loyal brand advocates. Through word-of-mouth sharing, consumers can build a brand. Loyal consumers are also willing to offer feedback and help identify issues that the brand can improve upon. Knowing that they have a voice, consumers and businesses benefit from a spirit of collaboration, co-creation and innovation, which turns into a win-win.

What ways is your company embracing SoMoLo marketing?

Please plan on attending our free webinar on Thursday, November 1st at 10:00 AM PST, co-hosted by Neal Schaffer, where we will define and discuss SoMoLo in more detail to help you leverage this new trend for your marketing. Please follow this link to register.

Joe Ruiz
This monthly Social Customer Experience Marketing column is contributed by Joseph Ruiz. Joseph is President of Strategic Marketing Solutions, a full-service marketing and consulting firm specializing in web-based integrated Relationship Marketing. Joseph thrives on the ever-changing nature of marketing in the digital age, embracing interactive opportunities, while applying three decades of hands-on expertise in online and traditional marketing. When he’s not helping business-makers navigate through complex marketing challenges, Joseph enjoys reading, working out and traveling just about anywhere…anywhere you can get a digital signal, that is. +Joseph Ruiz
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