2013 has been heralded as the year of SoLoMo – Social, Local, Mobile – really takes off. SoLoMo could bring a revolution in retailing, marketing, consumer research, public relations – to name a few, as it becomes the ultimate loyalty card, direct mailshot, secret shopper, and feedback loop. Companies will need to be more agile, able to provide real-time relevance to hyper-connected consumers.

What is changing?

SoLoMo – the combination of Social Local and Mobile – stems from the coming together of technologies such as smart phones, GPS, faster download times, Apps galore, more payment power, better cameras and ever more social networking options. Owners of smart phones, the core technology for SoLoMo, passed the one-billion-post worldwide in the latter part of 2012; that number is expected to double by 2015. As the spread of smart phones and their capabilities gather pace, and consumers can carry the world in their pockets, so 2013 can be seen as the year of lift-off for the world of SoLoMo.

The power of SoLoMo is access: personalised promotions, in real time to real people, in specific places and contexts, with the option to share thus becoming the ultimate word of mouth. And SoLoMo aficionados are hyper connected, sharing and liking more than most.  They are also above average spenders on music and clothes, following brands, sharing opinions on TV programmes.

A host of SoLoMo apps are emerging to enable and drive the progress with varying degrees of success and a range of approaches. Kibits allows the formation of very local groups; Wallit is a cross between graffiti and augmented reality – people can tag locations with comments; and Shopkick, which has an estimated 3 million plus active users who win points in stores and generated $110 million revenues in 2011.

Why is this important?

For those who do get it right, this will be marketing nirvana.

With SoLoMo, speed and relevance are everything. But many companies are being criticised for not keeping pace, unable to adapt to this new world fast enough. For those who do get it right, this will be marketing nirvana – one to one, personalised promotions – the ultimate mailshot; for those unable to adapt, more likely market annihilation.

SoLoMo could create a more even playing field, with small businesses, in theory, able to compete as well as big ones. The merging of real and virtual worlds could ‘recreate’ and reinvigorate local stores, encouraging loyalty with promotions and advice. One example, albeit from a large company, was La Redoute, which during summer 2012 organised a treasure hunt where consumers collected points for finding specific locations; the more points the more opportunities they had for winning vouchers.

Market research will also change. Mystery shoppers will be able to capture the shopping experience in real-time. Big data is already the focus of investment for predictive marketing; SoLoMo will provide a rich seam.

Smartphone fans are not just social media fans; they are using their devices for researching options and finding what’s around local to them, there and then. But while immediate sales conversions are low at present, many of those busy smartphone users go on to buy within 24 hours; or to call or visit a store. If companies are to avoid show-rooming – where consumers use stores to touch, feel and try goods, before buying elsewhere having found the best deal via their phone – they need to find ways to engage and encourage, serve and support, connect and capture the sale.  Encouraging shoppers back with offers and promotions for loyalty and then again in-store, making sure that searches result in the location of the nearest outlet, supporting convenience and access with free in-store Wi-Fi, making choosing and paying as easy as possible

Consumers are at present happy to trade personal data for deals and convenience, but the growing quantities of data may begin to raise alarms and rebellions (See Trend alert, Big data about you). Companies will have to ensure that they are able to avoid access becoming annoyance, informing being seen as intruding or invading, deals feeling more like deluges. The growing rebellion against Google glass may be an early indicator of consumers fighting back against intrusion to protect privacy – whether that spreads to other areas remains to be seen. In the meantime, real-time relevance and rapid response will continue to be the name of the game.

By Sheila Moorcroft

About the author


Sheila has over 20 years experience helping clients capitalise on change – identifying changes in their business environment, assessing the implications and responding effectively to them. As Research Director at Shaping Tomorrow she has completed many futures projects on topics as diverse as health care, telecommunications, innovation management, and premium products for clients in the public and private sectors. Sheila also writes a weekly Trend Alert to highlight changes that might affect a wide range of organisations.

Photo: Payment with Smartphone from