Are You Going SoLoMo? – The Combined Power of Social, Local and Mobile Commerce

Do you speak SoLoMo? Despite sounding like something you’d order at a Starbucks, it stands for: Social, Local and Mobile, as they apply to media, applications and technology. SoLoMo combines the best of all worlds to deliver an experience that’s as natural to do on a mobile device as it is in real life; bridging the gap between user and website.

Some of the best examples of SoLoMo in action include GoWalla, Foursquare and Groupon – service startups that use social marketing and mobile check-ins as a way to drive business to local merchants.  But even these cutting-edge services are only scratching the surface of what’s possible.  The good news is, you don’t have to have a retail storefront to take advantage of this growing trend.

What Exactly is Mobile Commerce?

Contrary to popular belief, mobile commerce is not simply buying something with your smartphone.  Most of the time, the website you bought from happened to use a mobile-friendly interface that made the exchange easier, but at its core (and at the risk of splitting hairs here), that’s not true mobile commerce.

Mobile commerce, and its SoLoMo cousin, include features that let you purchase goods by way of an app that acts as a go-between from your smartphone to the store, cutting the website completely out of the picture.  And, interestingly enough, people seem to prefer it this way – with 60% of mobile users making a purchase through their phone from their home.

chipotle restaurant mobile app

Order burritos and tacos from the comfort of home with Chipotle’s smartphone app

Adding the Social and Local to the Mobile Commerce Picture

The real advantage to SoLoMo is being able to customize deals, coupons and offers for individual customers, either based on their prior shopping history with the store, or by way of their likes and shares on social networks.  Considering that 80% of mobile users prefer local-based ads and 75% are more likely to take action after seeing a relevant local ad – this presents a huge opportunity for retailers to segment their offers and reach customers with personalized recommendations.

Neiman Marcus is already developing such an app – a product which seamlessly connects shopper and sales associate.  The customer highlights their favorite items and preferred associate, and the associate is alerted in-store when the shopper enters.  With this connection, the sales associate will instantly see the customers favorite items along with a Facebook photo for easier recognizability.  Other retailers and standalone services are also testing the waters with personalized recommendation apps:

Walgreens has already blurred the line between mobile shopping and check-ins.  By partnering with Foursquare, they’ve been able to develop an app which will give customers a coupon when they check-in. But the app itself does more than just deliver discounts.  It can also be used to refill prescriptions (yours or a family member’s), make a shopping list, or remind you when to take your medicine.

walgreens mobile app

Walgreens SoLoMo app lets smartphone users shop, refill prescriptions, and get local coupons

What SoLoMo Means for Design and Conversions

Although SoLoMo-enabled commerce is still in its infancy, there’s already some preliminary data out from retailers – and the results look promising.  Home furnishings store Touch of Class recently ported its products to an m-commerce platform, and found that, in just one month, mobile sales jumped 81% and mobile revenue as a percentage of overall online sales went from 0.74% to 1.2%.

Touch of Class is currently comparing the shopping habits of its mobile versus desktop customer base to learn their shopping habits and possibly create an app that recommends products accordingly.

As for the design of mobile apps – simpler is better.  This basic lesson is all-too-familiar to ToolFetch, which recently redesigned its mobile interface to include helpful items like Live Chat and a slimmed-down selection of only its most popular items for mobile shoppers.

toolfetch mobile app

ToolFetch’s mobile site might not be pretty – but it gets the job done.

The end result?  The site’s performance tanked.  ToolFetch went back to the drawing board, and did a little more renovation, taking out the live chat option and other scripts and images that were bogging down its load time.

Action Steps for Getting the Most Out of SoLoMo Commerce

So you’ve decided that SoLoMo is the way to go and you want to put your best foot forward when it comes to profiting from mobile commerce.  Here’s what to keep in mind before you launch your new app to the masses:

  • Find Out if Your App Idea Already Exists on the Market.  A great design is only half the battle.  You’ll also want to do your homework and determine if your app idea already exists on the Android or Apple marketplace.  If your competitors are not yet in the SoLoMo market, they will be soon enough.  The time to grab your share the bustling customer base is now.
  • Be Sure You’re Prepared for Fixes, Patches and Updates.  Not to dissuade you, but for every Angry Birds success story, there are hundreds of apps withering away in the digital graveyard.  Be ready for bug fixes, updates, patches and new version roll-outs, and make sure you have both the personnel and time/budget commitment to see your app through to completion and beyond.
  • Give Your App a Feature that will Engage People  Look for ways that your SoLoMo app can better enrich someone’s life or give them an experience that they’ll want to tell their friends about.  For more details on going beyond the sleek user interface, check out this set of mobile design guidelines from Smashing Magazine.

Whether SoLoMo is right for your business or not is a decision you’ll have to make on your own.  But you can’t discount the ripple effect that it’s having on smartphone users.  By simplifying and shortening the gap between customer and product, SoLoMo has the potential to completely change the way we do business online.

What are your thoughts?  Is SoLoMo more of a passing fad, or will it be as rooted in our vocabulary as “dot com” is now?  Share your comments below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps website owners improve design and increase conversions with SEO copywriting and consulting.  Download your free conversion checklist and web copywriting tune-up at iElectrify.com or follow @sherice on Twitter or Google+.

  1. You’re right, this is just the tip of the iceburg.

    Already seeing what’s out there, the potential hasn’t even gotten tapped yet. What happens when someone figures out how to bridge the gap between online and offline commerce in a way that encourages social commerce (for example, and if that makes sense)

    What happens when we can incorporate on the fly reviews that can trigger social online purchases?

    What if a grocery store allowed you to do all of your shopping virtually, you can pay from your phone, and someone at the store puts together a cart for you? all you have to do was pick up your order, takeout style?

    Your shopping list was saved, and coupons were automatically applied…

    The future is fun!

    • Hi Tommy, I just saw a gadget the other day that would let you record your shopping list, then it would automatically organize it into aisles and print it out for you. Now if it did that along with coupons, I’d be sold!

  2. Into this in a big way. You might want to check out interfaceonline.com.au as another example. We have just had an app made and are in the throes of testing. Very cool idea and adds a further marketing channel to a business. Fantastic when combined with geo location and QR codes.

  3. Wow, really great info! I think that mobile is the way the world will continue to go in the future.

  4. the emergence of smartphones and tablets, the latent attraction of social networks and the proximity of local search results will continue to influence the future of commerce and SoLoMo technology.

  5. Its a new dimension with increasing smart phones users.
    Does mobile commerce has high conversion ratio also ?

  6. Didn’t know so much about mobile commerce. Thanks a lot !

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