Mobile Location Apps: The Next Big Tech Trend?

Combining social media with location apps for smartphones lets businesses engage customers quickly and effectively.
May 07, 2012

What’s the next big tech thing for your business? Look no further than your own smartphone. It “changes everything, again,” says Chuck Martin, who wrote The Third Screen: Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone Mobile.

Nearly 50 percent of American adults already have a smartphone, according to a survey by the Yankee Group. More than half of respondents indicated they plan to buy one as their next mobile device.

Smartphones have three characteristics (the 3 A’s) that marketers covet: The devices are always on, always near and always dear. You'd be hard put to find another advertising medium has all three.

At the 2012 SXSW festival, speakers extolled the benefits of hyperlocal promotions on mobile devices. They touted the value of friends or a trusted influencer endorsing a brand or product and how that affects the purchasing process.

My company, Pokos, gleaned a few insights from the SXSW discussions about the evolution of using mobile apps to reach customers. This trend might change your marketing strategy, yet again.

Here Comes SoLoMo

SoLoMo is shorthand for “social-location-mobile.” It refers to the newest products that combine the best of location-based and mobile technologies with social media to engage customers.

Small merchants and retailers might be the earliest adopters of SoLoMo, but marketers will want to capitalize on the enhanced social engagement the tech makes possible. More local businesses, restaurants and large retailers will soon follow.

Here's how it evolved.

  1. Facebook advertising made more personal engagement possible through social channels.

  2. Big retailers like Starbucks and Sports Authority started pushing coupons out to passersby in late 2010. They used mobile-location (or “LoMo”) apps like Shopkick and Gowalla.

  3. Apps like FourSquare combined with these others to enable social interaction to boost the location and mobile components.

The SoLoMo process kicks in every time a consumer uses these apps to check in with a new store and share it with their “friends.” Or when they use the apps to find recommendations from their social network about a product they are considering buying.

In the past few months, retailers have benefited when shoppers post pictures of products they like in a store using apps like Instagram.

When such apps are used in conjunction with the platforms mentioned above, they provide the engagement hook of SoLoMo. Going forward, large and small retailers anticipate the promise of pushing hyperlocal advertising over these well-attended social networks to consumers in zip codes near their brick-and-mortar stores.

How Your Business Can Engage Customers With SoLoMo

The latest wave of SoLoMo takes the social shopping experience to a whole new level of engagement. In some of the most exciting new products, vendors claim the following marketing and sales benefits are rolled up into a single mobile app.

  • Lowering customer-acquisition costs by marketing to targeted groups, including customized messages to consumers with specified interests.

  • Delivering brand messaging and other promotions to consumers near a local store through hyper-local advertising and promotions.

  • Collecting referrals and recommendations from friends and other trusted influencers, which affect what customers buy at the point of purchase.

  • Offering one-to-one sales guidance, closing and support. Some of these apps include access to a trained off-site salesperson to help close the sale of a premium product.

  • Staying in touch post-purchase without customers having to give up contact data. The merchant can enhance customer satisfaction and service, offer new promotions and drive brand loyalty.

Biggest SoLoMo Challenge

Businesses cannot be too careful in their approach to user privacy. Evaluate SoLoMo vendors and products on how they address user privacy, data control and expectations. Here are some questions to ask.

  • Do transaction and follow-up communications rely on the customer’s phone number or e-mail address?

  • Is the user’s personal data shared with third parties?

  • Are the user’s preferences, purchasers or habits used by the vendor or made available to the merchant or third party?

  • Can the user elect to block communications based on time, place or identity?

As with any emerging technology, challenges are likely to arise in the SoLoMo trend. But if you’ve been reluctant to jump on the mobile bandwagon, you may be missing out on exciting opportunities to engage with your customers and increase your sales.

What’s been your experience with SoLoMo so far?

OPEN Cardmember Timo Platt is the founder and CEO of Pokos Communications. The company's social-messaging mobile platform delivers new text, broadcast and brand-marketing solutions for smartphones.

Photo credit: Thinkstock