Oh SoLoMo! Retail's Mighty Mashup

Social. Local. Mobile. Disruptions that retailers and brand marketers have had a heck of a hard time harnessing all at once, even as shoppers have enthusiastically embraced social media, geo-location, and mobility in crafting their shopping and sharing experiences. The term “SoLoMo,” is mash-up that addresses how shoppers are interacting with brands on all three levels simultaneously.

Recent developments promise to rescue the social, local, and mobile domains from their disjointed beginnings and evolve SoLoMo into an integrated consumer targeting trifecta for brand marketers.

Facebook’s release of “enhanced page post targeting” sounds benign, but the new set of features will offer unprecedented content targeting granularity to brand marketers, bringing them one step closer to turning social media into social sales. Before the update, posts could only be segmented by country and language. Now brands can target their posts to their fans and followers based on an expansive list of criteria, including relationship status, gender, workplace, and education. Marketers can drill down further by matching the frequency and timing of updates to user behaviors.

Twitter has just announced that it will allow advertisers to more easily target messages in the Twitterverse based on user interests. Twitter will zero in on those interests by drawing from various criteria, including users’ followers and what they tweet about. The move is significant, given that interests are emerging as the socially-derived stats to track for brands and retailers. Point-of-sale data may show what consumers have bought in the past, but as Venky Harinarayan, co-founder of Walmart-acquired social analytics company Kosmix has noted, current interests are a far better indicator of what consumers will buy in the future. Beyond that, Twitter’s users disproportionately access the service on geo-location-enabled mobile devices, building a powerful social, local, and mobile bridge for marketers’ content strategies.

Meanwhile, a torqued-up search engine called Polaris is the latest launch to come out of Walmart’s skunkworks offshoot, @walmartlabs. Polaris promises to rescue searches from literalism by leveraging capabilities like synonym mining to arrive at shopper intent. A search for “denim,” for example, would be sure to pull up a selection of jeans. Algorithms also factor in the number of “likes” a product has on Facebook, and soon, the number of pins it has on Pinterest and user ratings and reviews will be factored in as well. Polaris will power Walmart.com, along with the company’s mobile web and mobile apps, and the company claims that it has already seen a 10 to 15 percent post-Polaris increase in completed transactions.

Ongoing innovations on the SoLoMo scene present exciting opportunities for brand marketers, but also call for new strategies. Early in the game, the SoLoMo promise was to explode brand message deployment through new mediums. However, the latest developments demand an uncompromising commitment to both content quantity and quality. In order to take full advantage of the latest thin-sliced segmentation capabilities, brand marketers will have to create higher volumes of fresh content targeted to specific affinity groups. Successful marketers won’t simply buy ads on various platforms, but will be called to promote sharable brand stories that resonate across the SoLoMo spectrum.

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This article originally ran on the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association (LIMA) website.