Do Re Mi Fa Solomo - The Social Local Mobile Sing-Along
March 11, 2013 by Brand Algorithms
Every marketer is SoLoMo-ing these days, and it's got nothing to do with music. "Social Local Mobile" is an approach to brand communications that seeks to deliver marketing information to a subscriber, relevant to the context (in this case, the physical location), over a medium that connects individuals and their potential interests in a mesh (in this case, social media), using a device that is always on and always about (in this case, a mobile device - smartphone or tablet).
The SoLoMo push, by brand-owners and marketers, is in keeping with the received wisdom that an unsolicited marketing missive is most effective when delivered in a relevant context. Until such time a device can sense the mood and infer the needs of its owner, relevant context will be restricted to physical location.
The rise in the popularity of SoLoMo has to do with the felicitous convergence of four independent technological thrust points:
The rise of social media, with the biggest platforms having reached critical mass
The conversion of geographical spaces to a digital facsimile, with complete details of roads, establishments, and natural features
The rising adoption of smartphones, featuring sensors with the facility to indicate spatial co-ordinates, and OSes with the facility to access social media platforms
The roll-out of a communications network infrastructure (3G+ or 4G) that allows for full-frame-rate viewing of streaming video.
2013 is expected to be an interesting year for the SoLoMo brigade, mainly on account of a variety of devices that are expected to intensify the SoLoMo effect for consumers:
Google's Project Glass is expected to hit the streets this year, in a limited release, and it is expected to deliver SoLoMo information in a more intuitive fashion
Other devices such as the Pebble Smart Watch and the rumoured Apple iWatch are also expected to deliver a new level of interactivity to local cues.
What's the situation in India? A report dated 2 January 2013, released by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB, said:
India is expected to have close to 165 million mobile internet users by March 2015, up from 87.1 million in December 2012
The number of mobile internet users, who accessed internet through dongles and tablet PCs, increased to 87.1 million by December 2012 from 78.7 million users in October 2012. This is expected to grow further to 92.9 million (by March 2013), 130.6 million (by March 2014) and 164.8 million by March 2015.
Of the 78.7 million users in October 2012, there were 61 million off-deck users (accessing sites other than sites of the operator) and 15 million on-deck users (accessing only sites specified by the operator), with the remaining 2.7 million users accessing the internet using dongles ( 2G, 3G or high-speed data cards).
Email, social networking services (SNS) and messengers have high usage among mobile internet users. The report found that accessing online videos, games or reading online news is done about 2-6 times a week. While online games are accessed by nearly 50 per cent of the mobile internet users, less than 30 per cent of users read online news and watch online videos.
Do the above projections and findings mean that India's online denizens are rushing to participate in the SoLoMo sing-along? Not quite:
The findings of IAMAI and IMRB notwithstanding, the smartphone penetration in India is quite low: different studies provide different figures, ranging from 27 Million to 44 Million, with the latter figure translating to a penetration of just 4% in the total subscriber-base.
The telcos are still baulking at rolling out LBS (Location-Based Services) infrastructure, on account of the cost of the investment; this despite the MoHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) requesting the DoT to mandate the roll-out of this facility. In the absence of the telcos not supporting LBS infrastructure, access to LBS will be limited to consumers sporting smartphones that feature a GPS.
With the restrictions on SMS marketing, in India, and the punitive tax on the activity (to ensure that it is not deployed indiscriminately), the ability of SMS marketing to deliver LoMo (if not SoLoMo) capabilities to non-smartphone users is severely constrained, even if the telcos roll out LBS infrastructure.
Be that as it may, it is imperative that brand-owners and marketers frame a SoLoMo strategy for their brands, if they are in the B2C business: especially if they are in the B2C services business. What should be the broad outlines of such a strategy?
Ensure that Company-curated Sites are Mobile-friendly
This is a no-brainer: except that it usually slips through the to-do list of most brand-owners. The key to SoLoMo is to have sites that are mobile-friendly from the point of view of navigation and engagement (readability, orientation, etc.). If this means that alter-sites are created for mobile users, so be it.
Develop an App or Sign-up with an LBS Provider
The next step is to register the brand for a location or a set of locations: getting geo-fenced. This can be done by developing an app. that places the brand in-situ, using a service such as Google Maps, or it can be accomplished by signing up with a LBS provider such as Facebook (Places), FourSquare, or Mojostreet (India-specific, starting with Hyderabad).
Create LBS-attuned Content
The brand-owner has to ensure that there is a steady stream of content, created specifically for subscribers or app users who happen to walk past the geo-fenced outlet of the brand, that can be displayed on the user-device: Promotions/Offers, Loyalty Coupons, Hello/Thank You Notes, Industry-specific Material (e.g. Today's Menu, for a restaurant).
Plan a Calendar
Draw up a calendar of offers and promos, based on festivals, special days (e.g. Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, etc.), events (e.g. IPL matches, EPL derbies, El Clasico matches, etc.), so that the communication is seen as topical and interesting.
Explore the Possibility of using SMS Marketing as a Fall-back
Given that smartphone penetration is in the single digits, in India, a brand-owner should also explore the option of delivering LoMo content through SMS, through a separate delivery mechanism if need be.
SoLoMo is on everyone's lips these days, and rightly so. If implemented well, a SoLoMo strategy has the potential to deliver brand and marketing communications in a topical manner and within a relevant context, thereby ensuring the receptivity of the target to such communications and, also, the memorability of the communications.