SoLoMo picked up speed mainly due to the fast-growing location-based services (LBS). Through it the user can retrieve information about the current location with their mobile device via GPS (global positioning system). What originally served mainly as navigation, now can be used for increasingly richer location-based services, which is now called the SoLoMo movement. In addition to simple navigation, i.e. finding a route from your current location to any place you choose, sights, restaurants or shops in the area can now be found systematically, for example.
Some companies have leveraged on this and invite the user publicly to log on (check-in) in a branch as a customer. After checking in, the user makes his information public such as where he is currently moving around and that he is a current customer of this particular store. Many companies are willing to invest in such location based recommendation marketing systems and offer incentives from their product suppliers. Some companies provide incentives per each time a user checks in, others encourage customers to participate in a competition and offer only a bonus to those customers, which most frequently checked in at this specific store. This way, a new form of “word of mouth” is created for the store, the reach of which being strongly affected by the platform being used.
Depending on the platform, not only the reach and the number of users varies, but also the offer of different applications. The previously mentioned frequency of check-ins at a specific store can be understood as a kind of game, as seen on the foursquare platform. On it, besides being able to show where you are currently shopping to your friends, it is also possible to collect additional points and virtual badges in addition to the function to showing which products you have bought, as well as entering into a competition with other four square platform users. The foursquare founder Dennis Crowley introduced the platform under the slogan: "turning life into a game". The rapidly growing number of users seems to confirm the playful concept of geo-location services. According to foursquare, every day around 35,000 new members are added. The company speaks of "more than 250,000" companies that are registered with foursquare and worldwide "over 2.5 million" check-ins every day. As another feature, the geo-location platform also includes reviews of the locations visited by its users.
A specialist in this field where for example shops, restaurants and hotels can be reviewed, is the platform Yelps. Its results are even integrated in Google Search, so that they can be publicly viewed, without requiring the user to log in directly to the Yelp platform, in order to have access to its review information.
With Google places, Google offers a similar service which allows businesses to be found on Google maps, including all relevant company data and the opportunity for users to evaluate these companies. Google is expanding such services around its core business - the search -. To date, it is not the intention of the search engine giant to displace its competition in this field, but instead it rather thankfully includes the information provided by these other platforms in its search results.
With Google +1 the company is going one step further in offering an all-inclusive assessment platform. In conjunction with Google Latitude, Google Places, and Google Offers, the search engine group is well equipped to provide comprehensive SoLoMo services from a single source. Google +1 can not only recommend locations to users, but in turn also individual websites and products can be recommended to the people associated to a specific Google account.
Since in turn these results of searches of +1 users are incorporated, the goal is thereby a higher level of personalization in each search. Google Latitude enables users to display to selected friends the current location of the individual. Through Google Places companies are not only able to make themselves visible to customers, but also at the same time provide them with special offers or coupons. Again, users have also the opportunity to evaluate companies. Google Offers in turn brings the search engine group into the services range of other coupon services like Groupon, with the advantage of localized offers based on location. Google therefore has a great potential to play a relevant role in SoLoMo, as is platforms +1, Latitude, Places and Offers are able to interact seamlessly. This is besides the fact that Google has sufficient capital and users, to be able to play at the forefront of SoLoMo.
Many platforms will probably suffer due to the lack of a broad user base in order to develop a profitable business model over time, and a consolidation in the market still has not taken place. Current industry giants such as Facebook have a good starting point for this as well. With products like Facebook Places, the largest social network offers a geo-location service, which enables mobile localization within the social network community. In combination with Facebook Deals companies can interact with customers at the same time.
Those providers who are still lacking the necessary critical mass of user numbers might be able to make up for it through innovative approaches. For example a small localization service called Dailyplaces combines its function of the mobile check-in (for example at a restaurant) with the possibility also to chat with the checked in people in real time.
There are still many other providers in the field of coupon and sales promotion offerings such as GroupOn, Dailydeals, deals.com.sg, or Brandsfever. The platforms promise special bargains to users and at the same time they increased sales figures to their accredited suppliers. These voucher providers are hoping for a growth spurt for its business model mainly due to the increased use of mobile devices as well. They hope to not only increase the number of users of the platforms with the free smart phone apps, but also increase the number of participating local businesses. Finally, the relevance will then be increased through the GPS localization of the smart phone devices being used, to make the offering more relevant.
Still, it is unclear which of the platforms will be able to establish themselves over the long-term. Players like Facebook and Google have positioned themselves well, as you can already access a large user community. At the same time, these companies are getting wider in SoLoMo fields and operate globally. Because the SoLoMo-user is always mobile, platforms should provide wide range coverage. It is expected that smartphone users which are restricted to geographical areas through the selected services will eventually opt for more global solutions.
It is therefore to be expected, that local platforms as well as platforms which have a limited service offering will eventually be displaced by the global solutions which are able to incorporate many services. Best positioned are the ones that can fuse social networking with local connectivity, a broad range of services, and provide attractive, user friendly apps.
By Roger Stadler