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Consumer Trends

How retailers can harness SoLoMo to reach the 'always addressable customer'

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The term “SoLoMo" has been walking the line of buzzword or trend for a little over a year. And as Melissa Parrish of Forrester Research pointed out at the digital retail marketing workshop in New York, this term for brands and retailers has primarily centered around the "check-in" function via sites like Foursquare. Social and mobile usage and participation have both grown steadily, per Forrester Technographics data, and consumers are increasingly using social and mobile together. So how about the “Lo” (location) part?

Parrish feels that geosocial apps dominate when compared to Internet location features, incorporating location as an integral feature and making privacy key. “Despite these promising features, few people – about 5% of U.S. online users who own a mobile phone – are actually using these apps today,” Parrish noted. That’s not to say that that 5% isn’t worthy of a retailer’s attention –they skew younger (75% of these geolocation app users are between ages 23 and 45) and male; are very active on their mobile devices and online; and are twice as likely than the average U.S. online adults to share product information, reviews, and offers or discounts.

As such, Parrish thinks that defining “local” solely in terms of geolocation apps simply doesn’t paint the whole picture. In the course of their ongoing consumer research, Forrester analysts have seen another online consumer pattern emerging – the rise of the “always addressable customer.” This is a consumer who fits the bill on three fronts simultaneously:

  • Owns and personally uses at least three connected devices
  • Goes online multiple times throughout the day
  • Goes online from at least three different physical locations

Another attribute of this group, Parrish continued, is that these customers are highly educated, tend to be high-earning, are sophisticated mobile users and very socially active. This consumer approaches technology as the tool that helps him or her accomplish whatever the task at hand.

Last year, Forrester found some very telling data when they took a closer look at the always addressable customer. Their research found that 37% of North Americans were 'always addressable customers,' a significant leap from 17% in 2010. It's safe to say that this segment of consumers is likely to become the norm rather than an anomaly – and for some generational groups, it already is. In 2011, approximately 3 out of 5 Gen Z (18 to 22 year olds) and Gen Y (23 to 31) fell into the category; along with close to half of Gen X and a quarter of Younger Boomers. Older consumers aren’t sitting on the sidelines – one in five older boomers (56 to 66) and one in ten 67 years or older fall into this category as well.

So where does "local" fit in to this data? For a retailer, the “Lo” part of SoLoMo is simply that wherever your customer goes, you must be there. “Don’t think technology first – think about what your customer needs,” Parrish emphasized. Unfettered by preconceived ideas about which device to use for a specific purpose, consumers increasingly turn to whichever device is at hand and that suits both the task and the location (commuting on the train, at home in the evening, waiting to pick up the kids, standing in a store researching a product – and even on vacation). I would add that this untethered consumer wants to interact with you – so make sure product information, emails, social media integration, even the cross-channel cart all render seamlessly across devices. And that term “connected device”? Likely soon one for the history books – as Parrish concluded, consumers increasingly just think of them as plain old devices or tools – the “connected” bit is entirely a given.