SoLoMo: A Balancing Act Built on Trust

Social, local, mobile: SoLoMo is today’s marketing rallying call for businesses. The ability to target receptive consumers in place — near or in your property, in real-time — with relevant offerings or services has huge potential. That potential, however, isn’t absolute. Note the word “receptive” in my description of SoLoMo’s potential. This is a key factor in striking the balance between enhancing the guest experience and increasing your share of their wallet, versus being a consumer stalker.

Many hotels and brands have already jumped on the SoLoMo train. Most are optimizing their websites for mobile, as well as adding “location aware capabilities” to these sites, like Loews Hotels has done. These capabilities, like those of a number of new native and web-based applications, enable the hotel to know the location of potential and current customers, and which local deals and services they prefer. Such applications give hotels an edge in offering guests relevant ‘push’ marketing offers, and a better chance at increasing their wallet share.

Checkins, whether using Foursquare, Facebook, or the hotel’s own mobile site, are a prime time for targeted offers. These could be an invitation to enjoy a free drink in the hotel bar after checking in, a customized guest greeting on arrival, or a special discount for spa services ‘pushed’ to a guest who checks in at the hotel gym.

On one hand, this kind of highly localized, personalized marketing could enhance the service you’re providing guests. But, if you don’t pay enough attention to receptivity, there’s a good chance guests could also view it as a creepy invasion of privacy.

The hospitality and travel industries continue to explore the balance between privacy and customized service in new media marketing. Take this example, which I use in my course, Marketing the Hospitality Brand through New Media: Social, Mobile, and Search: KLM Royal Dutch Airline’s Meet & Seat program.

Would you use this capability? If you answered ‘no,’ you’re not alone. A 2011 survey by Amadeus showed that a slight majority of respondents across ten countries would be happy to give up more personal information in order to get better, more efficient travel services. But in the U.S., that number dropped to less than 34 percent. In a recent PhoCusWright study, nearly 90 percent of respondents said they were comfortable receiving general information or promotional offers, but more than half were uncomfortable sharing their location with social media networks.

A key factor that determines customers’ receptivity to your targeted offers is choice: Customers who want customized service, and are willing to provide personal information to get it, need to choose — or opt-in — to this system.

This permission-based approach is not new, but it’s powerful. Asking permission is not only smart business practice, it’s the nice thing to do. Customers want to trust and like your brand. Make it easier for them by allowing them to opt-in when they step onto your property, visit your website, or ‘Like’ your Facebook page. If you want to be more proactive, reach out to your email lists specifically to offer them this choice.

By giving your guests a choice about how they engage with your property, and segmenting your targeted offers, you’ll be better able to reap the rewards of SoLoMo marketing and strike the balance between privacy and customized service. Over time, if you consistently demonstrate your commitment to choice and relevance, more guests may become receptive to getting personal with your property or brand.