BrainTrust Query: SoLoMo Strategies in Retail

May 02, 2011
David Dorf

a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt from a current
article from Insight-Driven Retailing Blog.

EBay is at it again. They
acquired Where, an advertising company that serves ads to mobile phones based
on the user’s location. Amazon also seems be buying up SoLoMo (Social/Local/Mobile)
companies, and Walmart’s acquisition of Kosmix indicates they’re entering the
fray. So that got me thinking what each might be planning.


This is nothing new for Amazon, which has made many technology acquisitions
over the years to bolster its e-commerce experience. They practically invented
social commerce with product reviews and lists, and their mobile apps have
been top notch. I haven’t seen much in the realm of local beyond their attempts
with AmazonFresh, their grocery delivery service in Seattle. I think they continue
to focus on leveraging technology to deliver the best online experience possible,
including leading-edge offerings of digital content. (Did you get your Amazon
cloud drive yet?)


After stumbling with Skype, eBay has made a few good acquisitions, especially
in the mobile arena where they are a clear leader. EBay Neighborhoods was their
best attempt to add social features to their platform, and they have done some
work within Facebook as well. Milo helps with local search, and GSI is an opportunity
to host other retailer websites. PayPal has the most game-changing potential
and continues to drive significant business. But the whole strategy feels like
keeping up with Amazon without truly differentiating.


There are few success stories for online retailers opening physical stores,
but it has always been much easier for established brick-and-mortar retailers
to go online. That puts Walmart at an advantage over eBay and Amazon. If they
can expand their webstore and tightly integrate it with established stores
(omni-channel), then they have a leg up on both Amazon and eBay. Walmart can
use its size to keep prices low, use local stores to cheaply ship products
to doorsteps, and use social and mobile efforts to accelerate all sales. I
wonder if “Project
Titan,” its online grocery test, is a first step in that direction.

of what these three giants do, every retailer needs to consider its own SoLoMo
strategy. Acquisitions aren’t required, but partnerships are better than starting
from scratch.

Discussion Questions: Which retailer — Amazon, eBay or Walmart — appears to be in the best position to take advantage of the SoLoMo (Social/Local/Mobile) opportunity at retail? Does a stronger online or brick & mortar component provide any ease of entry? What steps should guide any retailer’s initial SoLoMo strategy?

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12 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: SoLoMo Strategies in Retail"

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Paula Rosenblum
10 years 12 days ago

SoLoMo – what a great acronym. David, if you made it up, my hat’s off to you!

I don’t know anyone who thinks the eBay/GSI deal is going to amount to much. If anything, it may drive high-end brands AWAY from the platform – I mean is Donna Karan going to want to be associated with eBay as a brand? The part of eBay that’s interesting in the mobile space is Paypal. Perhaps the Shoprunner spin-off may amount to something.

Walmart and social media is actually a difficult thing for me to contemplate without hearing snarky jokes spinning in my head. Maybe Walmart and eBay will have a low-end shootout.

Amazon on the other hand has the opportunity to clean brick and mortar retailers clocks. I don’t even think it needs the So. It just needs the Lo and the Mo. 🙂

Max Goldberg
10 years 12 days ago

Why should a retailer buy one technology when the marketplace seemingly offers a new technology each day? It would make better sense to explore multiple technologies and applications. The technological landscape is littered with companies that tried and failed to succeed in social, local and/or mobile. Retailers should play the field and always be open to new technologies. This is definitely a time when it is better to rent than own.

Doug Stephens
Doug Stephens
10 years 12 days ago

If I had to bet on which of the players (Amazon, eBay or Walmart) will mount the most effective combination of social, local and mobile, I’d have to favor Amazon for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Amazon has always lived “in the cloud” so to speak. We’ve always known Amazon as a virtual store front, so there’s no reconditioning to be done. Secondly, they’ve always maintained a strong position as a general merchant, where eBay has the dual identity of storefront and auction house. And lastly, I’d be willing to bet that the average Walmart consumer is behind the curve in smartphone adoption–but I don’t have any stats to support that–it’s just a feeling.

Beyond the comparison between these three retailers, the truth is that this hyper-local, contextual and relevant approach is one that all major retailers will have to begin to take as our concept of what a “store” actually is evolves.

Susan Rider
Susan Rider
10 years 12 days ago

The SoLoMo rage is here to stay. What it will require is a focus on technology and a concentration on the tech side to succeed. Amazon has proven its capabilities in this area and they, by far, have the advantage.

Ryan Mathews
10 years 12 days ago

Max makes a great point. We like to think that the latest technology we’ve seen is the last technology we’ll ever see, but obviously nothing is further from the truth.

Savvy retailers need to learn how to do business in a multi-platform world and how to move effortlessly between platforms and media. Committing to any single platform can be a terrible mistake. Anyone remember Web TV?

Bill Bittner
Bill Bittner
10 years 12 days ago
Technology is changing retail along three perspectives. Promotion channels are changing with the ability to target consumers not only based upon their past purchases but also upon their associations and their present location. Information channels are changing as consumers are able to completely research a purchasing decision and make a choice over the Internet without ever seeing a product. Finally, for those consumers who still want to “touch and feel” the product, we have seen changes in distribution channels with retail outlets becoming showrooms and deliveries coming from central inventory locations. Social oriented promotions will lead to more specialty retailers focused on unique consumer segments as they become economical to reach. These segments may become more ethereal as they are based on people attending a sporting event, being in the neighborhood of a restaurant, or other location based gatherings. Information channels will improve, combining personal characteristics such as height, weight, and measurements with consumer tastes to enable online purchases of items traditionally only bought in person such as clothing, shoes, etc. Finally, distribution is changing… Read more »
Mark Burr
10 years 12 days ago

It is far and away Amazon. Enough said.

James Tenser
10 years 12 days ago

Walmart certainly has the edge when it comes to “local” due to its store base. “Social” and “mobile” are up for grabs, and they may even undermine the perceived advantage held by these “big three” retailers.

Wise observations made in this discussion underscore an important truth: proprietary platforms do not make for a secure SoLoMo future. To commit may be tantamount to cutting off crucial options later. The advantage goes to the entities that build flexibility into their customer-facing DNA.

After all SoLoMo is flanked by two more dimensions: GLObal (Glo) and PerSOnal (Po?), which still have potential to deliver multiple game-changes (and unpronounceable acronyms like SoLoMoPoGlo for years to come.

Phil Rubin
10 years 12 days ago
SoLoMo–I’ll echo the other BrainTrust members’ comments and applaud you for adding that acronym to our vernacular and for positing such a great question about who is going to lead and who’s going to lag behind AMZN, eBay and WMT. The easiest question is third place: eBay. While they have led in some areas like mobile and obviously in the auction category as well, they are vulnerable across all channels and increasingly marginalized based on their brand and business model. WMT’s Goliath scale and dependency on large brick-and-mortar foot prints is also its Achilles heel. They are limited in terms of location presence, even with additional smaller boxes going in more urban areas. Even at the risk of boring readers (given my ongoing emphasis that AMZN is the world’s best retailer), the nod has to go to Amazon if for no other reason that SoLoMo is all about relevance and customer-centricity. Amazon wins on that dimension hands down and there is no way that they will concede the SoLoMo space to anyone. They already have… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
10 years 12 days ago

Agility is the word to live by. Social is the “new” internet. Local is more like “Glocalization.” The global community in a mass/targeted/local manner. Mobile platforms keep evolving. Nothing is forever. Today’s trends won’t be tomorrow’s. So…becoming more agile is the best way for retailers and CPGers to anticipate the needs of the demanding consumer. Investing in partners and responsive technology can help ensure future success.

Larry Negrich
10 years 12 days ago

Social, local, mobile Walmart has the advantage. While there are shopping experiences much richer in urban areas, in many of its US locations Walmart is already a local, social hub. Its locations will give it numerous opportunities to localize offerings and utilize social media to its advantage. The technologies are so immature that nobody can really fully analyze the advantages or limitations.

Eliott Olson
Eliott Olson
10 years 12 days ago

Where or when does privacy enter the equation?


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