Commercialising SoLoMo

Ioannis S. Pantelidis asks if there is commercial value in the SoLoMo hype?

If ensuring that your hotel brand is well established in the Social, Local and Mobile (SoLoMo) arena was the big trend for 2012, then 2013 will see hoteliers building systems to closely monitor their SoLoMo ROI.

In order to get some understanding on how some of the big hotel brands are dealing with SoLoMo, I enlisted the help of 12 University of Brighton hospitality management students, aged 19 to 28. This age demographic is so smartphone-savvy that their views on the integration of mobile to social and local platforms could provide insights into how best to develop and measure key performance indicators for SoLoMo.

A SoLoMo Experiment

Three focus groups were formed, each downloading two hotel mobile applications. They discussed the usefulness and ease-of-use of the social media activity of the two hotel brands as well as the integration of mobile to social.

The two hotel brands selected were Best Western and Marriott International. Best Western had been shortlisted for EyeforTravel.com’s best hotel mobile app in 2012 and Marriott featured in Fortunes 2012 top list as a Social Media Star.

The focus groups spent approximately 90 minutes downloading and using the hotel apps for both companies using both android and apple iOS . They also visited the Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare and LinkedIn pages for each company.

The findings from this exercise suggested that, overall, the three focus groups favoured the Best Western mobile app for its ease-of-use even though the app seemed to crash at least once for the android platform. Similarly, the Best Western mobile web pages seemed to be favoured for their ease-of-navigation, speed and content.

However, in terms of social media activity quality and quantity, Marriott emerged the clear winner.

So it all rested in the integration of mobile and social in order to find a clear winner. All focus groups agreed that the evidence of integration of mobile to social (and vice versa) were deemed very limited for both companies.

Integrating Mobile and Social

This preliminary study had its limitations – but nevertheless suggested that even large hotel groups tend to focus more on the mobile or social side of the business without creating a strategy to link them in a way that leaves a lasting impression on the consumer.

One may argue that smaller hotel operators have the upper hand here as they can adapt their strategies faster. Furthermore, their simplified organisational structures should allow easier and faster implementation of such strategies – and in the world of SoLoMo, response speed, innovation and proactivity are key ingredients to ensuring audiences are won over and captivated.

Measuring ROI

Still the question remains: how does one measure the commercialisation of SoLoMo activity for a hotel?

The obvious Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will help us monitor the commercial value of SoLoMo activity for a hotel have to do with the mobile part of the activity. How many reservations have occurred through the app or how much traffic has been generated on a mobile website, for example.

However, this could be a superficial approach that may dictate that a SoLoMo investment is simply not worth the returns.

To be more accurate in your assessment of SoLoMo, you need to go beyond the superficial.

For example, you need to consider how your SoLoMo strategy has affected Search Engine Optimization (SEO), how the traffic patterns to your website may have altered and how to use location-based activity to your advantage.

You can measure how rewards and discounts through the social element of your strategy feed into your mobile and vice versa. You can measure how your online and mobile communities grow and respond to varying content and you can quantify new market segments that would not be available to you without SoLoMo.

No matter what KPIs you choose to monitor the success of your hotel SoLoMo activity, you need to ensure that the strategy was designed with those KPI’s in mind.

If they were simply an afterthought then chances are that your strategy was not focused enough to begin with.

Actionable Intelligence

Are you achieving the full commercial value of your SoLoMo? Here are five key questions to get you thinking:

  1. Are you reaching new market segments through SoLoMo?
  2. Has SoLoMo increased the growth rate of your online and mobile communities?
  3. Are you using location-based activity to your full advantage?
  4. Has SoLoMo changed your online traffic patterns?
  5. Are your mobile and social strategies fully integrated?
Ioannis S. Pantelidis is a senior lecturer in Hospitality and Culinary Arts at the University of Brighton. He is co-author of the best-selling book, Food and Beverage Management, and has published and presented papers in numerous international conferences and academic journals including the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly.
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