A new study from TNS identifies location-based services (LBS) as the function mobile users worldwide are most interested in using on their devices. As part of its annual Mobile Life study, the media research firm found almost a fifth (19%) of the world’s 6 billion mobile users are already using LBS, with many of the non-users (62%) aspiring to do so in the future.
Being able to navigate via maps and GPS on mobile devices is the main reason people want location services. But the study indicated growing interest in more diverse activities, including being able to check-in to places through platforms like Foursquare of Facebook Places. Some 13% of mobile users take advantage of such offerings, up 50% from 2011.
In that vein, one in eight shared their location in exchange for a deal or special offer. Among non-LBS users who already get some type of mobile voucher, or would like to, a third were very receptive to the prospect of receiving deals when near a store they like. One in five mobile users (21%) said they found mobile advertising interesting if it is offering them a deal near their current location.
Among more common LBS activities, more than a quarter (26%) are using LBS to find restaurants and entertainment venues, 22% to find friends nearby, 19% to check public transportation schedules and 8% to book a taxi.
A Pew Research Center study released last September found 28% of American adults use mobile and social-location based services. It found 28% of cell owners use their phones to get directions but only 5% used check-in services like Foursquare. That proportion increased to 12% when looking just at smartphone users.
The TNS study estimated smartphone penetration in North America at 46%, well above the global average of 30%. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) was on par with North America, at 46%, followed by developed Asia (42%), China (39%), Latin America (32%) Europe (31%), emerging Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (both 21%), and emerging Asia (21%).
In relation to smartphone ownership, the research showed LBS use differs widely by region. In the technology-saturated markets of developed Asia, for example, 36% use location services to find restaurants and entertainment options nearby, while in China, only 17% do so. “These regional variations highlight the importance of having a targeted strategy when it comes to location-based marketing,” noted James Fergusson, head of the digital and technology practice at TNS.
With pre-paid, low-cost smartphones now selling for $100 globally, he expects smartphone adoption to rise sharply, opening the door to more people using LBS and other mobile data services. That in turn, stands to benefit marketers. “Across markets, smartphones greatly enhance mobile’s influence over consumers’ interactions with brands, and particularly over their purchase decisions,” according to the study.
The TNS findings were based on interviews with 48,000 people in 58 countries.