This article was published on April 24, 2012

Report: Location-based mobile services have huge untapped potential worldwide

Report: Location-based mobile services have huge untapped potential worldwide
Jon Russell
Story by

Jon Russell

Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.

There is a massive demand for location-based mobile services worldwide, according to the findings of a new TNS report, which found that the services are the most sought after by mobile users across the globe

Mobile Life‘, the firm’s latest report, concludes that almost two-thirds of mobile users that don’t have location-based features would like to start using the feature, showing that there is huge untapped potential for check-ins, mobile maps and other services.

The TNS survey — which gauges the interests and activity of 48,000 mobile users from across 58 countries worldwide — found that, while 62 percent of phone owners want location services, 19 percent already use the feature and associated services.

GPS is the main driver of interest for those that don’t currently have location services, having been cited by half of those without it, ahead of finding friends (22 percent), locating venues (26 percent), checking public transport (19 percent) and ‘checking in’ to social networks (13 percent). TNS saw the latter category grow the most since last year’s study, with interest in location-based social networks rising by 50 percent on 2011’s data.

Furthermore, and of equal interest, is a growing level of understanding that certain location services will provide benefit to consumers. TNS saw 12.5 percent of users admit they are prepared to share their location for a deal, while 21 percent are open to being served location-based adverts.

Commenting on the results, James Fergusson, who is global head of the TNS digital and technology practice, says that this growing openness to brand communications is providing new opportunities for savvy marketing.

“We are really starting to see location-based services ‘come of age’,” Fergusson explains. “People are realising that sharing their location often offers some kind of reward in terms of a discount or deal. It is the combination of time and context – directing people towards a deal when they can easily redeem it – that unlocks a powerful tool for marketers to develop precise targeting approaches,” he concludes.

Fergusson cautions that demand for location differs from market to market, requiring a unique approach “in line with how people in individual markets want to engage with brands to avoid being intrusive”, he explains.

Just looking at the desire for finding friends via location shows the differing levels of interest worldwide. In Latin America it cited as the top reason to adopt location services (by 39 percent of users), which is well ahead of India (11 percent), North America (9 percent) and Europe (20 percent), each of which favours other reasons higher.

Location may not strike us as being a must have feature but when you consider that a number of modern services are already available for basic devices in some degree, it is clear that it is one of the few services wholly reserved for smartphones and high-end devices.

Social networks like Google+, Facebook and Twitter have embraced SMS and basic apps to enable access for users across lower-end devices, for example. While the ubiquity of mobile phone cameras leaves GPS one of the few features, including WiFi, unavailable to many.

Given that feature phones and basic devices account for 73 percent of the world’s phones — a figure that is lower in some emerging markets — and the global interest in location begins to make more sense, despite the privacy issues that come with it.

Perhaps the results are also a sign that mobile Internet access is more prevalent that we may think, to the point that demand for location has overtaken it with as more mobile users come online via their device.

You can make your own mind as an overview of the key findings, and the full report itself, can be found at the ‘Mobile Life” microsite here.

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