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LBS promises big business opportunities

Location-based services (LBS) have topped the global league as the mobile feature set to grow the most, after world leading insights consultancy TNS revealed over 60% of those that don't yet use the service globally want to start using them.

TNS's annual Mobile Life study – which explores mobile use among 48,000 people in 58 countries – shows the majority of people around the world now recognize the value of sharing their location to benefit from a range of services.  

The key findings, released as a set of interactive visualizations ( show that the services and apps people use vary considerably from region to region. 

Almost one fifth (19%) of the world's six billion mobile users are already using LBS, with more than three times this number (62%) aspiring to do so in the future.

Navigation with maps and GPS is currently the most popular motivation behind the LBS uptake (46%), but there is growing interest in more diverse activities, with 13% of current social network users 'checking-in' through platforms like Foursquare, or Facebook Places – a 50% uplift on 2011. 

LBS users are increasingly using services to enrich their social lives, with one in five (22%) using it to find their friends nearby. Around a quarter use the technology to find restaurants and entertainment venues (26%) or check public transport schedules (19%) and 8% to book a taxi. 

Savvy LBS users have realized that there is something to be gained from sharing their locations with brands and retailers – with one in eight (12.5%) sharing their location in exchange for a deal or special offer.

Beyond current users of LBS, a third of people globally (33%) who already or would like to use mobile voucher coupons, highly rate receiving deals when they are nearby a store that they like.  One in five mobile users (21%) stated that they find mobile advertising interesting if it is offering them a deal near their current location.

James Fergusson, Global Head, Digital & Technology Practice, at TNS, explained: "We are really starting to see location based services 'come of age'. People are realizing 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."

While the study has shown an increasing willingness to engage with LBS, there are also significant variations in people's reasons for embracing the service across different markets. 

Of all current LBS users, Latin Americans most use the feature to find friends, with 39% stating it as the top reason to share their location, compared to only 11% in India.  Finding friends via LBS falls to just 9% in North America and only slightly higher in Europe at 20%.

Applications of LBS also differ widely around the world.  In the technology-saturated markets of developed Asia 36% of people use location services to find restaurants and entertainment venues nearby, whereas in China this falls to 17%. This puts Chinese people just ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa, where 10% of LBS users use it to find places to go out.

James Fergusson continued: "These regional variations highlight the importance of having a targeted strategy when it comes to location based marketing. LBS offers marketers an unprecedented level of engagement and targeting, however it has to be done in line with how people in individual markets want to engage with brands to avoid being intrusive. Where brands get it right, we have seen significant rewards in terms of brand engagement, loyalty and sales."

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