Location Based Services (LBS): Who’s Checking In Now? [Chart]

Location based services are breaking through. According to comScore research, roughly one out five smartphone owners, or 12.7 million users, checked in with a smartphone to a location-based service (LBS) such as Facebook Places, Foursquare and/or Gowalla in March 2011. These smartphone users accounted for three quarters of the U.S. mobile check-ins. Of these smartphone check-ins, most of them are iPhone owners followed by Android owners. As a new habit that users must learn, check-ins are a practice smartphone owners are adapting relatively quickly.

Check-in breakout

Closer examination of the details revealed that, in terms of the percentage of check-in service users, men and women used location-based services equally. Location-based services are most popular with the 18-34 set since this age group has a higher propensity to be single and looking to go out and meet people. Almost half of the check-in users are employed full-time which makes sense since most of these establishments sell stuff, whether it’s food, drink, entertainment or products.

From a marketing perspective, comScore found that check-in users fit the profile of early adopters. They accessed travel services, online retail, shopping guides and restaurant information. These users definitely get around and reach for their smartphones to steer them in the right direction. This is consistent with ForeSee’s findings that mobile goes shopping.

Smartphone Check-In Service Users by Access of Select Mobile Categories
3 Month Avg. Ending March 2011
Total U.S. Mobile Subscribers Ages 13+
Source: comScore MobiLens
% of Smartphone Users % of Check-In Service Users Index
Total Audience: 13+ yrs old 100.0% 100.0% 100
Used application 85.0% 97.5% 115
Used browser 82.3% 96.3% 117
Accessed news 47.2% 61.9% 131
Accessed restaurant information 27.6% 45.9% 166
Accessed tech news 27.1% 40.3% 149
Recall seeing web/app ads 27.5% 38.7% 141
Accessed online retail 17.9% 32.6% 182
Media tablet user 19.6% 28.2% 144
Accessed shopping guides 14.3% 25.0% 176
Accessed travel service 11.8% 22.0% 186

Index = % of Check-In Service Users /% of Smartphone Users x 100;
Index of 100 indicates average representation

Privacy concerns are high

Recently, location-based services have received more scrutiny due to issues of location tracking on smartphones and tablets. Interestingly, over 50% of men and women are concerned about location privacy according to research by The Nielsen Company. This can be a hurdle for continued growth and the upper bound of location-based service adoption by consumers.

What does this mean for marketers?

It’s time to start thinking about location-based services and how it relates to the rest of your mobile and overall marketing strategies. Test now since it’s possible to get results in time to incorporate into your 2012 budget. Monitor whether your competition is testing or rolling out promotions on these platforms. This is particularly important for marketers who:

  • Have a physical presence including restaurants, bars, and retailers.
  • Target 18-34 year old demographic.
  • Have competitively priced offerings.
  • Are in densely populated shopping areas where consumers have multiple options.

Location-based services are gaining traction and with increased smartphone adoption this trend is likely to continue. The biggest stumbling block is privacy issues. As a marketer, it’s a good time to test location-based services for your business.

Have you used location-based services? If so, what was your experience?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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Photo credit: LakeCurrents via Flickr

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