April 25, 2012, 3:15 PM

Location-based services are coming of age

81% of consumers use or plan to use GPS-cued services, a study finds.

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Some mobile industry observers suggest that consumers will say no when asked by businesses with mobile sites and apps for permission to use consumers’ locations to assist with directions or offer special deals. The overwhelming majority of consumers say otherwise, according to a new study.

19% of consumers worldwide use location-based services and 62% plan to use them, finds “Mobile Life,” a study from consumer behavior research and consulting firm TNS, a unit of Kantar, a global consultancy. TNS surveyed 48,000 consumers in 58 countries.

Navigation with maps and GPS is the primary driver of location-based services; 46% of smartphone owners use maps, the survey finds. But there is growing interest in other areas, such as social activities. 13% of social network users who own smartphones check in through various services, such as Foursquare and Facebook Places, with their GPS-enabled devices.

Some smartphone owners content with sharing their location are seeking out retailers for mobile commerce offerings. 12.5% report sharing their location in exchange for a deal or special offer, the survey finds. 33% use or would like to use mobile coupons delivered to them via apps that sense when a consumer is near a store. And 21% of smartphone owners say they find mobile advertising interesting if it is offering them a deal near their current location.

“We are really starting to see location-based services come of age,” says James Fergusson, global head of the digital and technology practice at TNS. “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 toward a deal when they can easily redeem it—that unlocks a powerful tool for marketers to develop precise targeting approaches.”

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