Often, small businesses focus on the power of the mobile phone strictly as a productivity device. But the marketing types within SMBs shouldn't overlook the technology's emerging potential as a market device. The holy grail of this platform? Location-based services, which use a person's location to serve up recommendations or travel information specific to that place.
Despite recent controversy -- just this week, Microsoft was sued over the privacy implications of the Camera app in Windows Phone 7 -- a new study published by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project finds that close to 30 percent of American adults are using some sort of mobile or social network location application. That is, they are using their phone to search location-specific directions or recommendations. A smaller group, about 5 percent, is "checking in" on a service such as Foursquare or Gowalia to let people know their location.
Here's the summary data:
The data comes from a survey of 2,277 American adults during April and May 2011.
So, even though people tend to get a bit wigged out over sharing their location explicitly on social media, they are exposing it in other ways that they may or may not realize.
If you poke into the data a bit more deeply, you learn that smartphone users share the most about their locations. Approximately 55 percent have used the location-finding features in their phone to get directions or find recommendations. This is well above the average, as you have already discovered.
It may interest you to know that minority groups are more likely than whites to share their information. Pew notes that approximately one-quarter of Hispanic mobile phone users are using what it calls geosocial services and another 31 percent have enabled automatic location-tagging. Their motivation wasn't explored by Pew.
It is useful to consider this data in conjunction with the findings of other research out a few months ago from technology research firm Gartner about mobile advertising. That data suggests that mobile advertising will reach $3.3 billion this year, in large part because of the whole location thing.
Noted Gartner analyst Stephanie Baghdassarian:
"Mobile advertising is now recognized as an opportunity for brands, advertisers and publishers to engage consumers in a targeted and contextual manner, improving returns. ... As the adoption of smartphones and media tablets extends to more consumers, the audience for mobile advertising will increase and become easier to segment and target, driving the growth of mobile advertising spend for brands and advertisers."
Location-based services help make that spend even more focused by helping advertisers serve up their information with search results or on location-stimulated Web browsers, which is exactly the reason they are so controversial.
Oh, by the way, that $3.3 billion figure? It is almost double what was spent last year and it pales in comparison to the $20.6 bilion that is forecast by Gartner for 2015.
Is your SMB poised to exploit (yes, I picked that verb on purpose) that opportunity?