Here, There, Everywhere: How Apps are Using Location Services in 2017

Read Time: 5 min

You can hold this truth to be self-evident: a lot of business is lead-lag. What does that mean? One (or more) companies start leading around an idea, and they experience success with it -- so other companies, lagging on this idea, rush into the space. Now the gains for the first companies are diluted because it seems like everyone is now doing this thing. Remember in 2016 when Pokemon Go was all the rage for a month or so? And then, a month later, it seemed as if every time you opened a mobile app or did anything on your phone, there was someone trying to do some augmented reality concept? The Wall Street Journal even picked up on it.

Well, one of the concepts inherent in Pokemon Go -- location services -- might be 2017’s big example of lead-lag. Location services were already instrumental in one of the ultimate “disruption” stories of the past generation, that being Uber. (It would be fundamentally impossible to order an Uber without location services.) Between 2016 and 2021, the location services market is expected to double. It’ll represent about $16B four years from now. But the gains themselves aren’t diluted; it’s the apps that aren’t using location services to target and individualize their user’s experience are going to find it harder and harder to meet their user’s expectations--if they aren’t already.


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Without location services, you'd never be able to find a Squirtle in your neighborhood.


Location services touch virtually every facet of daily life. The apps you use to track your runs, deliver your favorite curry, and find which store carries that jacket you’re dying to buy all depend on them--even your networking (think geo-fencing and trade shows). How will location services trend in 2017, though?



Increasingly important to ads.

This makes sense, as location services within ads are a win-win -- consumers get contextually relevant ads, i.e. via geofencing, and brands get higher levels of engagement. Across 2016, there was a 170% rise in mobile ads requesting location services data. While the 2017 growth might not be quite as high, you can still reasonably expect more and more mobile ads to depend on location services to give them a better chance of engaging users in a competitive mobile ad space.


Strong growth in Asia Pacific.

This is because of rapid digital transformation and mobile adoption in Asia, where there are north of 1 billion smartphone users. As mobile becomes increasingly a way of life in Asia Pacific, location services become more important as well -- to make sure brands are delivering their end product/service to customers, be that a burrito or a cab ride.


Attribution platforms.

Even though Amazon is omnipresent and Cyber Monday is one of the biggest retail events of the year, 92 percent of consumer transactions still take place primarily in brick and mortar. So now, to prove clearer ROI, publishers and platforms need to create attribution models -- namely, “X-piece of content/offer drove Y-foot traffic to Z-store, ending in revenue.” If the path to purchase can be funneled from offline to location services to a brick and mortar transaction, brands will have much better data to work with around what types of content and offers they need to produce.


“The cookie of the real world.”

That’s basically what location services are, as AdWeek has noted. The entire promise of mobile for brands and marketers is a true understanding of end users based on the places they visit, and the things they do, in real time. All of that is powered by location services. And so…


Final thoughts

Rather than looking for the "next big thing," focus on developing location services as a key part of your strategy. Understand it, see what others are saying, learn at conferences about different ways to leverage it, and make sure it’s baked into everything you do as you try to understand your customers. An effective location services plan will yield significantly more return than spending hours crafting user personas, for example. Personas are archetypes, but using location services data would mean you’d have real-time insight on customers, the key to every marketing strategy.



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