Here and There: The Rise and Fall of Location-Based Services

According to The Pew Research Center’s latest report on Location-Based Services, location is more important than ever to smartphone users.  Mobile phone usage continues to evolve, and local advertisers, local search companies and others that send mobile alerts to consumers are changing course just as quickly.

A few interesting insights and stats from the report:

  • About 74% of adult smartphone owners use their current location for directions, targeted recommendations and other local information.  This is consistent with last year’s report, though the total number of users has increased due to the rising popularity of smartphones.
  • More people than ever, about 30% of adult social media users, are linking their location to at least one of their social media accounts and including their location in their posts. In 2011, only 14% claimed that they had ever done this.
  • In spite of the increase in location-based activity, the bloom seems to be off the rose when it comes to geosocial services.  There’s been a 33% drop (from 18% to 12%) in smartphone owners who “check-in” to locations using these types of location-sharing services. Of those users that like geosocial services, the most popular is Facebook (39%), followed by Foursquare (18%) and Google Plus (14%).
  • Lastly – though smartphone owners do rely on their devices for location-specific information, about 35% of users have turned off location-tracking features due to privacy concerns at some point.

Given the ups and downs of location-based usage, what will this mean for companies like Foursquare?  Apparently, it means big changes. Foursquare recently announced that its app no longer requires a check-in.  It will serve up restaurant and menu recommendations automatically.

And as of this week, Foursquare has rolled out a new menu search feature.  So, if you have a hankering for a pastrami sandwich or are on the lookout for a restaurant that can accommodate your dietary restrictions, the new Foursquare can help you.

This signifies a shift in the approach that location-based search companies are taking in order to remain relevant.  No longer can services like Foursquare exist simply to show who is where at a particular time.   They must evolve to include more value-added features that make life easier for mobile users.  They must also find ways to remind users that they are still there and relevant, especially if fewer users are now manually checking in.

And who knows, these new features just might be the sort of helpful services that everyone – not just the hungry and the perpetually lost – will appreciate.