JiWire Report: Shift to Mobile Devices to Boost LBS in 2012

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JiWire, a mobile audience company that uses public Wi-Fi hotspots to connect advertisers with consumers, has released its Q3 “Mobile Audience Insights Report” this morning. The report, which queries a randomized sample of 4,000 respondents drawn from the company’s extensive network across the U.S. and U.K., takes a deep dive into mobile growth and consumer behavior on mobile devices.

The big takeaway from the report is that there has been a substantive shift in device usage away from the laptop towards Wi-Fi-enabled tablets and smartphones. “The key thing for us is that over the next six months purchase intent is 50% higher for smartphones and tablets than for the laptop,” David Staas, SVP of marketing at JiWire, told Street Fight in an interview. “This shift is going to alter the device mix in 2012 and really change the meaning of an on-the-go, or mobile audience.”

As more and more consumers access the web through location-aware mobile devices, an array of location-based services — ranging from geotargeted advertising and location-based applications to mobile commerce — are poised to make serious headway in 2012

Staas says that the company continues to see across-the-board increases in the usage of location services, with mainstream adoption of basic features like navigation and POI search as well as a sizable uptick in interest for applications that blend location and commerce. “More and more consumers are interested in using their devices to understand where deals and sales and promotions are and to find out if there is product in store before arriving at the location,” explains Staas.

With 85% of respondents saying that they either prefer a physical location, or would like a physical location in conjunction with an online option, Staas believes that ignoring a “click-to-bricks” opportunity would be a major mistake for retailors.

“Proximity is becoming a really valuable part of the marketing mix,” says Staas about the most recent study. “When you can take location, and understand the distance, and therefore, the relationship between brands and a brand’s location, that can become very powerful and provide a lot of insight.”

Most people spend the majority of their time more than a mile from your store, and the question is, can you activate interesting opportunities [with LBS] across a greater distance.

What the report finds is that the radius at which consumers will travel to make an in store purchase is far greater than previously expected. Within five miles of a store, over two thirds of respondents — and consider that JiWire’s audience is typically a digital-first consumer base — prefer to travel to the physical location to purchase a $50 item.

“In thinking about location, most marketers believe that consumers have to be around the corner in order to make location-based services actionable,” says Staas. “The reality is that most people spend the majority of their time more than a mile from your store, and the question is, can you activate interesting opportunities [with LBS] across a greater distance.”

Staas’ point feeds into much of the criticism of New York as a hyperlocal incubator – namely, that the “around the corner” products built for New York’s densely urban geography are not adaptable to Middle America’s driving economies.

The study also took a deeper dive into consumer attitudes around the check-in. According to the report, 35% of respondents “like” or “love” checking-in while only 8% actively dislike the service. What’s concerning is that over half of consumers surveyed are indifferent – saying either “I don’t care” (30%) or “I don’t understand it” (27%) the check-in.

In the wake of the Gowalla acquisition, commentators are already questioning the viability of the location-sharing space.  As Staas points out, the check-in is one piece in a broader location ecosystem: “We’ve studied the areas in which people are sharing their location to get more relevant content, or more relevant services, or more relevant advertising and those numbers have all been well north of 50%. Consumers generally understand the value exchange pretty well.”

As Street Fight has reported earlier, check-in services like Foursquare have begun to move beyond peer-to-peer activity as the cornerstone of its service, working to add value for mainstream users by driving merchants to use the check-in as a medium to offer promotions and loyalty rewards.

Checking-in or not, consumer behavior is becoming dramatically more mobile and as more consumers surf, socialize and buy on mobile devices outside of their homes, current location will become an increasingly important datapoint for marketers. The shift from local to hyperlocal is in thinking about location in terms of where I am right now as opposed to where I may be in the future or where I’ve been in the past.

Steven Jacobs is an associate editor at Street Fight.