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How Pokémon Go Is Changing Consumers' Attitudes Toward Location Services

Businesses aren't letting the Pokémon Go craze pass them by

November 3, 2016 | Mobile

Pokémon Go monopolized the summer for millions of US consumers. The location-based augmented reality game is compelling (and addictive). However, it is just one of a handful of fast-growing apps that are changing consumers' attitudes toward turning location services on within apps, and keeping them on, as explored in a new eMarketer report, “Location Intelligence, H2 2016: Guidance for US Marketers on Consumer Behavior, Data Quality and Mobile Marketing Tactics” (eMarketer PRO customers only).

US Smartphone Users Who Have Downloaded Pokémon Go, by Age, July 2016 (% of respondents)

US consumers have been a cautious lot when it comes to sharing their location via a mobile device, and more specifically an app. The long-standing exception has been map and navigation apps.

The benefit of location sharing is clear with navigation apps, but that hasn't been the case with other app types. Recently, though, a handful of apps have changed consumers' perception about disclosing their whereabouts.

In its "2016 US Mobile App Report," comScore highlighted six fast-growing apps in the US market—a group of apps with a user base that had grown by triple- or quadruple-digit percentages between June 2014 and June 2016. Three of the rising stars were Waze, Uber and Lyft, and each of these apps has key features or services that are reliant on users sharing their location in real time. Tinder was also on comScore's list, and while it is not as location-centric as the other three apps mentioned, Tinder's match-making services are enhanced when location sharing is turned on, since users can be alerted to potential matches nearby.

The Pokémon Go phenomena is perhaps the most compelling evidence that when an app delivers value in exchange for tracking users' location, people will happily turn their location services on, and keep them on. The location-based augmented reality game launched on July 6, 2016, and has since convinced millions of consumers to share their real-time location with the app in order to find virtual Pokémon—an abbreviation for "pocket monsters"—hidden in the physical world around them.

Current vs. Planned* Use of Select Mobile Marketing Tactics Among Marketing Leaders Worldwide, 2015 & 2016 (% of respondents)

A July 2016 survey, conducted by marketing communications firm MGH Inc., looked at the game's appeal among US smartphone users in various age groups. Nearly half of those polled between the ages of 18 and 29 said they had downloaded Pokémon Go, and roughly one-quarter of respondents between the ages of 30 and 44 had done so.

It didn't take long for businesses of all sizes to realize Pokémon Go presented a unique and potentially lucrative opportunity to increase foot traffic to their local stores. The game had millions of consumers searching for Pokémon in a multitude of locations and visiting Pokéstops and Pokémon gyms, real-world places that Pokémon Go players visit to acquire collectibles, do battle and train their Pokémon.

Indeed, marketers are continuing to utilize location data to target owned and paid media, with the objective of increasing visits to specific real-world places.

Location-triggered push notifications from apps and SMS messages are two ways businesses are using owned media to encourage mobile users to move from one location to another. According to research from Salesforce, double the number of marketers worldwide were using these two tactics in 2016 compared with 2015. And more than double the number said they were also using location-based mobile tracking this year compared to last year: 44% in 2016 vs. 18% in 2015.

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “Location Intelligence, H2 2016: Guidance for US Marketers on Consumer Behavior, Data Quality and Mobile Marketing Tactics.”

eMarketer releases over 200 analyst reports per year, which are only available to eMarketer PRO customers.

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