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September 01, 2016

Today, location-based marketing is practically a prerequisite for every marketing campaign, and a celebrated one at that. According to the 2016 LBMA Global Location Trends Report, 77 percent of marketers consider location data a valuable part of their marketing strategies. Not too long ago, though, "mobile location-based services" was hardly more than a concept.

In the Beginning
It all started with location-based service (LBS), a software application that can receive an IP-capable mobile device's location information. According toTechTarget, this technology came into being around 2000, but didn't start to become commonplace in smartphones until 2008, upon the release of Apple's 3G iPhone and Google's LBS-enabled Android OS. A glance at reports from around this time shows mass adoption of mobile location-based services among consumers.

In July of 2009, Gartner predicted that the consumer location-based services market would more than double in 2009—from 41 million in 2008 to 95.7 million.

Making Connections
As predicted, the market for mobile location-based services exploded. In 2009, Foursquare was launched, and droves of consumers downloaded the geolocation app that enabled them share their commercial whereabouts with friends via "check-ins." In April of that year Foursquare relayed that there had been over nine million check-ins so far.

In 2010, Yelp came out with a mobile app, which also enabled check-ins, as TechCrunch reported. Gowalla, a location-based social networking app, that shut down in 2012 (as reported by Mashable [and just about every other tech pub]) after being acquired by Facebook, also launched in 2009.

What all these apps have (or had) in common, and what made them so appealing, was that they could connect people to places and to each other. In a sense, the beauty of location-based mobile services is that they have the power to merge your personal and social life with your geography, imbuing maps with a new layer of meaning.

That one's life and one's location could be interwoven via mobile was a revolutionary breakthrough for brands, the smartest of which realized the emergence of the crucial "engagement platform." This was the dawn of mobile location-based marketing as we know it: a category that has blossomed into one that all types of brands can use. We've gone from the humble check-in to a retail location, to an ultra-specific and nuanced beacon within which can feed consumers relevant offers based on their precise proximity and recorded history. We've gone from looking up a nearby cab company to requesting an Uber or Lyft right here, right now, with total transparency.

No End in Sight
Hand in hand, with marketers angling to seize the momentum, location-based services and mobile marketing have taken off. In 2015, eMarketer estimated that, by 2019, mobile ad spend will reach $65.87 billion—and location-based spend accounts for a big piece of the pie. GeoMarketing notes, citing xAd data, that location-based ads are positioned to account for more than 40 percent of mobile ad spend in the next five years.

We can see how far we've come, not just by weighing the outpouring of dollars, but by looking at our marketing campaigns then and now. In 2010, the New York Times wrote about the North Face's innovative new tactic of sending customers a text message when they were near a store. Nowadays, we're seeing retailers use beacon technology to push customized messages to customers in-store for a more seamless, timely experience. The influx of wearables like the Apple Watch, and the connectivity afforded by the Internet of Things are helping to further push these trends.

We've come a long way, and we'll keep going further, honing the science of location-based mobile services for marketing. A major change this year, Cinarrareports, is a shift from a focus on the amount of consumer data to the efficiency of that data, and a deeper investment in reaching target audiences with a message relevant to what they're doing in real time, in the real world.

≥≥ Need a Shortcut?
1. Although location-based services have been around a while, they didn't present any real opportunity for marketers until around 2009.
2. From there, geolocation apps quickly became a big part of consumers' lives.
3. Marketing experts expect location-based advertisement to continue to grow in the coming years and become more efficient with data.
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