Survey results: 80% of smartphone users enable location services
Our most frequently asked question: "How many people have Location Services and Bluetooth activated on their smartphone? "
Somewhere mid-2014, I happened to sit next to the Head of Digital of one of Britain’s leading retailers at a seminar. He told me that he wasn’t a fan of apps. And even less about location services. It was almost certainly more effective and cheaper to just put some posters up in the windows he told me.
It was him who mentioned the ‘funnel’ to me for the first time. By funnel, he meant the number of conditions that need to be met before you can engage with a customer via their smartphones, based on where they are in the real world.
This funnel goes something like this – and at each step a percentage of your target audience will drop off:
(1) The (prospective) customer needs to have a smartphone
(2) Location services need to be enabled for the device
(3) An app needs to be installed 
(4) Ideally, the customer has to be signed into the app, so you can make the experience more personalised and relevant
(5) The app itself needs to be authorised to use location services
(6) If beacons are used in addition to GPS, the customer is required to have
(7) Bluetooth (low energy) enabled.
The great thing about this approach is that it requires a full opt-in from users. The drawback is that it could leave you with less of an audience than you may think. And to make matters worse, if the experience you are giving to them when they do walk into a physical location is not great – for instance by spamming them with ads – you may lose them forever. It’s only two taps to remove an app after all (and it requires four taps to switch off location services).
It is hard to find reliable information about how many people generally get through the funnel and have authorised location services and Bluetooth on, or are prepared to do this. As we get these questions from our customers all the time, we decided to do some research into this ourselves based on our current users.
Our research has been split into two parts:
Firstly, we asked over 500 people about their use of location services in Part 1; and
Secondly, we analysed the smartphone settings of one million smartphone users of our customers that have our SDK in their app in Part 2.
Since the results were so interesting, we decided to publish them, and add a third part - what’s next – in which we cover various manners to get around the funnel that worked for us.
What do people say when asked about using location services?
The first thing we did, was actually go out and ask 554 random smartphone owners across the United States, United Kingdom and Australia about their use of location services. From these respondents, 54% have an IOS device and 46% own an Android device.
The results differ slightly per geography. For the purpose of this post, we will focus on the population as a whole. However, we will dedicate a separate post to the subtle differences per country later this year.
We asked the respondents the following five questions:
Q1 – Are you aware of the location services privacy settings on your smartphone?
91% of the respondents answered ‘Yes’ – which is quite refreshing. A little under ten percent of the respondents had no idea what we were on about. In other words, awareness of location services privacy setting is generally high – and much higher than we suspected.
Q2 – Do you restrict access to apps requesting access to location services?
91% of respondents said ‘sometimes’ or ‘always’ to this question. This indicates that people are generally quite picky when it comes to allowing apps to access their location. Only 9% indicated to never allow apps with access to location services.
Q3 – For what reasons would you deny an app access to location services?
This question allowed multiple responses. A large percentage of the respondents were mostly worried about privacy (75%) or information being misused (61%) when denying an app with access to location services. Other reasons given were more practical, and about saving battery, limit data usage and a lack of clear value. The breakdown is shown below.
Q4 – Are you likely to enable location services for an app, if it gives you a better customer service experience?
Based on the respondents, about 80% are ‘very likely’ or at least ‘somewhat likely’ to allow an app with access to location services if it provides them with a better service. Specifically, if it can save them money and time, or it provides more accurate results.
Q5 – When will you likely allow an app with access to your location services?
Specifically, the majority of respondents allow location services for way finding (92%) and searching what businesses are nearby (66%). Interestingly, a similarly high percentage allows location services for tracking deliveries. The use of location services to obtain specific information (35%), promotions (32%), tagging social media (31%) and location-based payments is generally a lot lower (25%).
To summarise, people are generally aware of location services and make educated decisions on when (not) to allow an app with access to their location. Over 80% of our respondents are in principle prepared to have apps access their location services, provided there is a benefit to them and their concerns have been addressed.
 The educated reader would note that an app is not necessarily required when Eddystone beacons are used in combination with a compatible browser. For Eddystone, this step should technically read: ‘The latest Chrome browser (or any other Eddystone compatible browser) needs to be installed’.