With smartphone adoption and usage on the rise, the demand for location-based services is significantly increasing worldwide. According to a new report by TNS, location is the most sought after service by mobile users; a fifth of the world’s 6 billion population is already using mobile and over 60 percent of those that don’t use location yet, want to start using it.

The TNS study surveyed over 48,000 people around 58 different countries, and although there was variation in how people want to use location in different regions, the desire to use location was consistently high. For example, Latin Americans most use the feature to find friends, with 39 per cent stating it as the top reason they share location, compared to only 11 per cent in India. In the technology-saturated markets of developed Asia, 36% of people use location to find restaurants and entertainment venues nearby. Overall, the most popular location-based activity around the globe was navigation with maps and GPS followed by other socially enriching services such as finding friends or venues nearby.

These findings correlate nicely with what we have seen in our own studies. Our recent series of the “Alert Shopper” survey conducted online by Harris Interactive revealed that searching for a retail location using GPS is one of the most popular retail related activity on the phone for 27% of all cell phone users in the U.S. Interestingly, the survey also found that 20% of all cell phone owners make purchases on the phone.

People are also much more receptive to receiving deals and offers on their phones. According to the TNS study:

“One in eight shared their location in exchange for a deal or special offer… a third were very receptive to the prospect of receiving deals when near a store they like and one in five mobile users (21%) said they found mobile advertising interesting if it is offering them a deal near their current location”

These numbers show a growing trend in using mobile as an m-commerce device – putting mobile and location in the center of the path-to-purchase for a lot of consumers. For brands and marketers, this provides a huge untapped market of opportunity. Retailers can interact with their consumers on a more targeted and personal level, in real-time. A good mobile strategy and proper use of location data provides marketers with a powerful tool to bridge the digital world with the physical, and change the future of the retail industry.