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Only one in five smartphone owners check-in through mobile: study

An estimated 16.7 million U.S. mobile subscribers patronized location-based check-in services on their phones in March, accounting for 7.1 percent of the total mobile population nationwide, according to market researcher comScore. When identified by smartphones, 12.7 million users checked-in on those devices, or 17.6 percent of the smartphone population.

“Time will tell whether these types of services are here to stay, but from our data we have seen that smartphone usage is a key factor in check-in service usage, and smartphone adoption continues to increase across the U.S., alluding to the continued growth of mobile media consumption across the board,” said Mark Donovan, senior vice president of mobile at comScore, Reston, VA.

“As with any service, consumers need to find value in using check-in services, which is important in getting people to check-in for the first time as well as to create a loyal segment of consumers that regularly check in,” he said.

Checkup on check-in
The same study showed that check-in service users displayed a high propensity for mobile media usage, including visiting retail sites and shopping guides.

Check-in service users also showed other characteristics of early adopters such as a stronger likelihood of owning a tablet device and reading technology news in contrast to the average smartphone user.

ComScore defines check-in service users as those using services such as Facebook Places, Foursquare and Gowalla, all heavily skewed toward ages 18-24 (26 percent) and 25-34 (32.5 percent) compared to both the total mobile audience and the overall smartphone audience.

The study found that these check-in users were more likely to be full-time students (23.3 percent) in contrast to total mobile (14.6 percent) or overall smartphone users (16.5 percent).

Nearly 46.4 percent of check-in users were employed full time, a little below the percentage of smartphone users who were employed full time (53.3 percent).

Also, both check-in service and smartphone users were more likely to be employed full time than overall mobile users (38.9 percent), according to comScore.

The study showed that of the 16.7 million consumers using check-in services on their mobile devices, 12.7 million (76.3 percent) did so via a smartphone device.

Per comScore, Android devices had the largest share of check-in service users with 36.6 percent checking-in from an Android device, while 33.7 percent of users checked in from an iPhone. Apple had the highest representation relative to its percentage of the total smartphone market (Index of 132).

Research In Motion had 22 percent of check-in service users, while Microsoft, Palm and Symbian each accounted for less than 5 percent, according to the market researcher.

In a major finding, when contrasted with an average smartphone owner, social networking check-in users were likelier to access mobile media across a majority of content categories.

More than 95 percent of check-in service users used their mobile browser or applications, comScore claimed. Nearly 62 percent of these users gleaned news.

Indeed, check-in user behavior compared well with that of traditional early adopters, with 40.3 percent of users accessing tech news and 28.2 percent owning a media tablet. Both were much higher than average.

Retail detail
Equally important, check-in service users displayed a high propensity for accessing retail-related destinations on their mobile devices.

“Knowing that a consumer is in or near your establishment provides the opportunity to reach them via deals and other incentives to drive them into your store or make a purchase,” Mr. Donovan said.

“This type of real-time, location-based marketing can provide retailers with a very effective way to reach new and loyal customers,” he said.

Nearly one-third of users accessed ecommerce sites on their mobile devices, while one-fourth accessed shopping guides, per comScore.

Check-in service users also tended to be exposed to mobile advertising. Almost 40 percent recalled seeing a Web or app ad during the month, compared with 27.5 percent of smartphone users.

“For consumers, check-ins can be a way to update friends and followers of their whereabouts, a source of game-like entertainment, and also a source of special deals and incentives tied to sharing their location,” Mr. Donovan said.

“For retailers, it provides a way to engage with possible customers with the goal to drive purchasing and brand loyalty through a unique channel,” he said.