To some extent, businesses have been able to publicize their location within Apple Maps for years. But the iPhone maker has now introduced significant improvements in a new service it calls Apple Business Connect.
Introducing Apple Business Connect
The new tool gives business owners greater control over their public appearance across the Apple ecosystem. They can use it, for instance, to claim location place cards or customize how their information appears in Maps and other apps that use that data, such as Maps tiles in Messages or within Siri search.
This matters, of course. Not only has Google offered useful tools for business personalization for some time, but local search is becoming increasingly important to a range of businesses.
What Apple says
Apple seems to understand the nature of this need. “We created Business Connect to provide Apple users around the world with the most accurate information for places to eat, shop, travel, and more,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of services.
Apple also said it designed the new Maps addition “with small businesses in mind, offering them the same access and ability to customize their digital presence as global brands.”
What tools are available?
Apple Business Connect lets a business directly manage the data held on their company within the Apple Maps place card. Items that can be managed include:
- The capacity to add and update business logos.
- Updating and publishing relevant photos.
- Promoting specific actions.
- Offering special promotions and inviting potential customers to take actions such as ordering food or making a reservation.
Apple has also introduced Showcases, a consumer-facing space businesses can tweak to improve how they appear to customers who find them within Maps.
Showcases mean business can also populate their Maps card with useful information, offers, sales incentives, and specific actions users can take directly within Maps. These might include grocery ordering via Instacart, hotel reservations through Booking.com, or restaurant reservations through OpenTable.
The idea’s solid, as it means small retailers can make an excellent bid for business as Apple Maps users seek out information concerning the local area.
In conjunction with features such as Tap to Pay on iPhone, Apple Business Essentials, and the powerful platform level iWork, it’s becoming clear that Apple is working to provide a highly functional ecosystem for small business.
How can my business use Business Connect?
To use these tools, business owners must register for Business Connect. When they do, they can use their existing Apple ID or create a new business-only Apple ID to use during the registration process that can be accessed from any desktop or laptop, the company said.
Apple will verify the business and the business owner can then claim the locations and begin updating and personalizing their place card.
For businesses with many locations, Business Connect includes Business Connect API to easily deliver accurate, up-to-date information to Maps at scale through listing management agencies such as Reputation, Rio SEO, SOCi, Uberall, and Yext.
How is this new feature being rolled out?
The Business Connect update is being rolled out starting today. As of now, businesses in the US can access the Showcases item; Apple will introduce these tools internationally in the coming months.
Given the company claims to have 1 billion Apple Maps users, these moves could be seen to compensate businesses after the company banned ad tracking by companies such as Facebook (now Meta). The latter has, of course, claimed Apple is harming small business by forbidding such tracking. I don’t attach a great deal of credibility to Meta’s argument, and Apple’s decision to make Apple Maps a far more local data friendly space should mitigate any impact that does exist.
In the future, I imagine these cards could also provide new advertising opportunities for businesses in the Apple ecosystem, while also protecting user privacy.
I can also imagine the information in these cards becoming a useful adjunct to the company’s existing solutions for accessibility and AR, and potentially of value to developers seeking to build innovative businesses on the back of Maps and local companies.
Apple’s move very much signifies the growing value any business should attach to local search. After all, a growing amount — perhaps as much as 46% — of search activity concerns local requests, and the significance of making local data available across Apple’s multiple touch points cannot be underestimated.
Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.
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